London Design Festival at the V&A

A look at some of the highlights from the V&A’s London Design Festival programme, including graphic mosaics, nightmarish 3D sculptures and a mesmerising experiment with light…

A look at some of the highlights from the V&A’s London Design Festival programme, including graphic mosaics, nightmarish 3D sculptures and a mesmerising experiment with light…

London Design Festival runs until Sunday, with installations, talks and events taking place across the capital (you can read our blog post on LCC’s 160 exhibitions, covering graphics, illustration and button badges, here). This year, the headline installations at the V&A Museum are Zaha Hadid’s Crest and Barber Osgerby’s Double Space.

Crest is an ultra-thin sculpture made from eight millimetre-thick aluminium, installed over a pool in the museum’s John Madejski courtyard. Hadid says it explores “the relationship between surface and structure, transforming the planar water surface of the pool into a curvillinear form, creating a compelling interplay with light and reflection.” It will reside at the V&A throughout London Design Festival before moving to ME hotel in Dubai, which commissioned the project.

ME by Meliá ‘Crest’ by Zaha Hadid Architects. Image: Ed Reeve

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s Double Space installation, housed in the V&A’s Raphael Gallery, is made up of two 15-metre long mirrors weighing over five tonnes each, which are rotated throughout the day, creating a constantly shifting view of the paintings on show:

Double Space for BMW – Precision & Poetry in Motion. Image: Ed Reeve

Both are impressive, but my favourite piece at the V&A this year is Candela: a mesmerising installation designed by Felix de Pass, Graphic Thought Facility’s Michael Montgomery and ceramicist Ian McIntyre.

Placed in a darkened room among medieval tapestries, the installation is made up of a large rotary machine which sits just above the gallery floor. As the face of the machine rotates, it passes hundreds of LED lights housed in a ceramic casing, emitting an eerie green glow.

The project was commissioned by Italian watch brand Officine Panerai, and is inspired by the concept of time. It was made using superluminova, a phospherescent material used in the brand’s glow in the dark watch faces, which is charged by LEDs as the machine spins, producing a series of luminous patterns which gradually fade to a softer, duller glow. It’s beautifully constructed and the changing patterns are hypnotic – you can see it in motion in the video below:

Another project that caught my eye was Berlin group The T/Shirt Issue‘s Dream Land, named after Edgar Poe’s 1844 poem. The group, which have been based at the museum as part of a residency programme for the past six months, created a series of abstract sculptures based on 3D scans of objects in the museum’s collection. Scans were digitally manipulated to create ‘hybrid creatures’  reproduced as physical sculptures. The group says the installation, like a dream, “removes the certainty of the objects” leaving them open to alteration and reinterpretation.

Among the furniture and product designs on display is a series of new additions to the V&A’s Design Fund (which acquires contemporary design objects), including a 3D printed ‘Sketch’ chair by Stockholm design company Front. The chair, below, was created using motion capture data and rapid prototyping: the design is based on an initial sketch made using pen strokes in the air, transformed into a 3D file using motion capture, and 3D printed.

In the British Galleries’ cinema room is Future Graphics, a project curated by Factory Fifteen, Design on Film and Penny Hilton, head of the MA graphic moving image course at Central Saint Martins. Twenty eight CG and motion graphics films will be played on a loop throughout the duration of the festival, including work made by students at CSM. Only one film was playing on my visit, but featured some great CG footage of a Rolls Royce speeding through a rural landscape, with leaves blowing in the wind and water droplets falling to the ground.

By the V&A’s Tunnel entrance is a lovely installation, Carousel Wall, designed by print and design studio David David in partnership with Johnson Tiles. The artwork is based on a 2011 piece by David David founder David Saunders, inspired by Islamic geometrics, and features bold graphic shapes in bright colours.

Also on throughout London Design Festival (and until early February) is Disobedient Objects, an exhibition showcasing objects made for protest and political activism which we wrote about in our August issue. The show, which opened this summer, is free to enter and a must-see if you’re visiting the museum – objects on display range from protest banners to home made drones, political badges and a Tiki Love Truck (a mosaic car dedicated to a death row inmate in Texas, made in protest against his death). It features some brilliant graphics by Barnbrook, too, including vinyl ‘barricades’ on the door to the entrance and a neon green stitched sign:

The V&A is also hosting a Digital Design Weekend as part of LDF – among the talks and workshops taking place are a talk from Drone Shadows creator James Bridle on his A Quiet Disposition project, which gathers reports on unmanned aerial vehicles, plus a workshop and talk from Nelly Ben Hayoun on Disaster Playground, an online project speculating on future outer space catastrophes and safety procedures. Visitors can also have their bodies 3D scanned in workshop by the T/Shirt Group and create their own disobedient objects – for details of all events, see

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