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The London Design Festival at The V&A

Posted by Rob Alderson,

As thousands flock to the city for the London Design Festival, first port of call for many will be The V&A, the festival’s traditional headquarters. That brings visitors through the venerable museum’s doors, but it also brings pressure. Luckily The V&A has smacked it out the park with some tremendous installations and projects. Both Victoria AND Albert would be proud.

Vicky Broackes, of The V&A, told It’s Nice That it is crucial that whatever is commissioned for the festival works with and enhances the museum’s many treasures.

“It is not a case of saying, ‘Here, we have got a space,’ – we look for places we can make interventions, working together with the departments and the designers to make things in response to what we have here. I think that is so important. We could do it another way but it would not be nearly as fun or as interesting. That also means people look at things they have seen hundreds of times before with new eyes.”

That process starts before visitors even enter the grand old museum, with the majestic Timber Wave a three dimensional wooden spiral which encircles the Cromwell Road entrance. Created by AL_A architects and Arup, it is vast, delicate and beautiful, playing off the ornate curved entrance it sits in front of.

Toying with the familiar is a theme that extends into The Raphael Gallery, where the Bouroullec brothers have installed Textile Field a huge, sponge platform where you can sit, lounge or romp in front of the master’s huge works on the walls. It’s fun and contemplative and will bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded gallery visitor.

A real gem comes in the form of Industrial Revolution 2.0 an exploration of 3D printing curated by Murray Moss brought to life by Belgium company Materialise. The series of pieces range from a gorgeous (and apparently wearable dress) to 14 haunting pairs of shoes arranged around the famous Bed of Ware, ghostly evocations of the socio-sexual secrets the bed broods over.

British-ish presents some of the best work from recent graduates from the University of the Arts London, while Betatank’s Scaffolding Brut explores why scaffolding continues to be so style-less. A series of sculptures explore whether they could be created in more visually-arresting ways, or whether they could become useful extras to the homeowners trapped within – “an extra balcony” as the artist puts it. So we see flower pots and bird boxes made of porcelain attached to the metal poles, and even a date night configuration complete with a vase, a champagne holder and a radio (for romantic ditties, naturally).

M&C Saatchi have curated a show called Brutal Simplicity of Thought celebrating the straightforward yet ingenious solutions mankind has dreamt up to answer some of civilised society’s most fundamental needs – expect everything from toilet signs to daylight saving time.

There’s more too; The Power of Making and Postmodernism shows, designs for pylons of the future, talks, lectures… enough. Quite simply The V&A has cemented its place as an indispensable hub for all things LDF. Only one concern – how on earth do they top that next year?



Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

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