What to see at the London Design Festival

creative spotlight: Villa Walala at Broadgate

Financial capital, arts hub, dining hotspot; the City of London wears many hats, but few would label the Square Mile a destination for design.

Certainly the London Design Festival, Britain’s preeminent showcase of design and creativity, has always tended to dance around the City’s edges, manifesting in arty Shoreditch, crafty Clerkenwell and well-trodden Westminster.

Nonetheless it is Broadgate’s Exchange Square hosting one of the most colourful landmark projects on the programme when it kicks off this Friday.

Villa Walala, a playful, interactive castle of soft building blocks from French textile designer Camille Walala, will take pride of place in amongst the high-rise office blocks at Exchange Square for the duration of the festival “intended to inject a little joy into what may otherwise have been just another day at the office”, according to LDF organisers.

It will also serve as an unofficial geographical epicentre for the eastern section of the festival, which has mushroomed into hundreds of different fairs, exhibitions and events to cement London’s position as an international design powerhouse.

Here are five events not to be missed:

Design Frontiers

Creativity meets commercial viability in this groundbreaking exhibition of 30 leading international designers renowned for shaping and leading their respective disciplines. Check out fast cars of the future from Jaguar’s design director Ian Callum, Benjamin Hubert’s collection of furniture made entirely of recycled materials for Allermuir, and watch the designers from consultancy PriestmanGoode in action in a special live installation ‘Don’t Feed the Designers’.
18 to 24 September
Somerset House, Strand WC2R 1LA, free

London Design Festival at OXO Tower

The 30-odd glass-fronted studios ringing the iconic OXO Tower house all manner of makers from jewellers to ceramicists and textile designers, making it the perfect hub from which to kick start your exploration of the Bankside’s design district. Along the way, peek inside the MINI LIVING micro-house from architect Sam Jacob; learn about ecology and urban planning with an installation of 380 tree saplings; discover the Nordic minimalist style of Estonian design with a pop-up shop and exhibition; and immerse yourself in multi-sensory exhibition Clinic //2.
16 to 24 September
Barge House Street SE1 9GY, free

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Icon of design: OXO Tower

London Design Fair

Want to know what’s going to be on the Pinterest boards next season before the Internet does?
The London Design Fair is the festival’s major trade event, bringing more than 500 exhibitors together under one roof. Around 300 independent designers and studios and 200 brands will present their latest and greatest in 28 country exhibitions; from Polish pop-up shops to the Samsung x Saatchi ‘Frame’ that turns your television into a piece of artwork with a flick of the off-switch. Last year’s debut guest country pavilion saw India’s design scene in the spotlight; this year switches focus to the US, curated by the founders of online magazine Sight Unseen. Two days are reserved for trade, but the other two are free rein for design-conscious public.
21 to 24 September
Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane E1 6QL
Free with pre-registration. Tickets £15 at the door

Clerkenwell Design Quarter

One of the festival’s six ‘Design Districts’, the Capital’s historic home of craft will throw open its doors for the public to peruse one of the greatest concentrations of design showrooms, studios and architectural practices in the world. Among those doing the EC1 postcode proud are Swiss furniture designer Vitra with an installation of the iconic Eames chair, carpet designer Milliken with an exhibition of ceramists, and emerging architecture and research practice Space Popular, which will unveil a unique installation exploring the future of glass in architecture at the Sto Werkstatt gallery.
16 to 24 September
Various locations, some pre-registrations required.


Could discarded waste be extruded into yarn and knitted with? Could footfall data be translated into 3D-printed sculptures and souvenirs? Well if it can, the next generation of designers from Kingston School of Art will be the ones to figure out how at a special showcase taking over Spitalfields Market.
This live making event will pair emerging design talent with local schools and businesses, with each stall/workshop showcasing a material or story going in at one end, a craft or manufacturing process happening in the middle, and new inventions emerging from the other side.
21 to 23 September
Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square
E1 6EW, free