Last chance to see: LFA 2023 celebrates togetherness and common ground

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) 2023 is unfolding across the month of June, putting the spotlight on its theme, 'In common'

timber pavilion in crystal palace park is part of LFA 2023
Crystal Palace Park's dinosaur sculptures are a stop on the Penge and Palace trail, one of LFA 2023's many tours exploring London
(Image credit: Kes-tchaas Eccleston)

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) 2023 kicked off on the 1 June 2023, launching its month-long celebration of the built environment and all things city- and building-focused. The annual festivity, a landmark in the capital's cultural calendar, is centred this year on the theme 'In common'. This is an LFA edition about sharing, common ground and togetherness – and the city, any city, is a good example of spaces where this approach can manifest itself. A plethora of events and activities, from exhibitions, one-off installations and tours, to talks and discussions, populates the ever-growing programme of the much-loved festival. Scroll down, for our highlights. 


Surfacing Stories, V&A South Kensington

Surfacing Stories V&A South Kensington

(Image credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Although the V&A+RIBA Architecture Gallery has been open for nearly twenty years, this year’s London Festival of Architecture brings a fresh but vital intervention to the space. Led by Elizabeth Darling, activists, architects, historians and writers alike have been invited to offer fresh interpretations for objects on display, reflecting on important political and cultural shifts since the Architecture Gallery’s opening in 2004. In a move reminiscent of post-it-note protests, contrasting pink labels sit aside originally curated museum cards, offering wider contexts, and thought provoking questions that explore 'issues of provenance, exploitation of people and planet, inclusion, and diversity of race, gender and sexuality.' Reflective moments include Claire Madge’s label, 'Measure of a man,' interrogating architecture’s traditional scale figures of a man’s silhouette, asking, 'What about all the other bodies that use a building?'; and Sarah Akigbogun’s 'An Empty Space,' highlighting the absence of any African architecture in the room. 'Why are these stories absent?,' 'But who decides what is architecture and who is an architect?' she asks. Rocking the inertia common in museum spaces, 'Surfacing Stories' is a much-needed moment of introspection at the Architecture Gallery, and well worth visiting this summer.

Until 31st August 2023

Barnet Council installations in Edgware and Colindale

Barnet Council installations in Edgware and Colindale

Left to right: ‘Let’s Meet on the Edge’ installation at Edgware Station and ‘Connecting Colindale: A Flight Path Folly’

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

LFA 2023 and Barnet Council have joined forces to spearhead two re-greening projects in the North London neighbourhoods of Edgware and Colindale. Working with local communities, the organisers have created playful, plant filled installations in various spots while an accompanying programme 'will see over 80 LFA events take place, showcasing Barnet’s local history, cultural infrastructure and inclusive place-based projects.' Among them, ‘Let’s Meet on the Edge’ has been designed by local creative group The Edgy Collective, while ‘Connecting Colindale: A Flight Path Folly’ was conceived by a design team formed of Andre Kong Studio and Wayward. Cllr Barry Rawlings, Barnet Council leader, said: 'Barnet is embracing its architectural heritage while working with local artists, residents, and community groups to create a new feel for the borough through art and architecture. There are over 80 events this month, as well as creative installations, which are helping us move toward being a borough of fun and a place where art, culture and colour come into our lives.'

Until 13 July 2023

Co-creAIte : AI everywhere all at once

Co-creAIte : AI everywhere all at once

(Image credit: Studio Egret West)

Seldom are the general public brought into the fold of a thriving urban design studio, and rarer still, encouraged to be active participants within the space. It’s precisely this that a team of architects, designers and artists at Studio Egret West are doing with their latest exhibition 'Co-creAIte: AI everywhere all at once.' Motivated by a curiosity and optimism for AI’s potential in design processes, the exhibition explores the 'not-so-distant futures where designers seamlessly collaborate with AI.' Visitors are guided through eight playfully alliterated principles the studio have named as important for successful human-AI co-creation, from Prediction to Phantasy, Play to Pause. Visitors are invited to interact with a series of installations developed in collaboration with computational artist Freddie Hong; from using AI to turn playing with children’s building blocks into realistic architectural visualisations, to experimenting with a facial recognition camera that requires a smile in order to open a door. The experience is fun yet provocative, playing with the potential of AI in design and architecture processes, while still pausing to reflect on the inherent biases, consequences and responsibilities of using new AI systems.Through this exhibition, Studio Egret West spark important conversations on how AI is revolutionising the way we think, live and co-create.

