September 17, 2020

15 Design Highlights from London Design Festival 2020

Responding to continuous outbreaks, London is currently withstanding some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in Europe. People can meet up with just six people from outside their household—and only if they are outdoors. Inside public spaces, masks are required. So sets the stage for a new kind of design event and the 18th edition of the London Design Festival, running through September 20 during a year like no other. Despite many cancellations—both the London Design Fair, which was to be held in Old Truman Brewery, and Design London, the fair formerly known as 100% Design, will not take place this year—design marches on with virtual launches, public art projects, installations, and tightly-controlled, socially-distanced exhibitions throughout the British capital. From vessels fabricated using prehistoric construction methods to glassware taking cues from the hockey puck to a new take on the humble doghouse, here are 15 of our favorite finds.

1.  Maestro chair by Lee Broom

Photography courtesy of Lee Broom.  

In a dramatic virtual presentation that enlisted an orchestra performing with social distance for the first time since lockdown, designer Lee Broom presented the Maestro chair. In tribute to the musical instrument, Maestro has a structure pairing an upholstered seat with three continuous hand-bent, hand-polished, and plated tubes, available in brass, mirrored chrome, or matte black. 

2. Ion lighting collection by Bohinc Studio

Photography by Philippe Fragniere/courtesy of Bohinc Studio.

An ongoing exploration on geometry inspired by the rings of Jupiter gave rise to Ion, Bohinc Studio‘s new lighting collection which includes a desk light, a table light, and a wall light—as well as the relaunched Jupiter Vase, the original inspiration piece shown here, in new materials. 

Photography by Philippe Fragniere/courtesy of Bohinc Studio.

The Ion desk light by Bohinc Studio features a double-arch form of brushed brass. “For this year’s edition of LDF, I especially wished to capture a sense of optimism through my design,” notes Lara Bohinc. 

3.  Cork & Leather bowls by Jesse White

Photography courtesy of Mint.

With the exhibition “Bokeh,” on view through September 30, design gallery Mint presented products merging traditional craft and innovative production methods. Jessie White merges cork and tanned leather with string and beeswax for her Cork & Leather bowls. 

4. Core vessels by Willem van Hooff

 Photography courtesy of Mint.

Willem van Hooff is dedicated to bringing back prehistoric construction methods. Also on view at Mint, his Core vessels, with geometry based on intentionally imperfect circles, are made of clay using early African techniques. 

5. Envisioned Comfort armchair by Vytautas Gecas and Marija Puipaite? 

Photography courtesy of the London Design Festival.

A new initiative conceived in response to the events of 2020, “Adorno,” on view through September 20, is LDF’s first virtual design destination. The online exhibition features more than 200 art and design objects and 14 country-specific environments. The limited-edition beechwood, brass, foam, rope, and velvet Envisioned Comfort armchair by Vytautas Gecas and Marija Puipaite is among Lithuania’s curated objects. 

6. Puck glassware by Tom Dixon

Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

With a thick base resembling a hockey puck, the Puck collection of mouth-blown cocktail glassware by Tom Dixon has the resilience to withstand the professional restaurant environment. Rendered in cylinders, cones, and spheres, the glassware has a hint of smoke to its color, darkening at the base. 

7. 121 collection of desk accessories and writing instruments by Robbie Llewellyn and Adam Yeats for Bert Frank

Photography courtesy of Bert Frank.

Hand-machined in solid brass, the 121 collection of desk accessories and writing instruments by Robbie Llewellyn and Adam Yeats, co-founders of design brand Bert Frank, add elegance to the increasingly important home office. 

8. Half a Square table by Michael Anastassiades for Molteni & C|Dada

Photography courtesy of Molteni & C|Dada.

A minimalist table with luxurious materials marks the first collaboration between Molteni & C|Dada and designer Michael Anastassiades. The Half a Square table is available in marble—shown here—as well as aluminum, reflective glass and eucalyptus, or graphite oak. 

9. Candy Cubicle fold-away desk by Sabine Marcelis

Photography courtesy of the London Design Festival. 

A home office solution for a compact living environment, the wood Candy Cubicle by Sabine Marcelis is a fold-away desk with hidden wheels created as part of “Connected,” an initiative by the American Hardwood Export Council, Benchmark Furniture, and London’s Design Museum exploring how designers and craftsmen adapt their working practices during lockdown. Marcelis is one of nine international designers that created a table and seating to meet the demands of a new reality requiring working and living at home. 

The Candy Cubicle, a fold-away desk by Sabine Marcelis. Photography courtesy of the London Design Festival.

10. Kadamba Gate table by Ini Archibong

Photography courtesy of the London Design Festival.

“There are many layers,” says designer Ini Archibong on his wood Kadamba Gate table, which seems to rest on city hi-rises and was also designed for “Connected.” “There’s an idea of being connected to the earth, the earth being connected to the stars, and the notion of microcosm and macrocosm. That led me to being inspired by The Giant’s Causeway and its columns of basalt hexagons.” 

11. Arco seat and table by Maria Jeglinska

Photo courtesy of the London Design Festival.

“I’ve been looking at the typology of office chairs as well as doing some research on The Shakers,” says Maria Jeglinska, a third participant in “Connected.” “They were a community that was self-sufficient and also lived and worked in the same space.” Jeglinska’s Arco seat and table are fabricated from American cherry wood with grain-matched planks. 

12. Slump Rock coffee table by Paul Cocksedge

The Slump Rock coffee table by Paul Cocksedge. Photography courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

A rock unexpectedly juts out from the Slump Rock coffee table, formed from molded industrial sheet glass and rock. The table is one of eight featuring melted or “slumped” glass included in “Paul Cocksedge: Slump,” an exhibition of the designer’s new work on view at Carpenters Workshop Gallery through December

13. “Walala Parade” by Camille Walala

Photography by Tim Crocker.

Isn’t now a time for a fresh coat of optimism, the more exuberant and colorful the better? So thought participants to a $52,000 crowdfunding campaign backed by the Mayor of London and commissioned by Wood Street Walls. “Walala Parade” by Camille Walala sees the artist transform an entire East London street. The initiative is now one of the capital’s largest public art projects. 

14. Beagle House by MVRDV

Photography copyright Hiroshi Yoda.

World-class architects turn their eye to the humble dog house in “Architecture for Dogs,” on view at Japan House London. The rounded bottom of MVRDV’s Beagle House, one of 16 designs in the exhibition, gently rocks when a dog enters, while an attached rope allows the compact abode (and dog inside) to be easily towed into a new position. 

15. Sage Sit-Stand Workbench and Desk by David Rockwell for Benchmark

Photography courtesy of Planted.

With a privacy panel of 100 percent natural materials (wool felt and cork), the timber Sage Sit-Stand Workbench by David Rockwell for Benchmark is among sustainable products from earth conscious design brands that were to debut in Planted. A new fair, Planted was postponed due to COVIID-19 and now debuts online with help from Dezeen. Brands also participating include Another Country, Vestre, and Ercol

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