Wednesday 22 Jun 2011


The much-loved little sibling of international design events, Clerkenwell Design Week is a three-day event that has grown from the creative history of this cosy little area in London.

Over 150 events, showcases and workshops brought together the best of this year’s British contemporary design, from tiny one-man band product designers to international architects.

A whole day is barely enough to see everything, but enough to catch a glimpse of the most – and least - exciting things that this festival has to offer.

Every nook and cranny of The House of Detention – a Victorian prison building which still reeks of the dreary, damp austerity of its former function – was filled with the work of small independents. The modest collections included Hendzel & Hunt with their Made In Peckham range and the results of their 24 hour challenge to design and produce a machine capable of playing a record. The ubiquitous Theo sheep made an appearance here, as did Vitamin with their beautiful lamp and chair designs, Ana Tevsic’s gorgeously vulgar block-coloured lamps and Devon-based Young & Norgate’s elegant wooden furniture.

The newly established RAD gallery had a tiny enclosure off a gloomy, bare brick-walled passageway where they showcased the work of South Korean artist Dari Bae and Royal College of Art student Nicholas Paget. Titled Royal Family, Bae’s strange chandeliers are inspired by the universal shape of the regal crown and consist of dozens of transparent test-tubes filled with the hair of factory workers. Beside these was Paget’s Sugar Table, an eighteenth century-style tea table made entirely from compressed sugar, as a response to the slowly diminishing influence of Western cultural values.

On the other side of town, DOS Architects collaborated with Beirut-based PSLAB to create their Streetlights spectacle, adorning the exterior wall of their top-floor studio on Lever Street with 220 vintage car headlights. In the centre of Clerkenwell, The Emotion Maker designed by Marco Canevacci, the architect behind Plastique Fantastique, and musician Marco Barotti was a noble concept that was let down by its execution. Attempting to encompass ‘architecture, music and soundscape’ in a homogeneous blow-up entity, the outcome was little more than an overly hot plastic tent filled with discordant noises that you could barely hear for an awkward 10-minute period.

The Farmiloe Building showed off the more established end of the cutting edge, with stunning designs by Pinch, Ligne Roset and Lee Broom in collaboration with deadgood. Jennifer Newman Studio’s hand-made aluminium outdoor furniture was particularly eye-catching in hot pink and egg yolk yellow. Ella Doran’s wallpaper and striking printed blinds are another great design to look out for, while award-winning contemporary furniture brand James epitomised the beauty of boldly understated British design with soft woollen furnishings in sleek yet comfy shapes. In fact, the only problem with this showcase is that we couldn’t take it all home with us. ‘Til next year!

Amy Knight – Arts & Media Correspondent