Sunday, September 25, 2011

London Design Festival & Serpentine Gallery

This is a bit of a retrospective post on the London Design Festival. I have a kind of a love-hate relationship with LDF; as I work in the design/branding/marketing field, this should be the zenith, the penultimate week of my professional diary, jampacked with talks, openings, receptions, mingling, networking, and inspiration. And it is... and it isn't. For a few reasons, LDF doesn't quite live up to my expectations:

1. "Design" doesn't mean graphic or communication design in this situation; while there are events that incorporate print and corporate design applications, the vast majority of the events are around product, furniture, and interiors design.

2. Most of the events are pay-in, or small gallery events. For the record, despite being a cheapskate, I don't mind paying in to events if I feel that I will get something out of them. But I attended Tent London last year specifically for Tent Digital and I was vastly disappointed. There were only 2 digital exhibits, both lacking in content and explantation. The £15 I paid to be inspired was wasted. As for the gallery events, I've found that most are small galleries with only a few items on display and I personally feel awkward walking in, examining a £2,000 chair, thanking the gallery owner and departing. Over and over and over again.

3. I find London Design Festival to be ironically difficult to navigate. There are so MANY events that it's hard to figure out when the ones you want to see are on, find out when speaker events are taking place (and more importantly, when the tickets go on sale!), and generally plan your week. So I missed out on a lot, especially the Google Design Lectures and Perspectives at St Pauls Cathedral. 

Thus, every year I run around town trying to lap up whatever I can with short notice. I know I should just put it in my diary for early September next year and plan it properly, but a festival by it's nature shouldn't require tons of forward planning. Anyway, rant over.

Today I strolled down to The Illy Galleria, a pop-up installation, gallery and coffee shop that started in New York and has since traveled to Milan, Trieste, Istanbul and Berlin. It's located in a design showroom on Roseberry Avenue, EC1 (near Farringdon tube station) and unfortunately, it was closed (you know, that old "nothing is open on Sunday" chestnut). Luckily the Galleria remains in situ until 16 October so there is still time to check it out. I had a peak in the window and I must say it looks really cool.

Then I headed over to the V&A. The V&A was the LDF Hub, as evidenced by this fabulous wood spiral sculpture at the museum's main entrance.

Inside there were mostly events for kids and families, though there were a few workshops on learning how to design. The final Google Design Lecture was also underway, focused on digital design, and there was a digital design workshop as well. Again, most events had pre-registration so you couldn't just jump in, but the museum did have mini-exhibits scattered throughout the building. I stumbled upon the Outset display after viewing the Jameel Prize, and was pleased to find some really provocative furniture. But again, I would have loved to see/attend some of the lectures on IP, design's impact on economic recovery and the overview of London Underground signage.

Anyway. I was pleased as always to visit my favorite London museum and to at least see some of the fabulous events taking place. But since the lines for the new exhibit "Power of Making" were out of control and I didn't have the intellectual energy for Postmodernism, I decided to trot up to Hyde Park to visit the Serpentine Pavilion.

I've wanted to see the Pavilion for the last 3 years and clearly never got my butt over there to experience them, so I'm very proud of myself for not missing it for the fourth year in a row. The Serpentine Pavilion is a temporary modern architectural installation that is erected each summer for a few months. This year's structure is by Peter Zumthor and features a cloister-like garden.

So I spent a leisurely hour reading, enjoying the flowers with a cappucino in the open air, away from the busy Knightsbridge streets. Despite not having ingested quite as much "design" as I wanted, I think in the end I had a very fulfilling and inspirational Sunday.

PS: If you, like me, are gutted that you missed out, the Perspectives installation in St Paul's Cathedral is up through the end of the year – unfortunately, you have to pay in to see it.


  1. Hi fellow expat designer Danielle :) !
    Just stumbled across your blog and love it!

    I totally agree with the LDF being kind of a waste of time for print/media/web designers. I did love the Power of Making exhibit and even my non-artsy husband enjoyed it (though the cocktail lounge probably helped that).

  2. Hi fellow expat designer Danielle! Thanks for the lovely compliments! I do want to go see the Power of Making show but the lines were insane. Good tip re: hubby, hopefully The Irishman will enjoy it as well! x