London Design Festival announces first installations and freelancer focus

The annual festival has revealed the first of its line-up, which explores circular design and the possibilities of growing mangos in London.

London Design Festival (LDF) has revealed the first details of its 2020 line-up, which includes landmark projects and new design districts as well as a virtual showcase.

It is the 18th edition of the festival which seeks to celebrate the capital’s culture of design with a series of public installations and events. There had been concern that LDF, like many other design events, would be cancelled because of the pandemic. But festival co-founders John Sorrell and Ben Evans were insistent that the event would go ahead, albeit in an altered capacity.

LDF’s identity has been designed by Pentagram’s Domenic Lippa

At a press conference held over Zoom, the co-founders revealed this year’s line-up. Some mainstays will be absent from proceedings this year, such as LDF’s installation at the V&A which will not be taking place because of the museum’s phased re-opening. However, there will be installations coming to the capital, and some in new design districts.

Installation announcements

Marlene Huissoud

Architectural studio Weave is bringing The Hothouse to a newly established district Stratford, an installation which has been inspired by Victorian glasshouses. It will provide a “controlled habitat” for growing plants that are not native to the UK, such as guava, mangoes and ornamental flowers. Designer Tom Massey has collaborated on the project in developing a “planting scheme” concept.

As ever, sustainability will be a focus at this year’s festival. The Circular Design Project – a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and SAP – aims to “act as the spark that brings to shift designers’ attitudes and practice”. Through a series of talks, panel discussions and seminars, it will explore ideas such as the long-term benefits of sustainable materials, circular design solutions and how the concept is a “rewarding endeavour”, both personally and professionally.

Other festival commissions include designer Marlene Huissoud’s Unity, which explores how people can work together – especially relevant during a time of a crisis, organisers say. The installation will come to Coal Drop’s Yard in King’s Cross and invite visitors to stand in a circle 2 meters apart. They will then begin to “pump the system” and inflate the installation. Exact details of what the installation will look like have not yet been released. Huissoud did reveal that the installation has “completely changed” since the idea was conceived because of the pandemic.

Support for freelancers

The co-founders announced a “spotlight” on freelancers this year. “We recognise that freelancers in particular have been impacted by the pandemic,” they say. A “freelancer portal” has been established where freelancers can share their work and portfolios with the festival audience. This work will then be presented in an online gallery and shared across social media.

The paywall is also being removed so that everyone has access to the online library of content, which features conversations with designers from Justyna Green to Grant Gibson. There are also virtual exhibitions, tours and a directory of events available online.

A virtual design destination

The William Morris design line

While installations have been announced, a city-wide festival clearly presents problems in a time of lockdown and social-distancing. In light of this, digital e-commerce platform Adorno is hosting a virtual design festival to showcase “curated country collections” from 26 international curators from design scenes around the globe. These will be presented throughout the week, with two collections launching every day.

A new design route has been introduced for 2020. The William Morris Design Line runs through Walthamstow, from Wood Street to Blackhorse Lane.

Adorno’s virtual conference

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