It’s set to be another thrilling September for art, design and architecture fans in London, with the 21st anniversary edition of the London Design Festival launching on Saturday (September 16).
First created two decades ago to promote the city’s creativity globally, hundreds of thousands of people now flock to the capital to soak up the annual design festival’s many art exhibitions, installations, live shows and workshops.
“London Design Festival is a fantastic event which brings together designers from across the globe and demonstrates the capital’s position as a powerhouse for the creative industries,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
With over one hundred events to choose from, we’ve whittled down London Design Festival’s ginormous roster to 22 of this year’s best events. And for the rest of the festival’s fascinating and wonderful offerings, you can find the full schedule here.
In Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena’s extraordinary live installation, the voices, sounds, and other noises that echo around St Paul’s Cathedral are visualised as a gigantic pulsating light structure that hangs from the iconic church’s dome.
St Pauls Cathedral
OpenWork was this year’s Public Medal winner at the London Design Biennale in June. Created by artist and architect Melek Zeynep Bulut for the Biennale’s Turkish Pavilion, the multi-layered structure plays with concepts around gates, entries, borders and walls – how humans view them, respond to them and create them.
Bernie Spain Gardens
London’s Mandala Lab is a multi-sensory space and structure made by Spanish architectural and design offices Extudio and Enorme Studio in collaboration with New York’s Rubin Museum of Art. First showcased at the New York museum in 2021 – where it was designed by Brooklyn-based architecture practice Peterson Rich Office (PRO) – the Mandala Lab is now being recreated in London. The installation will host a series of events inspired by Buddhist principles, including a ‘gong-and-water’ performance, a synchronised breathing practice, and a video piece.
Union Square, Canary Wharf
Over the last couple of months, designers participating in research facility Grymsdyke Farm’s summer residency were invited to make an element of a dining collection, informed by ideas around setting and community. Now all of these objects will be on display as a collection at Fels Gallery in Knightsbridge.
Fels Gallery, Brompton Road
Japanese sound artist Yuri Suzuki has created two window installations in South Kensington’s Japan House shop. In one of the booths, visitors can create their own background ambient sounds using a specially designed, thirty-two switch ‘ambient machine’.
Japan House London
This group exhibition spotlights sustainable design, from British furniture manufacturer SCP’s 2023 Collection with designs by Philippe Malouin, Wilkinson & Rivera, Donna Wilson and more, to celebrated architect John Pawson’s pieces for Wonderglass, Roll & Hill’s Nash Martinez Collection, and Carl Clerkin and Alex Hellum’s second Sons of Beasley installation.
London-based designer Marina Garlo will debut her latest piece, an illuminated furniture-shaped installation, in the foyer of the Bankside Hilton hotel. Dozens of steel poles covered in LEDs and shock absorbing pads have been arranged into a functional chaise longue shape.
Hilton London Bankside
Spanish design and architecture group Porcelanosa are playing with aromas, ASMR and Virtual Reality in their Hanover Square Showroom: along with an aromatherapy workshop where visitors can create their own scents, expect a chilled-out ASMR “sensory experience”, a virtual tour of their new production lines, a interior design photography workshop, and a networking event.
Porcelanosa, Hanover Square
Inspired by NASA satellite data that tracks the movement of micro-plastics in and around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a giant pile of marine debris in the Pacific between Hawaii and California), Plastic Vortex is a series of interactive visuals from Univerity of the Arts London alumni Caitriona McAllister, Jacob Deakin and Luke Augur.
Bankside Space 18
Interior design company Moooi collaborates with ‘Algorithmic Perfumery’ EveryHuman (which describes itself as “the world’s first AI guided scent creation platform”) in this unique show where visitors are invited to make their own personalised room fragrance: questionnaire answers are fed into EveryHuman’s AI system, which translates them into the new scent. New designs by Moooi are also presented alongside the science-fiction style fragrance machine.
