This year’s Clerkenwell Design Week offered a glimpse into how design will shape the future – of everything from the workplace to mobility.
June 1st, 2016
Clerkenwell, an historic area of central London, has a long history of making and craft – particularly watch- and jewellery-making. Today, it’s said to be home to the largest concentration of designers and architects in the world. Each May, Clerkenwell Design Week celebrates that heritage, with an ambitious programme of events, exhibitions, talks and installations aimed at both trade and the general public. This year’s festival, however, not only celebrated the past but provided festival-goers with a valuable insight into the future of design, and how designers will shape our world. There was a particular focus on the workplace, but perhaps the most interesting displays were those that looked at areas often ignored by mainstream design – think 3D-printed wheelchairs, abstract wayfinding systems, and new ways to engage with making.
The festival was a successful start to London’s design festival season, with the London Festival of Architecture held throughout June, and London Design Festival – which has already announced collaborations with Paul Smith, the late Zaha Hadid, and Benjamin Hubert – from 17-25 September.
GO by Layer
One of the most talked about projects on show at this year’s CDW was the GO wheelchair by Benjamin Hubert of experience design agency Layer. GO is the world’s first 3D-printed consumer wheelchair is an exciting insight into how designers can create life-changing products. The wheelchair prototype was on display at gallery and retail space 155 Clerkenwell, alongside an exhibition of recent work by Layer that launched in Milan, including the new Cradle collection for Moroso.
“Designers have a responsibility to look at areas that actually need a new way to progress forward and not just areas, like furniture, that have been designed and re-designed,” says Hubert. “We feel that the wheelchair category offered a great opportunity to use the skills of a designer to help people in a meaningful fashion. London – in particular, Clerkenwell – has one of the highest concentrations of designers and architects in the world, and I felt it was a good place to launch a meaningful project that looked at real issues rather than just more luxury products. The response has been overwhelming, both from wheelchair users, medical professionals, press and general public. It’s been greeted with a very positive and supportive response, and this is helping us to understand how to take it forward.”
PROOFF and UNStudio at Design Fields
The future of the workplace is always a key theme at CDW. At this year’s event, festival-goers were treated to a literal glimpse into future by innovative Dutch furniture brand PROOFF, who collaborated with architecture and design practice UNStudio to merge their real-world furniture concepts with disruptive virtual reality workspace design. The installation at Design Fields explored how the next generation of architects, interior designers and designers will use VR in the workplace – from virtual walkthroughs, to being able to experience designs from every angle.
“For 10 years now PROOFF has been an early-mover in the world of innovative furniture design and we continue to push the boundaries with thought provoking views on the future of workspaces,” says Chris van Houdt, head of Global Business Development at PROOFF. “Besides showing off a selection of our furniture designs, we launched a Virtual Reality based workspace in collaboration with architectural practice UNStudio. Clerkenwell was the best place to do this as there is a high concentration of design professionals in the area which makes for an interesting dialogue. We had very valuable conversations about the future workspace and how architecture firms integrate VR in their practice.”
Museum of Making by White Arkitekter
Located on St John’s Square, the heart of this year’s festival was the colourful Museum of Making. Drawing on the history of the Clerkenwell area as a centre of making and its current position as a hub of design and architecture, the Museum of Making offered an interactive space for exhibitions, workshops and talks.
“We were inspired by the history of making and trading in Clerkenwell,” says Linda Thiel, head of White Arkitekter’s London studio. “We deconstructed the most basic Scandinavian archetype – a Swedish barn – and showed it in a new way. Our design goal was to create an inviting place which showcases both the traditional and contemporary making expressions – a place where people can meet, mend, exchange knowledge and services.”
Billboards by Giles Miller
Wayfinding is an oft overlooked aspect of the design festival. This year, CDW festival organisers showed how this pragmatic element can be integrated into the festival to both engage festival-goers and offer another opportunity for sponsorship. Giles Miller Studio collaborated with festival sponsor British Ceramic Tile, to create a series of large-scale installations to direct visitors around the festival. The abstract signage was constructed using glass tiles assembled to create directional patterns pointing the way to the next location.
“It was a wonderful project for GMS because the Clerkenwell Design Week organisers allowed us the freedom to translate a functional design brief in a very creative and expressive way,” says Miller. “We started with a conversation about wayfinding and the result was a visceral, tactile sculpture which was more evocative than directional.”
The Church by Tom Dixon
Co-working has been a buzzword when talking about the future of the workplace for a long time. British designer Tom Dixon gave festival-goers a look at his vision of the co-working space – and how it can utilise under-used community spaces – in a collaboration with a classic 17th-century church on Clerkenwell Green. Dixon’s team installed a large chandelier in the main space – which showcased the studio’s most recent lighting design – as well as a co-working space and a kitchen, all of which were donated to the church as permanent fixtures.
“As the church evolves and adapts to the new conditions of the 21st century, the opportunity of opening up to new audiences and unexpected collaborations becomes a necessity,” says Dixon. “For the design audience and the more permanent residents of Clerkenwell, we hope that a contemplative and spiritual space becomes more comfortable and accessible thanks to our small intervention.”
Clerkenwell Design Week
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