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The fifth edition of Clerkenwell Design Week celebrated the creative spirit of London’s design hub. Mandi Keighran reports.



June 4th, 2014

Over the past five years, Clerkenwell Design Week has become one of the leading design festivals in the UK. Located in the Central London borough of Islington, Clerkenwell is home to a host of design showrooms, and has one of the highest concentrations of architects and creative businesses in the world. The three-day festival, which took place this year from 20-22 May, celebrates this creativity in all its various guises, from artisanal crafts and conceptual design to luxury design brands and contract manufacturers.

Celebrating five years, the 2014 CDW comprised over 60 showrooms, four dedicated exhibition spaces, plus talks, workshops, pop-ups, installations and fringe events across Clerkenwell.

As in past years, the Farmiloe Building – branded this year as the Design Factory – was the heart of CDW. Here, visitors could discover leading design brands – from Ligne Roset to Offecct – alongside newer brands, such as Italian brand Discipline, who used the event as a platform to introduce its new ‘Last Side’ tables by Max Lamb to the UK market.


Visitors were welcomed to the space by ‘Prismatic Landscape’, a colourful mural of over 4,000 tiles by colour expert and textile artist, Ptolemy Mann, in collaboration with Johnson Tiles to launch its ‘Prismatics’ wall tile collection. The event’s key sponsor, Jaguar, also had a prominent installation, designed in collaboration with Italian lighting brand Foscarini, in the building’s impressive atrium space. During the Live Fearless event, Jaguar’s leading designers drew car designs for visitors to take home.



Design Factory also played host to the Conversations at Clerkenwell series, which was particularly impressive this year. Speakers included Patricia Urquiola with Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra, Sir Kenneth Granger, Ron Arad, and Sir Peter Cook.

Former subterranean prison, The House of Detention – branded this year as Platform – once again provided an atmospheric setting for emergin design. Highlights this year included included Loïc Bard’s ‘Tokyo’ coffee tables, Johanna Tammsalu’s hand-spun ceramic pendant lights, and Clivework’s first British-made furnishing collection.

Tokyo Side Table

Over at the Priory of the Order of St John – branded as Detail – high-end and luxury brands, such as Ginger and Jagger, and Munna and Tracey, were showcased. Here, rising star, Christopher Jenner, hosted a pop-up showroom to launch his collaboration with bathroom brand Drummonds. The eagerly awaited collection was a contemporary interpretation of traditional cast iron and enamelling techniques married with British carpentry.

Drummonds showroom

This year’s festival also featured a new exhibition space, Additions, located at the Crypt on the Green at St James Church. The space showcased small design products and homewares, which in previous years had lacked a dedicated space. Noble and Wood’s saddle-inspired leather and marble magazine rack (below) was a favourite here.


This year’s CDW was notable not only for the impressive variety of new products launched, but also for the number of re-released and re-imagined classics. Case Furniture re-issued its classic ‘675’ chair, first designed by Robin Day in 1952, Danish brand +Halle re-launched its popular ‘Capri Lounge’ and ‘Multi’ chair by Busk + Herzog with timber legs; Paul Smith and Sir Kenneth Grange re-imagined the iconic ‘Type 75’ Anglepoise lamp; and, celebrating its 15th anniversary, Ron Arad’s ‘Tom Vac’ chair for Vitra was re-imagined by over 20 design studios in forms ranging from a swing to a speaker.


Events were also held in over 60 open showrooms, however, as in past years, the showrooms weren’t as inspiring as the shared exhibition spaces – perhaps one aspect that the organisers need to focus on in upcoming years. Having said that, however, there were several good events this year, with Vitra and Cappellini offering highlights.

Like the shared exhibition spaces, installations have become an integral part of CDW, transforming the streetscape into a vibrant celebration of design. In St John’s Square, the Smith pavilion by Studio Weave paid homage to the creative history of Clerkenwell, which has been a centre for artisanal craft for centuries. Throughout the three-days, a group of artisans hosted a variety of open workshops and demonstrations in the pavilion, which was designed as a caricature of an industrial factory building.


Architects Russ + Henshaw teamed up with Turkishceramics to give St John’s Gate a colourful overhaul with the Tile Mile – a mirrored installation that reflected both the architectural heritage of Clerkenwell and a contemporary tiled floorscape comprising 7,200 ceramic tiles.


Of the myriad fringe exhibitions during CDW, the standout was London collaborative OKAY Studio’s FIVE at SCIN Gallery, which was sponsored by the American Hardwood Export Council. The exhibition featured work from Ed Swan, Hunting & Narud, Liliana Ovalle, Mathias Hahn, Andrew Haythornthwaite, and Peter Marigold designed to showcase the variety of American hardwoods. Hahn’s ‘Runcible’ kitchen utensils and Hunting & Narud’s elegant glass and timber tables were of particular note.

It is impossible to fully summarise Clerkenwell Design Week in its entirety, such was the impressive scope of this year’s festival. It is, however, suffice to say that in just five short years, CDW has become one of the foremost festivals in the UK, and is an important platform for both local designers to launch their work to an international audience and international designers to introduce work to the UK market. Given the success of this year’s event, the future looks bright for Clerkenwell Design Week.

Clerkenwell Design Week

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