September 21st, 2018
London Design Festival is an annual event held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world and as the gateway to the international creative community. Visiting the website shows the daunting task that is trying to make the most of this week-long opportunity to engage with the world of design. The event is vast with over 150 events happening during the week, so to make it a little easier for myself, I decided to simply head to the festival hub at the V&A (Victoria and Albert museum).
The first London Design Festival exhibition I came across whilst visiting the V&A was ‘MultiPly’, which was located outside. This project by Waugh Thistleton Architects addresses two very current issues; the need for housing and climate change. It addresses these issues with an artistic solution through the fusion of modular systems and sustainable construction materials. Andrew Waugh, Director of Waugh Thistleton Architects, says ‘MultiPly’ will provide enjoyable experiences as well as show that modular architecture is an efficient solution: “The structure will lead people a merry dance up and down staircases and across bridges exploring space and light.”
This structure didn’t have any furniture or plumbing and although a bit small it certainly felt like a liveable space, with multiple rooms and staircases. MultiPly is carbon neutral. The hardwood used to build it is offset by the carbon stored in the finished structure and the energy generated by the incineration of process wood waste. This also includes emissions from the fabrication and installation of the structure as well as the transport at all stages. The purpose of this exhibition was to show us how we should be building in order to limit our impact on the earth.
As well as having extremely important meaning, people were also enjoying and engaging with the structure. Children were having a lot of fun racing around and exploring and the majority of people ended up on the top floor conglomerating in what was hopefully a reflective state – perhaps considering their impact on the world, perhaps how they travelled there today or how much they’d been recycling.
Next, I ventured upstairs to try and find the ‘The Onion Farm’, however navigating the V&A 3rd floor proved too difficult and instead I ended up at Pentagram’s offering to this year’s festival, ‘Dazzle’, pictured below. The idea of ‘Dazzle’ was inspired by war-time camouflage painted on to the surface of ships. This was an idea pioneered by British artist Norman Wilkinson who created many designs for a variety of ships which drew on avant-garde artistic movements such as Cubism and Vorticism, as well as animal markings. These bewildering shapes and angles were designed to confuse the enemy as they struggled to make out the dazzle ships against shifting waves and clouds.
Using the Wilfrid Wilson Gibson poem ‘Suspense’, Pentagram re-interpreted the camouflage from a purely graphic origin into a typographic exploration. The experience Pentagram have created through abstract typography and graphics was very immersive for visitors to the ‘Dazzle’ room.
There was an ominous feeling as I entered the room. The room itself has two floors, the first has seating around two of its four walls which were full of people sat in complete silence. Upstairs people sat in again complete silence watching what I can presume was war footage and an explanation of the exhibition. Perhaps this metaphorically represented the population during the war perfectly – people in bunkers keeping quiet and others upstairs trying to decipher signals and codes. Purposefully metaphoric or not, the work itself was very impressive and showed how black and white typography can still be so striking and engaging.
The Onion Farm
With a rejuvenated desire I set off to find the illusive ‘Onion Farm’, pictured below. ‘The Onion Farm’ was all about engagement and interaction with the artwork, much like ‘MultiPly’. Visitors are invited to touch and move through it as they walk along the gallery. The structure is specifically designed for the space it exists within. The length of the room gave rise to the idea of a similarly long installation; around 25 metres from end to end.
In ‘The Onion Farm’, as with many of Henrik Vibskov’s installations, everyday objects are transformed and put together in a new way to give viewers a point of recognition. Fabric onions hang from the structure, which combined with the industrial brushes, are suppose to simulate the natural conditions in which they grow. The brushes are a large circle of spiny prickly hairs which create a vibrating membrane along the structure. The idea of using design to imitate and comment on everyday life draws parallels with the tapestries that sat behind the structure and their role of reflecting people’s perspectives on life from the 15th Century.
Overall, I think that the idea of engagement and commenting on current issues within the world is a great approach for the London Design Festival. There was a lot of interaction with the exhibition pieces by visitors to the V&A, as the architects, artists and designers intended, which will hopefully bring these important issues to the forefront of people’s minds.