Until 1st September 2023

 RA Summer Exhibition Architecture Room 

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2023 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, 13 June - 20 August 2023, showing Untitled: Folly; Bouldercolumn; 2016/2017, by Phyllida Barlow

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2023 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, 13 June - 20 August 2023, showing Untitled: Folly; Bouldercolumn; 2016/2017, by Phyllida Barlow 

(Image credit: Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry)

As a long established harbinger for the arrival of warmer days, The Royal Academy of Arts faithfully presents its Summer Exhibition's 255th edition. As ever, the show is a unique celebration of contemporary art and architecture, sharing an extensive collection of work from artists at all stages in their career. This year’s Architecture Room, curated by Royal Academician Peter Barber, centres on the theme of 'making is thinking,' honing in on the process of construction and craft through a series of analogue and handmade works. Upon entering the Large Weston Room, attention is immediately drawn to a totemic tower of textured stones, an installation by the late Phyllida Barlow. Nearby is a large structure of a truss and a found tree that stretch overhead and dissect the room, made by students of the Architectural Association’s Design + Make MA programme. Visitors navigate through islands of bold green plinths, displaying intricately crafted architectural models, and observe walls layered with textiles, delicate ceramics and detailed hand drawn illustrations. Leaving visitors with a resounding sense of architecture as more than just finished builds, this year’s Architecture Room is a welcome moment of reflection to contemplate the process of construction and appreciate the multidimensionality of the craft of architecture.

Until 20th August 2023, with a special afternoon focused on the Architecture Room on the 16 June 2023, 13:30 -18:00

Virtual as Vilnius: Imaginaries and Technologies Shaping the City

Adomas Žudys Untitled

(Image credit: Adomas Žudys)

Vilnius based architecture studio Architektūros fondas is organising a symposium for LFA 2023 in collaboration with Bartlett School of Architecture and Lithuanian Cultural Attaché to the United Kingdom - and its theme? 'Virtuality.' The discussions that form part of the event are set to investigate topics arising from it, including collective imagination and digital technologies and how they affect the development of cities, such as Vilnius and London. Moderated by regular Wallpaper*  contributor Will Jennings, the symposium features speakers including Lithuanian architects Justinas Dūdėnas and Povilas Vincentas Jankūnas, artist Adomas Žudys and historian and director of the Vilnius Museum Rasa Antanavičiūtė, among others. 

12 June 2023

15:00 -18:00

Craft Not Carbon Pavilion

Craft Not Carbon Pavilion

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

A new pavilion has made its appearance on Crystal Palace Park's extensive green grounds. The light, timber and bamboo structure is part of LFA 2023's celebrations, designed by UK-based multi-disciplinary engineering practice Webb Yates Engineers, with Anglo-Indian architecture practice Studio Saar and timber specialists Xylotek. Sporting an elegant, slim frame and a woven bamboo canopy, the pavilion will provide shelter and a hub for the local community throughout the month of June. The piece draws on a project titled Third Space, which is a new learning and cultural centre in Udaipur, India, also designed by Studio Saar and Webb Yates Engineers (and set to open later this year). 

'Our Third Space project was inspired by the local architectural heritage of Rajasthan. Similarly with the Craft not Carbon Pavilion, we have drawn inspiration from the area’s heritage – looking at Paxton’s structure that formerly sat in the park. Third Space is all about promoting learning, collaboration and inclusivity and we’re delighted to have collaborated with Webb Yates Engineers and Xylotek to bring a small part of that project to South London, to demonstrate the ways in which we can use traditional building materials for the benefit of people and planet,' says Studio Saar's managing director Ananya Singhal. 

Until 30 June 2023

Common Grounds: The Opportunities and Challenges of Community-Led Development

team photo of Hastings Commons

Hastings Commons

(Image credit: Hastings Commons)

Join Hastings Commons and the London Interdisciplinary School as they celebrate community-led regeneration with a talk featuring some of the capital's most active architecture studios in the field. IF_DO, Archio and Assemble are going to share experiences and discuss sustainable communities and their future, in London, and beyond. 

