LDF19: V&A Projects

Now in its 17th year, LDF returns to London with the aim of bringing together a global community of designers whilst promoting the city as the design capital of the world. Marking 11 years as an official collaboration partner and festival hub, the world’s leading museum of art and design plays host to a series of installations and thought-provoking projects. Iconic spaces around the V&A were transformed by a number of international, contemporary designers with a strong focus on sustainability and responsible consumption. Read on for our show highlights.

Upon arrival, the porcelain piazza welcomed us with four striking pillars, home to the ‘Non-Pavilion’, a space erected to highlight the need to challenge growth-driven economics. Designed by Studio Micat, There Project and Proud Studio, the space draws on the simplicity of Swiss Baugespanne; poles, rods and wires erected to help the public visualise the impact of a proposed development. Using AR, visitors were encouraged to choose between six concepts that unlock the conversation around unsustainable growth, whilst being reminded of the urgent need to produce less. Interestingly, the installation implicated the design community, ‘creators of new and desirable things’, as being complicit in the crisis yet saw design as a key tool in shifting mindsets away from over-production. With a global population hurtling towards 11 billion by 2100, it raises an interesting question as to who is responsible for change. Surely we all are.

“How can designers and architects use their skills to provide vision and inspiration for this progressive and much needed movement?”

The most heralded installation at the V&A came in the form of a Bamboo Ring, erected in the John Madejski garden. Designed by Kengo Kuma and curated by Clare Farrow, the ring is an experiment in the concept of weaving. Combining bamboo and carbon fibre together, the cocoon of rings woven together certainly looks majestic against the backdrop of the museum’s iconic architecture. Bamboo has been a core material in traditional Japanese architecture, yet by combining it with contemporary carbon fibre, rigidity marries with the flexible to create an eye-catching and structurally impressive showcase.

The celebration of sustainable materials continued in ‘Legacy’, a collection of statement furniture created by leaders of London’s cultural institutions and prolific designers. Commissioned to create meaningful designs that have personal relevance, each of the ten pieces were crafted using American red oak – a sustainable hardwood species that grows abundantly in American forests that provides a viable alternative to plastic. #LeavingALegacy was therefore a brilliant showcase into the aesthetic and durable qualities of wood, whilst unpacking the concept behind designs that lasts.

“What I love about this project is that it has made me think about all the things we use wood for and the fact that the legacy of wood continues beyond the life of the tree.”

Amanda Nevill CBE, CEO, British Film Institute

Current predictions suggest that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than marine life. A shocking and deeply saddening statistic that demands a radical shift in the way we use natural resources and consume products. ‘Sea Things’ by Sam Jacob and Rory Cahill adorning the ceiling of the museum’s entrance, was a powerful installation that aimed to raise awareness of the danger the global plastics system poses. The suspended animation charted the change in our oceans since the rise of plastic production and served as a visual warning that our consumer habits need to change.

This integration of technology and creative design was demonstrated at the conceptual ‘Affinity in Autonomy’ exhibition from Sony; a stand-out showcase exploring the relationship between humans and robotics. Much like a loyal pet, the interactive, autonomous pendulum detected our presence using advanced sensors and followed our movements. Endeavouring to portray emotion and sensitivity of robotics, the installation illustrated the possibilities of a world in which AI, design and humanity are more connected.

Simultaneously thought-provoking and hard-hitting, the V&A exhibitions for LDF wonderfully combined the latest in contemporary design with messages the design community, and really the entire population, need to take heed of. With our planet’s finite amount of resources, we cannot go on consuming the way we have over the past 50 years. If we take nothing else away from the entire show, this conversation would be enough.