Somewhat muted last year for obvious reasons, for 2021 the capital’s celebration of its design mettle is revelling in the return of the physical experience. With London’s official Design District in Greenwich open for business, and other events in the programme tackling topics such as human-centric design and the aesthetics of joy, it’s all about empathy, tactility and renewal this year. Enjoy that sense of reconnection with these highlights.
23-26 September, Thursday-Saturday 11am-6pm, Sunday 11am-4pm. King’s Cross
Exploring all the places where design and nature intersect, Planted had a soft opening last year in King’s Cross with a series of talks, and in 2021 returns with more ambitious plans (including an aim to be a net zero waste show). The question of how to create “cleaner, greener, healthier spaces” is Planted’s aim, answered via talks, installations and sustainable brands such as Naturalmat, Nikari and Another Country. A Natural Living Area on Lewis Cubitt Square will be populated by contemporary brands that follow environmentally sound principles, and a further side-shoot is the Green Grads section of the show, featuring more than 30 recent graduates whose work focuses on nature and sustainability, curated by design critic Barbara Chandler.
18-26 September, daily 10am-6pm, except Wednesday 22 September 12pm-6pm and Sundays 11am-4pm. 50 Vyner Street, London E2 9DQ
This collaboration between Laura Fulmine of Modern Art Hire (M.A.H) and Sophie Pearce, founder of Béton Brut, unites their similar businesses as part gallery, part prop-house. Launching during LDF, the pair will divide the 500 sqm space in Hackney between them, with M.A.H on the ground floor showing art, furniture and objects by Fulmine’s curated community of makers, including ceramics by Katie Moore and abstract paintings by Laura Wickstead; while Béton Brut will take the first floor, expanding Pearce’s vintage offering to encompass contemporary work, too. Both will offer the option to either hire or buy.
Brompton Design District
18-26 September. Various venues
The Victoria & Albert Museum is the festival’s official HQ, home of eye-catching installations. This year’s Landmark Project is by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and production studio Tin Drum, who are taking over the grandly classical Raphael Court to create a series of features that will change based on the movement of the people weaving around them, viewed via headsets. The area radiating out around the museum is where you’ll find independent galleries and big brands: Cromwell Place, which opened last October, is hosting local gallery SEEDS, which has its sights set on a mood of positivity with its show, Joy. From fluffy furniture by Guatemala-based Agnes Studio to Elodie Blanchard’s slim vertical sculptures made from multicoloured fabric scraps, the show will make you smile thanks to the objects’ colour, unconventional shapes, tactile finishes and general feelgood attitude.
Design House at 14 Cavendish
18-26 September, 11am-7pm. 14 Cavendish Square, London W1G 9HA
The stripped-back Palladian grandeur of 14 Cavendish Square plays host to some deeply contrasting pieces of furniture at this year’s London Design Festival: Sebastian Wrong’s Wrong Shop is presenting brightly painted antique cabinets that are the work of Dutch artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters, aka FreelingWaters, with words, names and poetry incorporated within their highly patterned surfaces. It’s part of a collective of brands exhibiting at this central London space under the umbrella Design House, including Sebastian Cox, 1882 Ltd, Tiipoi and contemporary craft gallery Ruup & Form. Look out for Isokon Plus’ newest piece, a cantilevered lounge chair in engineered plywood designed by Jasper Morrison.
Greenwich Design District
18-26 September, various venues
Design London – rebranded from its previous identity as 100% Design – is making its debut at Greenwich Peninsula’s Magazine London venue (on from 22-25 September). Exhibitor highlights include a Danish Pavilion featuring 11 brands curated by the Danish Embassy such as Warm Nordic and Embacco; freshly launched products from international names such as Artemide; and British-Finnish company &New, showing its recyclable furniture made from waste plastic. The talks programme features Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto of Eley Kishimoto, fashion designer Kitty Joseph and Yinka Ilori (who also designed the auditorium), among many others. Outside of the show, the capital’s new official Design District will be open for a wander, with its smorgasbord of distinctive buildings by several different architects: refuel at the SelgasCano-designed Design District Canteen, a yellow-framed transparent structure housing six restaurants and a bar.
Shoreditch Design Triangle
18-26 September. Various venues
Head east for one of the festival’s largest design districts, full of independent showrooms and galleries. Floorstory is previewing its new exuberant new collection by Henry Holland (including an evening talk with the designer on 21 September), while Doshi Levien has curated a space at Hay to showcase its latest collections for the Danish brand. SCP explores human-centric design and the crossover between work and home with All Our Working Lives, which features new commissions including two tables from Matthew Hilton, Ilse Crawford and Oscar Peña’s wood-framed armchair and terracotta vases by Reiko Kaneko. Head to Dray Walk Gallery for Tactile Baltics, a showcase of designers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with a particular emphasis on their strong connections with nature.
The Cube by Velux
18-26 September, 11am-7pm Monday to Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday. 56 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PP
Sitting on the South Bank, architect Henning Larsen’s contemporary pavilion will make an intriguing focal point on the river. As well as acting as a promotional vehicle for Velux’s rooflights, which are integrated into the structure and will provide ever-changing daylight and sky views, the space will host a sound experience designed by AKQA and composed by Kasper Bjørke, inspired by the elements. It’s all powered by Bang & Olufsen, which is also showcasing its Beosound Level portable speaker at The Cube. The speaker is the first Cradle to Cradle Certified speaker in the consumer electronics sector, awarded for its design for longevity and ease of disassembly – an important stepping stone on the way to improving sustainability in the industry.