It's not every day you're asked to visit an off-limits historical landmark to fete not one but two of your heroes. But last night we did just that at the 2011 London Design Medal ceremony, held at the Crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.
Nearly 150 guests - esteemed architects, designers and industry titans - sipped Veuve Clicquot by Nelson's Tomb as Ben Evans, director of the London Design Festival, introduced this year's honouree, the incomparable architect and designer Ron Arad, who spoke wearing his trademark hat. But perhaps the most unexpected thrill was the appearance of London-bred 'hair designer' Vidal Sassoon, recipient of the festival's first-ever lifetime achievement award.
'London Design Festival Awards
Watch a recent film about Sassoon's architectural inspiration
Architect Thomas Heatherwick, a former medal recipient and one of this year's judging panel, nominated the hairstylist (and architecture enthusiast) for what he called Sassoon's contribution to design and great affect on the wider culture. In turn Sassoon, in from LA with his wife Ronnie, reflected movingly on his early career and unexpected trajectory to hair revolutionary.
Nadja Swarovski sponsored the evening, in part to showcase John Pawson's new Perspectives installation, a giant crystal lens mounted at the base of Christopher Wren's 18th-century spiral staircase, and reflected by a convex mirror suspended high in the tower's cupola. Coupled with this impressive spectacle, the evening was an apt way to kick off a festival that's got bigger and more ambitious with each of its nine years.