In the crowded space of global design weeks, London’s Clerkenwell Design Week has a distinct advantage: not only is the area home to a huge number of architects and design businesses, making it a truly local celebration, it’s also blessed with interesting spaces to showcase the designs in. The installations and shows can be found in everything from a former prison to a church and a nightclub, as well as scattered along the design trail in central London—a far cry from impersonal big-box shows. CDW is now on its ninth year, and this edition includes a mix of familiar names and new faces, and more of a focus on venue content than previous years. Much of the thrill of Clerkenwell is, as usual, seeing the specially commissioned new design projects that are part of CDW Presents, as well as wandering around the area’s numerous showrooms to discover new launches—this year sees over 400 new products launch during the three-day design extravaganza. Read on for our must-sees and highlights from CDW, which is on until 24 May.
Pipe Line by Lou Corio Randall
Lou Corio Randall’s showcase at CDW is a success story to which young designers can aspire. After graduating from Kingston University in 2017 with a BA in product and furniture design, Randall showed his graduate collection at New Designers last year, where it was seen by CDW. Impressed by his “Pipe Line” pieces, which are all formed from a single continuous curved line of steel tube, CDW asked Randall to design four of them for the festival. The curvy, eye-catching bike racks and benches are dotted around the area and obviously painted in CDW’s signature pink hue, but sadly won’t remain after the end of the design week.
A Piece of Sky
Swiss designer Stephen Hürlemann’s “A Piece of Sky” is sliding door-company Sky-Frame’s first contribution to CDW. The installation is one of a number of pop-up showrooms at CDW and aims to offer visitors some respite from the intensity of the surroundings. The “mirror funnel” is made from a translucent surface, and stepping inside it definitely takes you temporarily out of the festival environment, as your reflection is repeated and refracted and you can listen to the sound of the Earth, recorded by NASA, as well as to astronauts talking about their space experiences.
The increased focus on venue content is most noticeable at the Fabric nightclub, which is home to the new Light installation this year. From the flashing LED lights from Vexica (which wouldn’t have been out of place in an actual club) to Lane’s “Beam” lamps made from GF Smith paper, the Light space showed off a number of impressively striking products. It’s also one of the better party spaces during the week—the ghosts of parties past are doubtlessly giving their blessing. Also new this year is the Design Best sale space at Fabric, where visitors can buy discounted wares from British design veterans like Tom Dixon and Ally Capellino, among others.
It wouldn’t be a British design week in a historic location without some sort of acknowledgement of the area’s past. At CDW 2018, it’s Kinetech Design and Amari Interiors who’ve been given the honor of creating an installation in the historic St John’s Gate. As this was the space where some of Shakespeare’s most well-known works were performed for the first time, Kinetech created an installation inspired by an Elizabethan ruff. Kinetech’s Elod Beregszaszi revealed that the studio is looking at developing this kind of “origami architecture” in areas where architecture meets functional design. The intricate CDW installation is beautiful in daylight, but swing by after dark to see it lit up—more spaceship than Shakespearian.
Design company Stellar Works, which aims to inspire a renaissance in Asian aesthetics, is launching its new Clerkenwell showroom at CDW with “Shanghai:Shift”. The still-sparse and industrial walls of the space are decorated with pictures of Shanghai, art directed by Neri&Hu. The contrast between the simplicity of the surroundings and the beauty of the furniture from Neri&Hu, Space Copenhagen and a number of other designers, is particularly stunning. (As well as the fact that the space incorporates a TV that was showing “In the Mood for Love” when we visited.) Proof that getting the aesthetics right really is the best way to create an impressive showroom.
Hero and LIGHT images courtesy Clerkenwell Design Week, “A Piece of Sky” courtesy Sophie Mutevelian, all others by Cool Hunting