With global climate strikes in the news, it was refreshing to see climate awareness as a driving topic at this year’s London Design Festival. After all, the global climate problem is one the design community has the power to influence. The British capital’s celebration of all things design was held September 14-22—and once again Interior Design saw dozens of clever and intriguing site-specific installations, many inspiring wonder and reflection. From an animated cube pointing attention to ocean trash to the surprising curves possible with recycled scaffolding planks—and even what is possibly the world’s most comfortable subway car—these 15 standouts caught our eye.
1. “Sea Things” by Sam Jacob
Dropping over the entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum, "Sea Things" by Sam Jacob reflects on ocean trash and the globally detrimental single-use cycle of our plastics system. The large-scale cube has a two-way mirror presenting an animated motion graphic of plastic objects and sea life. “It is an illusion within heavy, rich Victorian architecture—which is why our form is so abstract,” Jacob explains. "Changing our behaviors and systems is the only way we can make our future less...worse."
2. Subway Prototype by Kirkby Design
A subway (or tube, that is) car of striking comfort was an Instagram sensation at 100% Design. Conceived by textile studio Kirkby Design, the car prototype was upholstered in the Underground Volume II collection of velvet fabrics—and hints at the untapped design potential underground transportation holds.
3. “Please Be Seated” by Paul Cocksedge
Suggesting a spider with undulating legs, “Please be Seated” by Paul Cocksedge is made of recycled scaffolding planks, a common waste material due to safety regulations. One of the most ambitious installations commissioned by Broadgate, a neighborhood co-owned by LDF headlining partner British Land, the project uses Finsbury Avenue Square to showcase the potential of this repurposed material. “Scaffolding planks are usually used flat,” notes Cocksedge.
4. “The Penthouse at Gasholders London” by Roksanda Ilincic
With a peek at one of London’s most spectacular residences, “The Penthouse at Gasholders London” presents an interior by fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic. Soft colors—think a dusky rose—mix with bold geometry in the spacious triplet, found within a Grade II-listed building which once stored gas for the largest gasworks in London.
5. “TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty” by Tom Dixon
British designer Tom Dixon targets all five senses with “TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty,” an interactive installation that overtook his King’s Cross headquarters. Among the “laboratories” is a shaving bar rendered in sleek stainless steel—a collaboration with men’s care brand Harry’s.
6. “Please Sit” by Gitta Gschwendtner
A 17th-century residence is much more inviting when you can actually sit down. In “Please Sit,” an installation curated by designer Gitta Gschwendtner, six avant-garde chairs add badly needed humor and whimsy to the historic interior of Fenton House—where the rugs are a tad aggressive. An upholstered armchair by Maisie Broadhead was swallowed right up.
7. “A Second Life” by Matter of Stuff
In “A Second Life,” curated by Matter of Stuff,
cylindrical pine rods repurposed from a previous installation splice
an 18th-century townhouse’s tea room based on fresh ideas by Brodie Neill, Matteo Fogale,
and Studio Furthermore. A total of
5,000 rods were hand-punched, threaded with string, and suspended from mesh in the ceiling—at hotspot and
artist-designed gastro-brasserie Sketch—to create a floating vertical wall that is also sustainable.
8. “Walala Lounge” by Camille Walala
Street furniture is rarely statement-worthy. “Walala Lounge,” by designer Camille Walala proves it should be. Walala, of bouncy castle fame from a previous LDF, is known for her unabashed use of color. She took over a small pedestrian street in London’s West End, and delivered that once more with a set of 10 sculptural brushed steel and MDF benches, accompanied by planters and oversized flags.
9. “Kaleidoscopia” by Lee Broom
With large-scale mirrors bouncing off 17 of his Orion lights to give the illusion of over 200, lighting designer Lee Broom created “Kaleidoscopia,” a mesmerizing optical illusion of a gigantic chandelier.
10. “Life Labyrinth” by Patternity
Intended as a meditative walk (but actually used as a sunny bench to chow down at lunchtime), “Life Labyrinth” by design studio Patternity created a zebra-striped maze near Westminster Cathedral. All paths lead to the center—or leave you centered, with a little luck.
11. “Disco Carbonara” by Martino Gamper
Welcome to the club. A tribute to the London clubs shuttered in recent years, “Disco Carbonara” by Martino Gamper added a fake facade of a disco—complete with a sharply dressed doorman who may jokingly ask for an ID—to one of London’s freshest new developments, King’s Cross. Visitors who made their way through the line had the option to throw off some dance moves within a tiny room with music and disco lights.
12. “Take the Plunge” by Volume Creative
“Take the Plunge” by Volume Creative invites a dive into a world under the sea, basking in the orange glow of a sunset. Recycled and recyclable materials were used for the installation—and will in turn be repurposed or recycled themselves. Created in collaboration with Virgin Voyages, it was on view at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf.
13. “Avalanche” by Matthew McCormick
After the death of a friend in a region not known for its avalanches, climate change struck Canadian designer Matthew McCormick personally. In his installation “Avalanche” at the Victoria & Albert Museum, a path of reflective black monolithic columns led to a blindingly white light box, provoking reflection on the force of both nature and global warming. “One of the things we've recognized is how much the weather has changed,” the designer says.
14. “Void” by Dan Tobin Smith and The Experience Machine
A series of large-scale colored projections take visitors on a journey inside gemstones in “Void.” The interactive installation by Dan Tobin Smith and The Experience Machine, produced in partnership with Gemfields, brings Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds to life.
15. “Talk to Me” by Steuart Padwick
“Talk to Me,” by Steuart Padwick is based on the idea that a conversation about mental health is the first step towards breaking its chains. Greeted by two 18-foot-high giant wooden figures, passersby are met with sensor-triggered positivity. Featured in Designjunction, the installation supports London mental health charity Time to Change.