One month left before London Design Festival: the sustainability events you can't miss

Sam Jacob's 'Sea Things' at the V&A
Sam Jacob's 'Sea Things' at the V&A Copyright © Sam Jacob
By Rosie Frost
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This year the festival will feature a strong focus on the potential for design to help solve current global concerns around biodiversity, sustainability, and the crisis of single use plastics.


London Design Festival will return from 14 to 22 September, for a celebration of the best in new design. Drawing artists, designers and leaders from across the globe, the Festival intends to showcase London as a city at the forefront of innovation in the creative industry.

This year the festival will feature a strong focus on the potential for design to help solve current global concerns around biodiversity, sustainability, and the crisis of single use plastics. Many of the Festival's 400 events will look at material use and human relationships with objects so as to explore the powerful role of design in effecting social change.

Upon this year's launch, founder of the Festival, Ben Evans CBE, said "Now, more than ever, design has a vital role to play in creating a sustainable solution. The Festival will provide a platform for new material experimentation and discussion in a hope that it may move us one step closer towards creating a carbon neutral economy.”

We've taken a look at a range of the Festival's events, exhibitions, and installations spanning the breadth of its sustainability focus.

Sam Jacob, Sea Things, V&A

Sea Things is an installation in the grand entrance of the V&A in London's Knightsbridge and is one of London Design Festival’s Landmark projects for this year. The project focuses on the increasingly prominent problem of ocean plastics. In collaboration with enterprise software company, SAP, the installation looks at how design and technology can provide answers to the problem facing marine life.

© Sam Jacob
Sam Jacob's 'Sea Things' at the V&A© Sam Jacob

Sam Jacob’s previous work has frequently featured investigation into the interrelated nature of objects but also how those relationships are imparted with significance by individuals. Alongside the large installation, Jacob will be remaking seven individual water vessels found in the V&A’s collection using experimental post plastic materials. By re-imagining these apparently familiar things in innovative plastics, Jacob hopes to help viewers to consider the historic role of water vessels and how our use of materials has changed in global culture throughout time.

Taking inspiration from a print by Charles and Ray Eames that can be found in the museum’s textile collection, the main installation takes the form of a mirrored cube that hangs over visitors as they enter. Combining an awareness of the reflective surface with digital projection, the animated pattern reflects internally, giving a sense of the seemingly infinite scale of the plastic problem.

© Sam Jacob
Sam Jacob, principle of Sam Jacob Studios© Sam Jacob

Jacob told Euronews Living, “we hope to look at some of these issues from two perspectives – One suggestive of large scales of times and space” that show the “buildup of waste in the ocean over the last century” and then also through “ a series of more intimate objects that ask questions about the value we place on objects and material”.

Sea Things will be on display at the V&A Museum in Knightsbridge, London from the 14th to the 22nd of September, more information can be found here.

Various Designers, Legacy, V&A

Legacy is a series of 10 pieces made from sustainable wood species, American red oak, that have been directly commissioned by chairman of the Festival, Sir John Sorrel. Sorrel has invited leaders of cultural institutes such as the Royal Opera House, British Film Institute, and Serpentine Galleries to collaborate with a number of the world’s most prolific designers to make objects that tie into the enduring theme of ‘Legacy’.

© Tom Harrison
Designers working at Benchmark Furniture in Berkshire where the pieces will be made© Tom Harrison

Each piece of furniture is a collaboration between the cultural leaders and designers involved, aiming to explore the properties of the abundant American Hardwood it is showcasing. Sean Sutcliffe, founder of Benchmark Furniture where the pieces are being made, said in a statement about the project, “I’m going to be interested to see what they come up with in a ‘single material’ like American Red Oak – and in such a short timeframe. I am also excited to get a brief glimpse into the personal thinking of some of the leaders of London’s major cultural institutions.”

©Petr Krejci/ London Design Festival
American red Oak, the material of choice for Legacy©Petr Krejci/ London Design Festival

The 10 collaborations will be presented as a group exhibition at the V&A in Knightsbridge, London from the 14th to the 22nd of September, more information can be found here.

Related | What the Venice Biennale can teach us about climate change

London Design Festival: Design Districts

Within the wider Festival, Design Districts offer small clusters of events within walking distance of each other. These events are intended to encourage meandering for organic exploration of the Festival's 400 events whilst getting a sense of the geography of the city it is set in.

We're highlighting a selection of events that focus on sustainability from a few of these districts to help inspire you to create your own route through the Festival's range of experiences.

Wolf & Badger: A Celebration of Design, King's Cross Design District

Wolf & Badger, a platform for independent designers, is hosting a week of events and workshops centred around bringing sustainability into your every day existence. These free events will be taking place at their flagship store in King's Cross which brings together high concept fashion, homeware and beauty from a variety of curated brands.

© Wolf & Badger
Curated sustainable design from Wolf & Badger© Wolf & Badger

Within the store, Wolf & Badger already hosts 'Meet the Maker' events that allow consumers to get closer to the process of design and manufacture by meeting the founders of the companies that they buy from. The series of events for the London Design Festival will specifically focus on how sustainability can be integrated into home and lifestyle design.

Further information about the schedule of events taking place from the 17th to the 22nd can be found either on London Design Festival's events page or on Wolf & Badgers curated events page.


RB12: People and Planet over Profit, Shoreditch Design Triangle

Shoreditch design space, RB12, are promising a lively discussion about integrating ethical design and community empowerment into current movement by designers toward embracing sustainable fashion. A statement by the design space about the event states, "we want to explore how creatives are now transforming into their own type of activist" and the discussion's panel clearly reflects this.

© Chaccra Rugs/ London Design Festival
Handcrafted TObetan Rugs inspire cultural engagement© Chaccra Rugs/ London Design Festival

With Sharon Shi, owner of ethical rug supplier Chaccra and Chrissa Amuah, textile product designer for AMWA among other industry experts, the panel will look into how cultural appropriation can be avoided in favour of cultural empowerment and how ethics can be included when addressing environmental concerns.

The discussion will take place at RB12 Design Space in Shoreditch on 19th September, more details can be found here.

Related | Take an eco-friendly break in Britain's Greenest City

Jane Withers Studio, Brompton Biotopia, Brompton Design District

Bromptom Biotopia is an installation comprised of a series of animal habitats designed to aid urban biodiversity by exploring the possible applications for natural materials. Marlene Huissoud, an experimental designer who has previously explored the properties of insect materials, Goldsmiths University Interaction Research Studio and Material Architecture Lab have all created habitats designed with the animal perspective in mind.

© Dunja Opalko
Marlene Huissoud© Dunja Opalko

These pieces will be on show in Brompton's Thurloe Garden Square and Alexander Garden Square throughout the Festival; more information about these installations and their locations can be found here.

For a full programme of the Festival's considerable range of experiences, visit the London Design Festival Website where events can be filtered to show those themed around sustainability.

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