Highlights From the London Design Festival 2020

From large-scale installations to covetable homewares, eight exemplary debuts this week

An annual extravaganza of thought-provoking work, elevated dialogue and exploration, the London Design Festival showcases artistry and innovation from students and professionals alike. For this most uncommon of years, the festival cautiously proceeded, both online and in real life. Thus, from our homes in New York City, we perused the many installations, activities and items that comprise this year’s gathering of talent. Below, a handful of our favorites represent developments in form, breakthroughs in function and statements for the future.

Courtesy of Bohinc Studio

Bohinc Studio’s ion Collection

Following last year’s glorious Lunar House at LDF, Bohinc Studio—helmed by Lara Bohinc—launches the bold, elegant contemporary lighting collection called ion. Inspired by Jupiter’s rings, Bohinc has been creating beautifully curved pieces. Perhaps the standout of the collection, the ion desk light consists of two tube-like arches, bending together to create a semi-circle. The brushed brass on one side contrasts pleasingly with the white, perforated half. Even switched off, the piece creates a statement, but when lit, it becomes quite other-worldly.

Courtesy of Mabel Chen

Off-Site: Designing at a Distance

Three themed exhibitions by 2020 Central Saint Martins graduates make up the Off-site: Designing at a Distance digital showThe aptly named project consists of work made at home by students over the past several months, and each theme centers on an element of distance or disconnection. “New Languages of Making” challenged designers to rethink the way they approach their medium and process, since they no longer had access to workshops and certain equipment. “(De)constructing Space” prompted students to explore the concept of tangible and abstract space; a particularly poignant topic during lockdown. “The Social and The Self in Isolation” focuses on connection (and disconnection) through the lens of physical and digital community engagement, or lack there of. A standout project, Mabel Chen’s “A Map of Us” is a 3D data visualization of life within the Graphic Communication Design studio at CSM. Brimming with information, the map features goopy pastel renderings that help convey the data.

Courtesy of William Morris Design Line

Fandangoe Kid at the William Morris Design Line

On the steps of Walthamstow Forest College, a bright and bold large-scale painted work announces “The Future Is Now.” The artist, Fandangoe Kid, partnered with several local school children to bring the colorful work to life. Though referred to locally as the “Staircase of Dreams,” the piece is actually called “Towards a New Normal,” and is part of the William Morris Design Line, a community-focused arts walk through the Walthamstow neighborhood (and an official part of the London Design Festival).

Courtesy of Pani Jurek

Pani Jurek’s TRN Collection

Part of Adorno’s online exhibition, Polish designer and artist Magda Jurek’s Pani Jurek studio presents the TRN lighting—part of a larger collection which also includes mirrors and side tables. Inspired by late Polish artist Jan Tarasin, the elegant collection utilizes bold, thoughtful colors and transforms graphic characters similar to Tarasin’s into alluring and functional ceramic light fixtures. Each of the eight lights is one of a kind, and the styles range from monochrome and minimal to more colorful and complex—each one concurrently naive and sophisticated.

Lee Broom’s Maestro

Designer Lee Broom‘s Maestro chair marries exquisite curves with luxuriant materials. A CH favorite, Broom’s vision for the chair’s silhouette draws inspiration from mid-century design—and classical music. In fact, the chair back’s three hand-bent, hand-polished tubes allude to the spiraling nature of a musical instrument. Broom debuted the chair through the above orchestral virtual exhibition and film.

Courtesy of Studio Weave

Studio Weave’s The Hothouse

Calling to mind a Victorian greenhouse (albeit set in the ultra-modern International Quarter London), The Hothouse harbors edible, tropical plants in an effort to highlight London’s rising temperatures. Designed by London-based architecture firm Studio Weave, who partnered with garden designer Tom Massey, the pavilion’s environment can be regulated to suit that which grows within. Fortunately, The Hothouse will be in place for one year.

Courtesy of Marlene Huissoud

Marlene Huissoud’s Unity

Controlled by foot pumps for all to use, French designer Marlene Huissoud‘s amorphous “Unity” installation rises and falls with the help of participants, who “breathe life” into the sculpture. This installation sits within King’s Cross Station’s Coal Drops Yard and Huissoud’s message is clear: we are capable of so much more when working together.

Courtesy of Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon’s OCTAGON

Another CH favorite, Tom Dixon has unveiled his OCTAGON collection. Once again, Dixon’s furniture and lighting designs engage an active dialogue regarding shape and material. For the release, Dixon transformed his London “Coal Office” HQ into a tantalizing immersive installation—with eight sub-sections defined by a hero piece from the collection. The Spiral Lounge, designed around his new SPRING Silver pendants, certainly captured our attention.

Hero image courtesy of William Morris Design Line