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London Design Festival 2023 celebrates art, crafts and architecture

"Spirit of Place" by Simone Brewster takes over The Strand as part of the London Design Festival.
"Spirit of Place" by Simone Brewster takes over The Strand as part of the London Design Festival. Copyright Courtesy: London Design Festival
Copyright Courtesy: London Design Festival
By Anca Ulea
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More than 300 events celebrating design, art and architecture will take over the city of London through till September 24 for the 21st London Design Festival.

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The city of London is celebrating all things design this week for the 21st annual London Design Festival, which brings together notable artists, designers and creators for events and installations across the city.

More than 300 events are taking place in 13 different design districts across the city, allowing London’s creative community to showcase their work across the capital, with a focus on art, crafts, design and architecture.

“This year’s programme promises fresh perspectives and boundary-pushing ideas that will inspire audiences,” said festival director Ben Evans. “But just as importantly, the festival provides opportunities for emerging talent and promotes inclusivity in the sector.”

This year’s special projects feature works by renowned local and international artists that question the role of design in constructing a modern world.

Don’t know where to start? Euronews Culture has put together a guide of what to see at this year’s London Design Festival.

“Aura” by Pablo Valbuena

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
Pablo Valbuena's "Aura" installation in St Paul's Cathedral in London.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

At St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the special projects featured at this year's festival is an installation by Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena that examines contemporary rituals by using time, sound and light in one of the city’s most iconic temples. The project turns the sounds present in the cathedral into a pulsating line of light projected from its domed ceiling.

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
"Aura" by Pablo Valbuena at St Paul's Cathedral in London.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
"Aura" by Pablo Valbuena at St Paul's Cathedral in London.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

Seamlessly integrating into the building as if it had been part of the original design, Aura takes the music, natural sound and voices present in the cathedral and synthesises them into a physical representation of worship and ritual in the modern world. It’s part of the festival’s Wren 300 celebrations in homage to English architect Sir Christopher Wren on the 300th anniversary of his death.

“Nice to Meet You Again” by Morag Myerscough, with MINI

Courtesy: London Design Festival
"Nice to Meet You Again" by Morag Myerscough featured at this year's London Design Festival.Courtesy: London Design Festival

The immersive, multi-sensory installation at Shoreditch Electric Light Station imagines a future where the sensory experience of living in a city is transformed by electric mobility. It’s the vision of London artist and designer Morag Myerscough, in partnership with the festival’s automotive partner MINI.

Courtesy: London Design Festival
The installation "Nice to Meet You Again" images a bright future city with electric mobility.Courtesy: London Design Festival

On top of the colourful cityscapes created by the artist, the installation features sounds of birds and nature scents, giving visitors the chance to fully immerse themselves in a potential future where cities are clean places for life to thrive. It also showcases MINI’s newest vehicle, a fully electric MINI Cooper.

“Spirit of Place” by Simone Brewster with Amorim

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
British artist Simone Brewster poses with her installation "Spirit of Place" at London Design Festival.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

The festival commissioned London-based Simone Brewster, in collaboration with Portuguese cork processor Amorim, to create a series of large scale sculptural vessels that are displayed on The Strand.

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
The sculptures in "Spirit of Place" are made of cork from Portuguese firm Amorim.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

The colourful collection of sculptures, which are as tall as 2.5 metres, represents Amorim’s cork forest in Herdade de Rio Frio, Portugal and the four characteristics that will guarantee its survival. Each sculpture is a visual representation of these characteristics – drought resistance, fungal resistance, upright expression and fast voluminous growth.

The Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
The Mandala Lab by the Rubin Museum explores self awareness through a series of interactive exhibitions.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

The Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab in Canary Wharf is an interactive space designed to explore challenging emotions – like attachment or envy – and consider how to transform them into wisdom.

Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
The exhibitions in the Mandala Lab address feelings like attachment and envy.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
Ed Reeve via London Design Festival
One of the exhibitions in the Rubin Museum's Mandala Lab, inspired by Buddhist principles.Ed Reeve via London Design Festival

The freestanding structure contains a metaphoric floorplan for humans’ emotional well-being, with five thought-provoking, playful experiences that are intended to give visitors some insight into their own self-awareness and that of others.

Special Installations at the V&A Museum

Iconic spaces within the V&A Museum have been transformed through a collection of specially commissioned installations by international contemporary designers - offering a view of the global power of design to bind communities and reveal untold stories.

Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival
The Hana Mikoshi exhibition at London's V&A Museum.Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival

A neon pink Hana Mikoshi, or “flower shrine” brightens up the room in a seating installation that was nspired by the “Mino Matsuri festival.” The tree will be decorated with 50,000 sakura-inspired washi paper flowers that were handmade by specialised craftspeople in Japan.

Peter Kelleher via London Design Festival
Palestinian artist Dima Srouji poses in front of her installation, “But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells Like Roses”.Peter Kelleher via London Design Festival
Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival
The exhibition features replicas of glassware from the V&A collection that were excavated from Palestine and Greater Syria.Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival

“But She Still Wears Kohl and Smells Like Roses” by Palestinian architect and artist Dima Srouji takes a fresh look at the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine, featuring replicas of glassware from the V&A collection that were excavated from the region. 

The original vessels in the museum will be replaced with cards explaining the often-violent stories behind their excavation.

Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival
"Unstuck Melody" is a collaboration between British-Canadian artist Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu and UK arts organisation Without Shape Without Form”.Petre Kelleher via London Design Festival

“Unstuck Melody” brings together tapestry, sculpture and film to create moments of self-discovery through contemporary Sikh teachings, exploring their impact on design today. It’s a collaboration between British-born Canadian artist Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu and UK arts organisation Without Shape Without Form”.

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London Design Fair & Material Matters

Several design fairs will also take place over the course of the festival.

London Design Festival
The Judy Archer Collection at the London Design FairLondon Design Festival

The London Design Fair returns after a three year absence and will run from 21-24 September at Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, showcasing innovative design, brands, international pavilions, and makers. It’s the largest commercial exhibition during the festival.

Nick Rochowski Photography via London Design Festival
The Material Matters design fair explores the importance of materials in global design.Nick Rochowski Photography via London Design Festival

From 20-23 September, the Material Matters fair will bring together leading global brands, designers, makers and innovators at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf to investigate and celebrate the importance of materials and their ability to shape our lives.

London Design Festival is currently taking place across the city until September 24.

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