13 June

The Architect Has Left The Building

The Architect Has Left The Building view of exhibition showing film room

‘The Architect Has Left The Building’, exhibition view

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

What happens after a project's delivery? When the architecture team steps back, and life takes over? It's exactly this that photographer Jim Stephenson and artists Sofia Kathryn Smith and Simon James are exploring in their immersive showcase that opens at the RIBA this week. The exhibition, featuring recent projects by Grafton Architects, Henley Halebrown, Carmody Groarke, Jamie Fobert Architects and more, blends expert photography and film to highlight how users populate and use buildings. 'We wanted to celebrate film’s capacity to show the power of the building,' said curator Pete Collard at the opening. 'The documentation of architecture has a long history of omitting people,' Stephenson adds. 'I’m seeing architecture as a backdrop. I think the film [on display] is a reflection of the way we work. It’s all about capturing the little everyday interactions, making connections.' On top of its topic, which is beautifully aligned with LFA 2023's overall theme, the show also reuses the installation structure from the previous RIBA exhibition on site – Long Life, Low Energy.

Until 12 August 

British Cooling Towers – Sculptural Giants

Ironbridge Gorge cooling towers

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

Margaret Howell in association with the Twentieth Century Society (C20) is launching an exhibition at the brand's space on Wigmore Street, focusing on the historic legacy of industrial cooling towers. Bold, beautiful and brutalist, these architectural elements have had a powerful impact on the British landscape – and this show aims to celebrate and discuss it, as C20 is undertaking a campaign to raise awareness of the immediate threat British cooling towers face. 

3 – 18 June

Seats at the Table

Seats at the Table design concept

(Image credit: Re-Fabricate and the DisOrdinary Architecture Project)

Organised by Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project and located at Postman's Park, this LFA 2023 entry consists of a series of installations – co-designed with disabled and non-disabled artists and architects, Special Educational Needs (SEN) and mainstream schools, as well as makers from The Bartlett, UCL Here East – and a programme of events. Discussing issues around accessibility in public spaces, the piece considers street furniture – and there's even a table design, which visitors can use.

Until 30 June

Deaf Architecture Front launches at RIBA

Accessibility is the key theme in this event too – although with a different focus. Architectural designer and activist Chris Laing officially launches Deaf Architecture Front at the RIBA during LFA 2023. His is a campaigning platform and collective aiming to unite the Deaf community and the architecture world and wider built environment industry. The launch event features a panel discussion featuring Zetteler founder Sabine.

6 June

Climate Migrants: Self-reliant communities after natural disasters

architect yasmeen lari portrait

Yasmeen Lari

(Image credit: Anam Baig)

RIBA Gold Medal 2023 winner Yasmeen Lari is delivering a keynote speech as part of the Ecocity World Summit 2023. The humanitarian architect is going to delve into a discussion around climate refugees, sanitation infrastructure, and community facilities in today's climate emergency. How can a community and its architecture resist climate disasters? The talk is going to be followed by a conversation with Professor Hanif Kara OBE, co-Founder and design director, AKT II. 

8 June

Penge and Palace trail

crystal palace park view of water

(Image credit: Kes-tchaas Eccleston)

Did you know there are dinosaurs in Crystal Palace? Tours and trails are a staple of the London Festival of Architecture every year, and this is no different. The Penge and Palace trail is one of them, allowing visitors to explore the unique part of London that is Crystal Palace. ‘“Penge” is one of the few Celtic place names to be found in London. Believed to mean the 'edge of wood' the name refers to the fact that the surrounding area was once covered in a forest. Today, Penge sits on the south edge of Bromley’s largest greenspace, Crystal Palace Park. With a long and rich history, the development of Penge is intimately linked to the arrival of the Crystal Palace Exhibition building in 1854, whose legacy and design innovation can be seen today in the surrounding creative communities,' write the event's organisers. You can download the trail map from the LFA 2023 website, and one of the stops includes indeed visiting Crystal Palace Park, and its 1854 dinosaur sculpture display. 

Until 31 August

OFF-Grid by Richard Chivers

barnet gasholder photo from exhibition OFF-Grid by Richard Chivers

(Image credit: Richard Chivers)

Artist Gareth Gardner's gallery presents OFF-Grid, showing a series of photographs by Richard Chivers focusing on the nation's 'disappearing gas holders.' Chivers' work on the industrial architectural icons has never been exhibited before, and here visitors can experience both colour and black and white visuals in an enticing mix. 'My dad used to work on the Gas Holders so I always held a bit of a fascination for them,’ said Chivers. He was prompted into action after reading an article in a newspaper about their imminent demolition. I love industrial architecture and find the gas holders with their lattice steel frames visually really interesting. The fact that the structures were a massive part of the UK skyline for years and had become landmarks for people was also intriguing.'

16 June - 7 July 

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from