Highlights from London Design Festival 2023

London Design Festival 2023 took over landmarks, showrooms and exhibition spaces across the city

London Design Festival 2023 churches
Halo by Studio Waldemeyer at St Stephen Walbrook Church, as part of London Design Festival 2023
(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

London Design Festival 2023 included a rich programme of installations, exhibitions and events throughout the city. This year marked the design event's 21st edition, as always activating landmarks across London with special artistic interventions by international designers in collaboration with festival supporters the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

'This week, design is everywhere,' said Director Ben Evans when introducing this year's Design Medals winners on 18 September. 'The London Design Festival continues to provide an invaluable platform for the UK's design community: over the past two decades, the festival has cemented London's reputation as a global creative capital while supporting designers at every level of their careers. This year's programme promises fresh perspectives and boundary-pushing ideas that will inspire audiences.'


St Paul’s Cathedral and St Stephen Walbrook

London Design Festival 2023 churches

Aura, Pablo Valbuena, at St Paul's Cathedral

(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

Among the London Design Festival 2023 projects is a series of activations to mark the 300th anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren’s death. Dubbed 'Wren 300', the programme delved into the architect's vision: the festival, in conjunction with Bloomberg Philanthropies, enlisted contemporary designers to explore his legacy.  

St Paul's cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral with Aura, Pablo Valbuena, 2023

(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

At St Paul's Cathedral, Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena presented a specially commissioned body of work titled Aura (on view until November 2023). The installation explores the contemporary meaning of a temple and the role of light and sound in creating modern-day rituals. Conceived as a light installation, the intervention will be defined by pulsating light reflecting the cathedral's sounds. 'Aura listens to the sound, voices and music generated in St Paul’s and materialises them into a spectral, three-dimensional aura that enhances the ritual aspects of this space,' reads a note accompanying the announcement.

London Design Festival 2023 churches

Halo by Studio Waldemeyer at St Stephen Walbrook Church

(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

Meanwhile, at St Stephen Walbrook Church (39 Walbrook, EC4N), Moritz Waldemeyer of Studio Waldemeyer presented Halo, an installation defined by a pendulum circling Henry Moore's altar with a trajectory informed by planetary movements and creating a halo around the marble piece. The installation was completed by chromatic transitions that reflect natural phenomena including the aurora borealis, adding a sense of meditative calm to the space.

London Design Festival Commissions and Special Projects

London design festival 2023: spirit of place by Simone Brewster

Spirit of Place by Simone Brewster, the Strand

(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

For London Design Festival 2023, London-based designer and artist Simone Brewster worked with Portuguese cork specialist Amorim on Spirit of Place, an installation on The Strand featuring a family of sculptural vessels 2.5m tall, representing the company's cork forests in Portugal. 'The future of the forest is secured by four key traits: drought resistance, fungal resistance, upright expression, and fast voluminous growth,' states the project announcement. 'These four characteristics act as the foundation for the visual language of the piece, with Brewster translating each factor into a visual equivalent that can then be experienced and enjoyed in the centre of London.'

London design festival 2023 mandala lab at canary wharf

Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab in Canary Wharf

(Image credit: Ed Reeve)

Other festival commissions activating some of the city's key locations include the Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab (until 25 November 2023) in Canary Wharf's Union Square, an interactive space that explores how challenging emotions can be transformed into wisdom.

Andu Masebo Alfa Romeo furniture at the V&A

Andu Masebo at the V&A

(Image credit: Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum)

At the V&A, a traditional destination for London Design Festival, visitors can experience several multidisciplinary projects that include an installation by Andu Masebo – this year’s V&A Emerging Designer commission – whose 'Part exchange' project explores the story of a scrapped Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf through a series of domestic objects.

London Design Districts: design across the city


LDF 2023: Brompton

'Manus Manum Lavat' by Rio Kobayashi

(Image credit: Stagg Studio)

Across South Kensington, exhibitions explored the theme of ‘Conviviality – The Art of Living Together', curated by Jane Withers Studio and focusing on design’s ability to connect people and inspire collaboration. 

Cromwell Place has become an unmissable destination for the Festival, year after year gathering a plethora of inspiring design exhibitions by independent makers, galleries and brands. Among the venue's highlights this year was the first solo exhibition of London-based designer Rio Kobayashi’s, titled ‘Manus Manum Lavat’ (One Hand Washes the Other) and highlighting his collaborative practice.

