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Barbara Chandler

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Reporting from the London Design Festival 2011


Timber wave The design world here in the capital is up to its hyperactive hilt in the London Design Festival. It’s been going on for a few days, but the big shows are now upon us – seven megabites of contemporary design.

Before I hit the hotspots of 100% Design at Earls Court, and Tent in East London (plus Tramshed in Rivington Street, and designjunction in Southampton Row), I wanted to share some special moments at the Festival so far. Incidentally you can find all details of the big shows in my September events diary (
Kick-off was at the V&A in the Sackler wing a week ago, where I met up with H&P editor Janice Morley, and we did a wonderful tour de force, flying the flag for Homes & Property and meeting key players. We loved the chance to chat individually with Will Knight, Festival deputy director, and Murray Moss, the New York Gallery owner, who has mounted virtuoso displays of 3D printed sculpture all over the Museum.

Kristyjana williams We admired the Bouroullec Brothers Textile Field in the Raphael Gallery and sneakily joined a tour group to hear how the famous cartoons were working templates for the weavers in Brussels.
We also met Kristjana Williams (left), who had covered walls and furniture in the British Galleries with the gorgeous graphics that are her signature style at the Carnaby design boutique, Beyond the Valley. Visitors can now create their own patterns on iPads provided. And we called by Power of Making, the absorbing ongoing show of design and craft.
Amanda Levete’s Timber Wave was unveiled and it's magnificent (pictured, above right) – a rippling wooden sculpture encircling the main door of the V&A, and casting shadows when the sun comes out. Don’t miss this.
I also enjoyed a small installation called the Living Room in Shoreditch, where a young designer and a design journalist have put together a small but perfectly formed display of British domestic design – yes, do do this at home.
Lee Broom_Salon upholstery From there I walked to Lee Broom’s (left) in Rivington Street. This designer was a child/teen actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company before doing a fashion degree at Central St Martin’s and his new upholstery exudes the glamour of his earlier life.

Sofas sweep outwards without a single seam – that’s when you find them behind the 300m of black velvet which drapes the showroom. Oh, and I let myself in with the golden key that had been hand-delivered a couple of days earlier. Now there’s drama for you.
I’ve also seen the incredible salvaged computer screens with dancing animations by Okay Studio at the Natural History Museum (turn left from the big entrance hall), and I swung by the Royal College of Art.
Perspectives_John Pawson Then of course for me the main event: the London Design Medal dinner at St Paul’s. Here, John Pawson’s exquisite assembly of lenses and mirror reflects the glory of a usually-hidden stairway, turning it into a seemingly endless downward spiral (left).

We guests had a private view before venturing into the nave for champagne – sacrilege surely – and then onto the crypt for dinner.

The fifth London Design Medal went to Ron Arad, who stole our front cover last year, during his Barbican retrospective. Accepting the award, Ron simply said, "Thank you London – I couldn't imagine doing whatever I'm doing anywhere else in the world". That says it all.
There was a special award for Vidal Sassoon, the 14-year old East End apprentice who went on to shape the nation’s hair. This had been instigated by Thomas Heatherwick, last year’s Medal winner. Some of us can remember the furore when Alice Rawsthorne, as director of the Design Musuem, devoted a show to flower-arranging. So it will be interesting to see what the design snobs make of this.

But why should not flowers and hair be installation art/design as much as any pile-up of bricks or upcycled rubbish? Mr Sassoon was a joy to meet – like all the true Brits from the 60s.

Love London In between all this I’ve been spotting my new book of photographs, Love London, in various shops, including SCP Designs in Curtain Road, and SKK in Lexington Street, Soho. I’ve even ventured into product here with tea towels and bone china plates! See details on
I’ll be covering the big design shows in due course, plus the decor fests of Focus and Decorex.

Find more pictures, with lots more reportage on
* All pictures by
* Check out details of all Festival events and designers at


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