Moooi Store London
Head to the V&A to see two new thought-provoking works. The first is a collaborative installation made by Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu and arts organisation Without Shape Without Form, which combines tapestry, sculpture and film to explore contemporary Sikh teachings and their impact on design today. In the second, But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells like Roses, RCA Tutor and V&A Jameel Fellow, Dima Srouji, uses objects and film to explore the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine.
For London Design Festival, creative studio Studio Waldemeyer has installed a giant light installation inside the St. Stephen Walbrook Anglican church next to Bank. The contrast between Sir Christopher Wren’s 17th century architecture, the simplicity of the studio’s illuminated fixture (which hangs down from the ceiling) and the Henry Moore-designed altar below it is a combination not to miss.
St Stephen Walbrook
In this astonishing exhibition, data visualisation designers Jinxiu Chen and Lu Zheng have investigated microplastic pollution in London by taking water samples from the Thames and freezing some of the sample’s contents in resin. The results, which look like small petri-dishes full of different fragments of plastics, are incredibly striking, particularly as 70 per cent of Londoners’ tap water is taken from the river.
Arch 23, 45 Southwark St
Contemporary design gallery Gallery FUMI celebrates its 15th anniversary with a fascinating group show of new works that have been curated by design historian and writer Libby Sellers. Inspired by the works of Scottish biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948), pieces in the exhibition include, as LDF puts it, “natural materials” and “fluid organic forms”.
Gallery FUMI, Mayfair
During the festival artist studio Queensrollahouse invites visitors to have a snoop around, hosting several workshops and performances, as well as opening up some of its artists’ studios. The 12,000 sq ft former Rolls Royce warehouse in North Acton is more than worth visiting simply for the building itself. But once you’re there, it’d be rude not to enjoy the rooftop restaurant, bar and art.
Queensrollahouse, Park Royal
Creative studio Rude are celebrating their new book, I want to be a Creative, by holding a series of workshops that have been designed as little job tasters for children. Think fun activities related to fashion design, illustration, architecture and more.
Everyday Sunshine, Barbauld Road
Spend an evening at creative hub Netil House with design studios A Running Commentary, Max Radford Gallery, Two Times Elliott and XK Studio. The former is showcasing a new 3D animated musical, Max Radford Gallery is presenting a new exhibition, Two Times Elliott is running a small workshop, and 3D design XK Studio is showcasing some of their work. And there will be refreshments!
Netil House, Westgate Street
Podcast Negroni Talks, which is hosted by studio Fourth_space and backed by Campari, was created as an antidote to the dull and sometimes snobby discourse around architectural practice. Inspired by the European cafeÌ culture of the fin de siècle, the podcast (which is often a recording of a live event) has tackled topics including the fetishisation of design, absurdity in architecture, flash flooding, and construction and corruption, and encourages real debate. It usually has a panel of high-profile guests, too, including The Bartlett’s Dr Jos Boys and LSE’s Dr Julia King. During London Design Festival, artist and writer Will Jennings is hosting a talk on AI’s role in the future of architecture.
Bureau Restaurant, Soames Walk
If you’re a fan of both monolithic, mono-material design and flashy worktops, then it’s likely you’re a fan of minotticucinelondon, one of the most forward thinking luxury kitchen design studios working today. During the festival its London studio is open for visits from non-clients, so get ready to see some extremely striking cabinets.
minotticucinelondon, Eastcastle Street
Interior design studio Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, which has offices in New York and London, designs furniture and other products to create luxurious interiors. Past clients include Claridges, The Connaught and The Berkeley. During London Design Festival the studio is putting on an exhibition featuring 36 of its elegant pieces.
Bryan O’Sullivan Collection, Brook Street
If you’ve ever wanted to peek inside the Sanderson London hotel, this is your chance. The Fifties building, which has been reimagined by French industrial designer Philippe Starck, boasts one of London’s best back yards, and now you’re invited to pop in and take a look.
Sanderson London Hotel, Berners Street
London Design Festival, September 16 to 24; londondesignfestival.com