LDF 2023: Brompton

'Join, Assemble, Hold' by The New Craftsmen

(Image credit: Stagg Studio)

'Join, Assemble, Hold' was an exhibition by The New Craftsmen (4 Cromwell Place) presenting two large cabinets by makers Bibbings & Hensby and Matthew Raw, which become the focus of two interiors that interpret the spirit of the theme of togetherness. The Welcome Drinks Cabinet by Raw is a tile-clad bar unit intended as a gathering point, while The Nailed Pantry by Bibbings & Hensby is a piece of furniture for the modern kitche, 'evoking a sense of abundance and togetherness'.

LDF 2023: Brompton

Fels Gallery’s Farm Shop

(Image credit: Stagg Studio)

Fels Gallery’s Farm Shop (209 Brompton Road) was a project curated by designers Marco Campardo, Guan Lee and Luca Lo Pinto, who invited fellow designers to collaborate on different elements of a dining scene that was created during a residency at Grymsdyke Farm.

LDF 2023: All in Awe installation in south kensington

All Together by All in Awe

(Image credit: Stagg Studio)

Social design collective All in Awe, meanwhile, presented 'All Together' (Egerton Gardens, SW3), 'a temporary monument to the subject of loneliness' created in collaboration with local residents. Aiming at drawing attention to the universal human experience of loneliness, the project supported local charities including Mind Kensington, the Kensington & Chelsea Volunteer Centre and the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation.

Shoreditch Design Triangle

Artek at LDF 2023

‘Hackability of the Stool’ by Daisuke Motogi for Artek

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu)

The east London design district is a natural LDF hub, with several design showrooms and studios scattered across the area. Vitra hosts Artek's ‘Hackability of the Stool’ at its Tramshed showroom (until 6 October 2023): led by Daisuke Motogi, the project explores 100 creative interventions on Alvar Aalto's iconic ‘Stool 60’ (also see our article on Formafantasma’ take on ‘Stool 60’).

SCP armchair by Philippe Malouin at LDF 2023

Philippe Malouin's new ‘Topper’ armchair

(Image credit: courtesy SCP)

SCP offered an overview of its latest launches, which this year included Philippe Malouin's new ‘Topper’ armchair, whose compact, angular forms feature a soft wool and feather topper cushion. The piece was part of ‘Soft Power’, an exploration of sustainable design and enduring ideas with other designers, including Wilkinson & Rivera (who debut their first upholstered design), Matthew Hilton, Donna Wilson, and Terence Woodgate. 

Jasper Morrison shop, bamboo exhibition at LDF 2023

Example of bamboo objects at  Jasper Morrison, Kingsland Road

(Image credit: Courtesy Jasper Morrison)

At his shop (24b Kingsland Road), Jasper Morrison presented a curated display of objects in bamboo, dozens of works designed, crafted and woven by mainly anonymous specialist artisans from across the archipelago, an exhibition produced in collaboration with Japan Creative, an organisation promoting the values of Japanese craftsmanship.

Six Dots Design Localist Cafe at LDF 2023

The Localist Cafe

(Image credit: Grant Donaldson)

Joseph Ellwood of Six Dots Design took over the Shoreditch Arts Club with a pop-up exhibition titled ‘The Localist Cafe’, inviting guests to experience a space created with furniture and objects made by over 40 London-based emerging creatives. 

Lee Broom shoreditch London

Clear Chant 2-tier Chandelier, Clear Chant Surface Lights by Lee Broom

(Image credit: Courtesy Lee Broom)

Lee Broom presented his latest lighting and furniture designs in the newly-expanded Electra House showroom (95 Rivington Street). This is the third expansion for the lighting designer, who first moved to the street in 2010, and the shop's façade has been painted a unifying shade of matte black with brushed accents and a series of Little Lens Flair lights illuminating the front. 

Lego Piece Garden

(Image credit: Simon Jacobs/PinPep)

Lego took over a Shoreditch shopfront (149-150 Shoreditch High Street) offering an overview of its botanical collections through the Lego Piece Garden, where visitors were invited to build a Lego bouquet and explore a series of works by an ever-changing roster of artists in residence. 

