LDF19: Kings Cross Design District

It’s hard to ignore the wonder that is the new Samsung building while exploring the Kings Cross Design District. Based in Coal Drops Yard, this is the first year Kings Cross has been a London Design Festival Design District. The area which has been refurbished in recent years and judging by all the cranes it’s still in the midst of a makeover, it is a not-so-little gem. The building has an industrial futuristic look which is reflected in the interiors. It is effectively half office/half showroom. It offers an immersive experience for each of Samsung’s products, from the phone, smartwatch, DJ decks and even a state-of-the-art car, with staff on hand to show you how each piece works.

You are left feeling like you need to purchase a Samsung. Aside from what was on offer to buy, the open-plan area was running an exercise class for employees and had a few separate break-out spaces, it felt less like an office and more like a university campus. This ties into bigger conversations about wellness as work and that work/life balance we all dream of.

The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends was the eco offering in Coal Drops Yard, the immersive shop celebrates sustainable living and during London Design Festival they launched CANOPY- a collection of handmade, recycled glass products launched in collaboration with the Eden Project. They worked in collaboration with Botanical Boys – a London company that sells plants and offers terrarium workshops.

The main installation at the opening of Coal Drops Yard was ‘Disco Carbonara’ by Martino Gamper. The environmentally friendly structure will have a low carbon impact, with all materials being either waste products, recycled or later repurposed. The installation is inspired by the concept of a Potemkin village. The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built to impress Empress Catherine II by her lover Grigory Potemkin during her journey to Crimea in 1787. However, the outside looks more impressive than inside, giving off old 80s rave vibes, it was essentially just a small wooden shed with loud disco music and low neon lighting.

One that everyone looks out for is Tom Dixon’s contribution to LDF and this year it was sensory. Named aptly ‘ TOUCHYSMELLYFEELYTASTYNOISY’. Dixon will flood his Kings Cross studio with the flavours, the fragrances, the sounds, the colours and textures of the future with interactive installations, workshops and talks inspired by the five senses and how they shape the future of design. There was a smelling station that looked at three main smell groups and how they impact us, and a personal favourite was the carrot bar. A section where you sampled 5 different carrot juices, some tastier than others it also tied into the idea of organic health products.

“As designers, we look at everything. We determine the shape, the colours and the aesthetics of a space before anything else. But here in the Coal Office we wanted to explore the role that all our other – often lesser recognised senses – contribute to our experiences of design; the smell and the taste of a place, the textures and tone of a space, the sound of an interior or the weight of an object – or even the most intangible of all – the sixth sense.”

Tom Dixon