The London Design Festival at the V & A – London

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The other day my good friend and I decided to go somewhere to fill our minds with inspiration. That is extremely easy in a city like London so we headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum to check out the newly appointed hub of the London Design Festival.
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The London Design Festival is a week where designers, creatives, and great thinkers are encouraged to celebrate design. This annual event highlights and promotes the creative talents and open minds that Londoners and London have to the world. First started in 2003, The London Design Festival programme has grown to over 300 events and exhibitions staged all over London and from designers around the world. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the first point of call for visitors for information, maps and events taking place all week. It is also where specially commissioned installations are dotted throughout this landmark building. It is my favourite museum in London and I was intrigued to see how the modern installations would sit in such a historical building.
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I was lucky to be given some money by my Aunt to purchase a yearly membership to the V & A and I decided while I was there I would buy it and make use of it. The membership includes free entry to exhibitions, previews, events and the V & A members’ room. So we also managed to go and see the “Wedding Dress” exhibition which is on until the 15th March and the newly opened “Horst: Photography of Style” exhibition, on until the 4th January. I thoroughly enjoyed both exhibitions. However the Horst for me is a must. The collection of photos is breath-taking and it surprised me that photographs taken from the 1930s can look so modern like they were taken last week. Horst took a series of nature close-up and stuck a repeat of the black and white photographs together to make a repeat pattern. They reminded me of Mary Katrantzou’s iconic photographic prints used in her collections. But the highlight for me is the collection of Vogue covers and large coloured fashion photos in one of the last rooms of the exhibition. It is magical as the rest of the exhibits are in black and white. Go and see it while you still have the chance.
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After that we tried to cover as much of the London Design Festival offerings as we could before closing time. We started at the ‘Double Space for BMW – Precision in Motion’ designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. They designed a feet of engineering with an immersive kinetic sculpture hanging from the ceiling of the Raphael gallery space. The movement of the two aerospace-like structures is meant to bring the static exhibits around it to life. It is a very hypnotic structure and the mind boggles at how the whole structure is engineered. It is an impressive sight and definitely one worth just getting lost in for a while.
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We then headed out to The John Madejski Garden situated at the back of the ground floor of the museum for a gander at two more installations, a cup of lemonade and maybe a cheeky brownie. It was a lovely sunny day and whilst staring at the beautiful ‘Crest’ by Zaha Hadid architects I think half of the museum had the same plan as us. At first glance this little curved piece of sculpture doesn’t seem that impressive, but like everything with Zaha Hadid the form of the sculpture is very natural and just falls into its surroundings. I loved the way that the water magically reflected the sun on the curved part of the sculpture and constantly changed as people walked past creating shadows and the sun changed direction. The structure is made out of a pre-stressed aluminium shell of minimum thickness and assembled as a flat piece and then bent. It is designed as a demountable sculpture as it will be permanently housed within the ME Hotel in Dubai which is also designed by Zaha Hadid due to open in 2016. I wonder whether the sculpture will look the same in its permanent surroundings.
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Also in the garden is ‘The Garden Shed’ a part of ‘The Wish List’ supported by the American Hardwood Export Council. 10 designers and architects have each nominated an emerging talent to collaborate on a open brief: “What have you always wanted in your home, but never been able to find?”. The shed is a beautiful little structure with eccentric things inside, a great place for a creative to work, other than having people peer in at you all the time through a glass wall.
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We then made our way to ‘Candela’ situated in the Tapestries Gallery on the 3rd floor which is the darkest gallery space in the museum due to the sensitivity of the tapestries housed there. Here in the middle of the gallery a large rotatory machine designed by Felix de Pass, Michael Montgomery and Ian Mclintyre emits the most amazing glow. It will have you mesmerised taking it all in. I have never seen anything like it before. The continual revolution of the machine creates a flow of light patterns which are constantly layered on top of each other. The memory of the phosphorescent material creates amazing patterns. I would lie if I said it didn’t remind me of the film “The Matrix” but nevertheless it is an amazing piece that is constantly changing.
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There were exhibits throughout the museum and you can just stumble upon them. We came across another exhibit inside Trajan’s column. The column is a full-scale 19th century plaster copy of the Roman original and is the largest object in the V & A situated in what I think is one of the most impressive rooms in the museum, the Cast Courts. The interior of the column is normally sealed off but for the Design Festival only it is open and you can go inside one person at a time. Inside there are ceramic sculptures by James Rigler scattered around highlighting the structure of the column. I felt like I was stuck at the bottom of a well feeling very small. You can’t help but wonder how an object this big was constructed in the museum.
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We didn’t get to see all of the exhibits placed in the museum for the Design Festival as we got lost several times even with a map. But we stumbled upon some amazing permanent exhibitions and rooms both modern and classical. It was refreshing to get lost somewhere and not know what is waiting next door. We didn’t know what to expect from any of the Design Festival installations as the map never showed any photos – only locations and brief descriptions. In a world where photos are so easily taken and information so easily shared it is nice to be surprised. So get lost somewhere – I highly recommend it. I can’t wait for next year to see what else awaits.
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Above: Dream- Land – by V and A artist in Residence
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Above: Ama – Lighting installation by Michael Anastassiades
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Above: Human Nature – Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert
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For more information about the Victoria and Albert Museum visit their website.
Most of the Design Festival exhibits are now closed but the BMW space and Crest is open until the 24th October. For more information about London Design Festival installations visit their website here.
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I’m wearing: Sleeveless blazer – Issey Miyake, neon watch – Toywatch, skinny jeans – Uniqlo
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