Now in its fifth year, Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) has established itself as the UK’s leading independent design festival. Whilst a relative youngster in the international design festival calendar, exhibitors from over 20 countries participated and 32,000 visitors attended from 20-22 May 2014. Catherine Sidwell visited the east central London borough reputed to be home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else on the planet.
Beyond the old City of London boundary, Clerkenwell has a rich and diverse history. Traditional crafts such as bookbinding, printing, jewellery and graphic design still flourish here. With over 200 architectural practices, design showrooms, new media agencies and interactive design studios Clerkenwell is now an important global generator of creativity and innovation.
James Dawe’s CDW2014 campaign clearly captures the festival atmosphere. Arriving on St John’s Street 500 years of architecture can be viewed at a glance and there is a friendly design community feel in the winding cobbled streets around Clerkenwell Green.
The festival grew this year to encompass four major exhibition sites and over 60 design showrooms. The programme included installations, talks, product launches and events, creative workshops and a Fringe including Crafts Central.
Show Director Will Knight, former Deputy Director at London Design Festival and Director of 100% Design commented: Clerkenwell Design Week is always known for its energy and community spirit, where designers, architects and creative minds alike from all over the world gather to celebrate innovative design and creativity.
Four exhibition sites were located in landmark buildings, Design Factory at the Farmiloe building a former glass and lead manufacturers; Platform at the House of Detention, once a prison; Detail at the Order of St John, a Priory church and for the first time this year Additions, located in the Crypt on the Green at St James’ church.
Contemporary design brands were represented at Design Factory within the original offices an industrial warehouse and the ‘cowshed’ space at the Farmiloe, including: Bisley, Another Country, Buster and Punch, Boskke, Leica camera, Lightyears, Pinch and Di Classe.
At Detail, high-end and decorative designs featured at the Order of St John, as well as a collaboration between the Campana Brothers and Italian brand Edra in the 12th century Crypt.
W London sponsored Platform at the House of Detention. Emerging designers work transformed the cool, dark, subterranean cells with colour and light.
Trained at the Royal College of Art, Kit Miles draws dynamic surrealistic imagery by hand. Estonian-born Johanna Tammsalu’s Solid Spin lamps are created from experiments with the shapes generated from spinning everyday objects.
Small design items and accessories at Additions included Archie Mac’s kaleidoscopic patterns. Continuing the creative legacy of her great grandparents, Robyn Parker takes inspiration from childhood memories and toys.
High-end furniture, lighting, kitchen, bathroom and material manufacturers, including Arper, bulthaup, Knoll, Desso and Domus Tiles promoted their latest design projects. Design veteran Vitra created a Secret Garden, celebrated 15 years of Ron Arad’s Tom Vac chair, and challenged visitors to ‘Find the Five’ Eames’ outdoor chairs placed around Clerkenwell. New kid on the block Designworks Tiles celebrated CDW2014 with demonstrations by artisan designers, tile painting sessions and a catwalk of fashion designed by mosaics.
Sponsors and designers collaborated on site-specific installations. Headline sponsor Jaguar teamed up with Foscarini to create a dynamic installation at the Farmiloe. Johnson’s Tiles re-launched its Prismatics wall tiles with a vast mural by artist Ptolemy Mann. Lianne Russ and Phil Henshaw worked with Turkishceramics to create Tile Mile and architecture practice Studio Weave created the Smith pavilion using Equitone fibre cement, where craftspeople hosted workshops.
Conversations at Clerkenwell
Architecture and design issues were discussed in a series of talks. Leading designers and architects Ron Arad, The Campana Brothers, Sir Peter Cook, Sir Kenneth Grange, Ben van Berkel of UNStudio, Narud and Amanda Baillieu of archiboo shared insights. Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum chaired a seminar exploring the relationship between design and the world beyond the studio with Patricia Urquiola and Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra as guests.
Taking a seat at the festival café opposite Ptolemy Mann’s colourful mural, I spoke with Australian designer Brodie Neill as he was heading to a talk. We discussed the densely packed programme and wondered how we could get to all the things we wanted to see, hear and participate in.
CDW2014 was the biggest and the best festival yet and 57% of the registered visitors were architects or designers. An ambitious program of activity attracted over 250 exhibiting brands as well as an impressive list of sponsors and supporters.
The festival has already won a series of awards: Best Live Event at the AEO Awards 2013, Best Festival and Best Cultural Event at the UK Event Awards 2012 and is surely set for more.