Sabine Marcelis, Swivel. Rendering: London Design Festival

Sabine Marcelis’ brutalist street furniture

Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis has used the brutalist Centre Point building and the drab concrete jungle around St Giles Square as inspiration for her chunky public seating installation called Swivel. She’s sculpted the 10-piece collection of pivoting chairs and plinths from blocks of colourfully veined travertine, quartzite and marble – heavy but warmly inviting.

Sketch London. Photography: London Design Festival

Bethan Gray at Sketch

The desperately swish restaurant and tearoom Sketch is nearly 20 years old but somehow manages to stay relevant with expensive design overhauls launched with much fanfare. This year it has let Bethan Gray at the foyer with her new Ripple seating, handblown-glass lighting and ceramics made in collaboration with 1882 Ltd – all in a palette of cobalt and white. Moritz Waldemeyer has taken over the Glade with his faux-candle LED chandelier. And the Pods will feature 50 large-scale architectural-film drawings by Tannas Oroumchi. Each exhibition gets its own tailored cocktail, on the menu for the length of the festival.

Stanton Williams, Henge. Rendering: London Design Festival

Henge Pavilion in Canary Warf

It took a village to design the standing-stone circle that will draw focus to Wren Landing in Canary Wharf between 17 and 25 September, inspired by the Neolithic structures that took shape eons ago across this part of the world. London architects Stanton Williams teamed up with natural-stone supplier LSI Stone on the procurement of two dozen slabs of 150-million-year-old Jurassic limestone and marble – zero-carbon materials that will be recycled at the festival’s end. Engineers Webb Yates contributed construction know-how, and Portuguese designers experimentadesign orchestrated the lighting, pivoted to accentuate the height and texture of the sculptural forms. Called Henge Pavilion, it will provide a place for contemplation at what is considered the “town square” of the skyscraper city.

We Are Here, Rio Cinema. Photography: Joe Humphreys courtesy of Tate

We Are Here – voices from the diaspora at Rio Cinema

On the afternoon of 18 September, the art deco Rio Cinema will host the launch party for We Are Here, a new platform celebrating marginalised voices from the immigrant diaspora in urban Britain. Live music producers Sound Advice are supplying DJs and a film exploring urban cultural rituals from diasporic communities. Speakers will include Clove magazine editor Debika Ray, architecture curator Manijeh Verghese, multidisciplinary designer Tola Ojuolape and Priya Sundram of Studio Carrom, who recently worked with contemporary South Asian designers in the Georgian confines of the William Morris Gallery. Artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman will install her fluorescent neon ice cream van sculpture, a tribute to her Punjabi father, who sold ice cream near Liverpool for 30 years.

Bethan Laura Wood Paul. Photo: Quezada-Neiman

Disco Gourds at Cromwell Place

The gallery complex Cromwell Place, located in a series of Grade II-listed Victorian townhouses in South Kensington, can always be counted on for innovative installation work. Its Pavilion Gallery scored the interactive ‘landmark projectInto Sight, an environment of light and sound that adapts to human presence. Upstairs, colour evangelist Bethan Laura Wood will display her new collection of Disco Gourds ceramics as part of the curated programme of Brompton Design District. 

Photography: Vitra

Vitra’s Tramshed HQ in Shoreditch

Swiss design champion Vitra has moved its London team from Clerkenwell to the historic heart of Shoreditch. The new flagship will open on 21 September in the Tramshed building on Rivington Street, built in 1905 for the defunct East London Tramway. Vitra has made minimal alterations to the heritage building, leaving the modernity to its collection of furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Verner Panton, Antonio Citterio, Jasper Morrison and Hella Jongerius.

Its inaugural exhibition, located in the basement installation space, will celebrate Jean Prouvé with an updated collection of the French designer’s greatest hits, as well as a new limited addition of the Fauteuil Kangourou, first designed in 1948. 

The ground floor will trial the company’s post-pandemic office prototype, The Club. London is the first flagship to get the modular, multi-zone Club treatment since Vitra tested it in Switzerland earlier this year. 

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, Centre in Progress. Photography: London Design Festival

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration has co-opted a Grade II-listed windmill base, former engine house, boiler house and coal store for its new premises at the site of a 17th-century reservoir in Clerkenwell. The four heritage industrial buildings sat empty for years before the recent restoration by Tim Ronalds Architects, which will accommodate Blake’s 40,000-work archive and galleries for exhibiting international graphic art and illustration. He’s also carved out space for the requisite events space, shop and café.

Perkins + Will, The Stage. Rendering: Perkins + Will

The Shakespeare Art Trail

LDF’s opening weekend coincides with the 25th anniversary of the (new and improved) Globe Theatre. It’ll be commemorated with a Shakespeare Art Trail along the Bankside footpath, featuring photography, graphics and sound installations. 

Incidentally, architects Perkins + Will are currently putting the final touches on their new mixed-use complex The Stage, built atop the Shakespearean-era Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch. The 16th-century stage – where Shakespeare starred in his first plays as an actor and staged his first plays as a writer – was discovered in bits during the building’s excavation phase. The discovery prompted the architects to incorporate a glass viewing platform into the courtyard and change the project’s name.

Béton Brut at Paul Smith. Photography: Paul Smith

Béton Brut at Paul Smith

Genius fashion designer and antiques curator Paul Smith will host monochrome modernist furniture dealer Béton Brut in his Mayfair shop from 15 September. In deference to Smith’s trademark colour combinations, curator Sophie Pearce will stray from the neutral palette and bring in her most vibrant desks, lighting, sofas, screens and chairs, with some dating back to the 18th century. They plan for residency to be long-term.

Mint Gallery, The Futurists. Photography: London Design Festival

Also in Mayfair: the grand opening of a new location for Mint, the collectable design gallery. Founder Lina Kanafani has relocated from the shoebox space in South Kensington to a bow-fronted Georgian terrace on Duke Street. For its Design Festival debut, she’ll display emerging and established designers working in the circular economy and using unusual materials like fibreglass, recycled paper and alabaster.

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