What to see and do at the 2021 London Festival of Architecture
Blending physical and digital events, the 2021 London Festival of Architecture has kicked off
The 2021 London Festival of Architecture is upon us. Returning for its 17th year, the beloved annual summer architectural celebration is anchored this year on the issue of ‘Care’ – and quite fittingly so, given the wealth of old and new challenges the ongoing pandemic has brought to light. Responding to the world’s changing needs and Covid-induced restrictions in the UK capital, while celebrating London architecture, the festival this year blends a programme of physical and digital events to ensure there’s something for everyone. Topics range from the relationship between art and architecture, and London’s architectural icons, to pressing issues around climate change, and diversity and inclusion in the industry and beyond – coming to you in film, talk, installation and tour format, and anything in between. Here’s our pick of some of the events that are not to be missed.
30 Objects 30 days
For the second year of this initiative, the London Festival of Architecture organisers have asked 30 key figures in the industry to ‘nominate an object that they feel best represents this year’s festival theme of “care” and “architecture” and share a video explaining why’. The result will be released in the form of a video each day during June – the first three are by multidisciplinary studio Projects Office; spatial designer Betty Owoo; and architect Steve McCloy of McCloy + Muchemwa.
Touching upon the ever-pressing issue of housing, this north London installation looks at the legacy of social housing in the London Borough of Haringey ‘through a series of 30 black-and-white photographs of dwellings that reflect a societal sense of ‘care’’. Set to remain open throughout June at the Hornsey Library, this event explores its topic while instigating a discussion on housing in the UK capital and beyond.
1-30 June, 6am-11.45pm
From a giant teacup to a wave made of recyclable materials, the winners of the annual City Benches competition have just been announced by the 2021 London Festival of Architecture. Fun, imaginative and engaging, the structures were selected for their functionality that provides valuable seating space in the City of London, as well as their ability to make us smile. Part of the festival’s hybrid programme this year, which spans both physical and digital events, the benches are a summer staple that appears yearly in the streets of Cheapside and, for the first time in 2021, Aldgate.
Created by New York artist Leo Villareal, London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, and Atelier Ten, Illuminated River is a free and open art installation on and around London’s bridges. Now, especially for the festival, Atelier Ten has created a PDF map of the installation offering further information and interesting facts around each section, so visitors can use it to tour and enjoy the artpiece.
Modelmaking Workshop – Casting Materials and Silicone Moulds
Atelier La Juntana and 4D Modelshop, with the support of Axalta Powder Coatings, are leading this one-day workshop on modelmaking. Did you always want to learn more about the techniques of producing jaw-dropping architectural models? Or are you an experienced model-maker seeking to further hone your skills? This is the event for you, touching upon various methods, including the use of silicone moulds and casting materials. The workshop will be run virtually.
26 June, 9.30am-2.30pm
RA Lego Challenge
The RA Lego Architecture Challenge is open to architecture practices as well as the wider public, and contestants are invited to show off their creations using the beloved architectural toy to construct a ‘caring city’. The installations can be built from the comfort of your own home and can be as large or as small as you like.
‘A building, a body’ – an architectural tour of the Royal College of Physicians
It wouldn’t be the London Festival of Architecture without visits to some of the capital’s beloved landmarks. This tour takes visitors through the halls of the Royal College of Physicians. This iconic piece of modernist architecture, conceived in 1958 by architect Denys Lasdun, is set to spark conversations around how the design ‘cares’ for its occupants and its history.
Signstrokes – Architectural Terminology and Sign Language
Signstrokes is a linguistic project by Adolfs Kristapsons and Chris Laing that discusses sign language and its role in architecture. ‘Deaf people are not new to architecture as a practice, but face significant barriers because the sign language vocabulary of the profession is not standardised and lacks breadth/complexity,’ they say.
28 June, 2pm-3pm
The Architecture Bake Off
Architecture, creativity, play and cakes; there’s nothing not to love about the festival’s architectural bake-off. The much-loved event returned in 2021 in a hybrid form, mixing physical and digital, home cooking with ambitious architecture and collaboration, and inviting everyone to take part in delicious icon-making. Ready, steady, bake!
The London Society Architecture School
A series of three talks during the festival will form the basis of this year’s Architecture School, an initiative by The London Society that aims to open architecture and the discussion around it to all. The events will focus on presentations and discussions around not-for-profit designing and the effect this has on our urban space, democracy and infrastructure. Speakers include architects Dinah Bornat and Nisha Kurian, and architectural historian Neal Shasore.
3, 10 and 17 June, 6.30pm-7.30pm
The People’s Pavilion – Caring About Co-Design
Launching mid-festival, this interactive installation is designed by young people but is open to all. The show celebrates the designs submitted for the inaugural People’s Pavilion design competition: ‘a powerful demonstration of why we must ensure everyone has a voice in shaping the built environment’. The People’s Pavilion is an open, community space to be created by young Londoners later this summer.
What is Net Zero Carbon?
A summer-long window installation, ‘What is Net Zero Carbon?’ is the brainchild of architecture firms Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Thomas Matthews. ‘An overwhelming majority of UK citizens are unaware what the term “net zero carbon” actually means,’ says the team. ‘This colourful installation aims to debunk the mystery, taking the audience through the journey of understanding from why the planet is heating up, to what we are aiming towards, and how collectively we can reduce our impact on the environment.’
1 June-31 August, 6am-11pm
This installation – located at architecture studio Squire & Partners’ headquarters, The Department Store, in Brixton – focuses on the idea of caring within the community. What does caring in this context mean? The piece is brought to life by the studio together with AWMA. It combines work collected through an open call for submissions and an installation inspired by prayer flags.
Perfect Spaces: Paintings by Ben Johnson at V&A virtual gallery
For this year’s festival, the V&A has teamed up with Make Architects to launch the Vault of Contemporary Art (VCA). This virtual space’s inaugural show zooms in on the work of artist Ben Johnson, experienced through 12 digital pavilions that can be accessed through a dedicated website. The show is located in the virtually transformed John Madejski Garden at the South Kensigton museum’s grounds.
16 June-1 September
The Davidson Prize
This event presents a virtual exhibition of the shortlisted, finalist and winning entries of the inaugural Davidson Prize – the gong set up in memory of Alan Davidson, the pioneer of architectural visualisations. Created around the theme Work/Home, the designs touch upon issues such as home working, community impact, biophilia and retrofitting. The entries were judged by a panel including Alison Brooks, Thomas Heatherwick, Michelle Ogundehin, Narinder Sagoo and Sonia Solicari.