LDF19: The Design Museum

London’s Design Museum is characteristically a lively hub of activity during London Design Festival and this year was no exception. The museum is a triumph of design in itself. The 1960s grade II listed building enjoys impressive architectural features and its vast space houses an auditorium, a reference library, various design workshops as well as its temporary and permanent exhibitions. Found in the West Kensington design district alongside 100% design, the museum has been showcasing exhibits in collaboration with London Design Festival. So, we went along to see for ourselves.


On our way to the museum, we found Bauhaus Rewritten, a creative pedestrian crossing situated on Kensington High Street. To mark the centenary of the Bauhaus, the Design Museum commissioned graphic designer and Pentagram partner Sascha Lobe to transform a crossing into a homage to the Bauhaus female artists.

The names of pioneering designers, including Marianne Brandt, Ise Gropius and Anni Albers can be read among glyphs created by Lobe while designing the first corporate identity for the Bauhaus Archive Museum in Berlin last year.


Exploring the relationship between design and nature, Reflections displays 31 scale models by the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), an American architectural, urban planning and engineering practice responsible for some of the world’s most advanced buildings.

Just like natural forms grow and change their anatomy, design evolves overtime. Yet, unlike in nature, building systems do not have to grow from a previous stage, but can be created without precedent, so that as buildings become taller, new and innovative ‘species’ are designed.

Each anticipating a new way of living and expressing a distinct response to the forces of nature, SOM’s scale models prove that nature, structure and architecture are aligned and inseparable.

SOM’s projects can be seen across the globe – from the Exchange House and Manhattan Loft Gardens in London to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The models can be seen at the Design Museum until October


London-based design firm PriestmanGoode’s exhibition is a remarkable call to action on travel waste. Air travel is an integral part of our lives, however, our consumption habits mean that the impact on the environment is enormous. The visible effects of climate change and pollution demand that we rethink our choices, both as consumers and designers.

The effect of cabin waste on the environment is twofold. Weight increases fuel consumption and therefore carbon emissions, meaning that in-flight entertainment, sleep products and travel toiletries carried on planes have a significant environmental impact. For example, some airlines carry duty-free items on board, but only 10% of travellers shop in flight; a magazine is also provided, which creates extra weight. PriestmanGoode show that without duty-free, one airline could cut CO2 emissions to power 2750 households for a year.

Drawing on the latest sustainable materials, PriestmanGoode explore how design can help us create more environmentally friendly products for the travel industry.

Their plastic-free flight tray is made from used coffee grounds and comprises dish lids made of algae and a spork made from coconut wood to avoid single-use cutlery, while plastic containers for milk and sauces are replaced by edible pods made from soluble seaweed.


PriestmanGoode also hope that the exhibition will encourage passengers to change their behaviour when flying, by showing visitors the impact of collective waste. For example, if passengers at Heathrow Airport refilled bottles from water fountains instead of buying plastic bottles, the airport said it could reduce its plastic consumption by 35 million a year. The design firm channelled this idea into a water flask made from cork and compostable bioplastic meant for short-term use, such as the duration of a holiday.


Delving into the archives of London’s Architectural Association, with a focus from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the impact of their contribution in breaking from the modernist tradition and redefining architectural practice is apparent. The oldest independent school of architecture in the UK, the Architectural Association was established in 1847 and has seen some convention-defining names pass through its doors.

The exhibit’s focus on the late 1960s to early 1980s was strategic, as the climate in these years reflected similar motifs we are seeing arise in the present day in terms of political, technological and environmental concerns. Stripped of its state funding, the atmosphere of uncertainty within the Architectural Association bred the creativity of experimentalism and the radical thinking of architects.

The Design Museum showcases projects from the archives, such as ‘The Vatican Embassy: Plan and Elevation’ by Jeremy Barnes where the role and function of the embassy is put into question. The exceptional minds of these free-thinking architects demonstrated visually and reflected in a number of direct quotes throughout the exhibit. This small corner of the Design museum was a real highlight of the afternoon, and can be visited until January 2020.

We create a very rich compost for students to develop and grow from and we fight the battle with the drawings on the wall. We’re in pursuit of architecture, we discuss it boldly, we draw it as well as we can and we exhibit it. We are one of the few institutions left in the world that keeps its spirit alive”

Alvin Boyarsky, Former chairman of the AA, 1983