Kings Cross: Tom Dixon’s Hypermobile at Coal Office

Tom Dixon Coal Office hypermobility exhibition at LDF 2023

An installation by Zaha Hadid Design outside Coal Officr

(Image credit: Peer Lindgreen)

Over the years, Tom Dixon's Coal Office has become a significant Festival hub, as the design entrepreneur has been hosting designers and brands within his King’s Cross spaces. For 2023, Tom Dixon presented ‘Hypermobile’, an exploration of contemporary design that was inspired by the designer's venture into portable lighting design

Tom Dixon Coal Office hypermobility exhibition at LDF 2023

Tom Dixon's Coal Office

(Image credit: Peer Lindgreen)

The ‘Hypermobile’ exhibition included a display of new collections as well as a broadcasting studio and cinema in collaboration with Sony and Kvadrat, a Hypermarket dedicated to portable lamps and a Techno Lab showcasing some of today's most innovative independent brands, including Nothing, Kef and Teenage Engineering. 

Tom Dixon Coal Office hypermobility exhibition at LDF 2023

Porro at Coal Office, with new reissues of Alessandro Mendini designs

(Image credit: Peer Lindgreen)

Cozmo showroom london

Cozmo, with designs by Raw Edges

(Image credit: Tom Mannion)

Traditionally, Dixon has also hosted different brands within Coal Office, including Porro, whose showroom opened in 2022, sofa brand Cozmo as well as Zaha Hadid Design and New Zealand furniture company Resident. 


Sketch at London Design Festival

An installation by Julian Carter Design in the Pods at Sketch

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

Among the highlights around Mayfair was Sketch (9 Conduit St), every year hosting a series of artistic interventions to showcase diverse creative expressions. This year, the eclectic spaces hosted La Manufacture Cogolin, Lasvit, and Julian Carter Design, coming together in an exhibition titled ‘Crafted Wonder’, on view until 16 October. 

Gallery Fumi (2-3 Hay Hill) has unveiled its 15th-anniversary exhibition, titled ‘Growth and Form’ and curated by Libby Sellers to showcase boundary-pushing design by the gallery's creative roster. 

Alpha Kilo office Savile Row

Art + Interiors

(Image credit: Courtesy Alpha Kilo)

Part of the district is also SoShiro (23 Welbeck St), the design gallery producing, curating, and showcasing works inspired by global cultures and here presenting new designs from artists, designers and craftspeople from Japan, Kenya and Cuba. 'We wanted to highlight work from places that don’t normally get a spotlight of design shone on them,' says founder Shiro Muchiri.  

Among the area's new entries is design consultancy Alpha Kilo, which transformed its offices (11 Savile Row) into a new concept titled 'Art + Interiors' in collaboration with interior designer Alice Leigh and gallerist Georgie Grandy.

Brian O'Sullivan collection gallery

Bryan O'Sullivan Collection Gallery

(Image credit: Milo Hutchings)

A new addition to the district is also the Bryan O'Sullivan Collection Gallery (49 Brook St), a new space by the London-based studio. A home for the interior design studio's newly launched debut collection of furniture, lighting and objects, the gallery space evokes a warm residential interior, defined by a terracotta ombré plaster finish and an interior palette inspired by Mayfair architecture. 

Clerkenwell & Islington

VitrA showroom at LDF 2023

'Playscape' at VitrA by 2LG

(Image credit: Courtesy VitrA)

Clerkenwell is home to a cluster of showrooms representing several international brands in the city. Bathroom specialist VitrA enlisted London design studio 2LG Studio to create an installation in their showroom (64 Turnmill St), titled 'Playscape' and offering a vision on the future of bathroom design through a futuristic, scifi-inspired aesthetic.

Carl Hansen & Søn chairs

(Image credit: Courtesy Carl Hansen & Søn)

Nearby, Carl Hansen & Søn (16 Bowling Green Lane) presented 'Wonders of Wood', paying tribute to the iconic CH07 Shell Chair on its 60th anniversary. For the week, the showroom became a woodworking studio with workshops led by master craftsman Michael Murphy. 

Maruni at twentytwentyone for LDF 2023

Maruni at twentytwentyone

(Image credit: Nacása & Partners Inc.)

At twentytwentyone (18c River Street), Finland and Japan came together in an exhibition featuring designs by Maruni, Nikari, Ozeki & Co., and Woodnotes, showing the influences in aesthetic and craft between the two countries. 

Knoll at London Design Festival 2023

(Image credit: Dean Hearne)

Knoll (91 Goswell Road) paid tribute to Eero Saarinnen with a special installation focused on his Tables, reissued for the occasion in Spectrolite Blue, a granite evoking the brightness of the night sky.  

Aram Eileen Gray rugs

(Image credit: Courtesy Aram)

Slightly further afield at Aram (110 Drury Lane) was the debut of a new collection featuring four new rug designs inspired by Eileen Gray’s gouaches, drawings, and collages. 

Greenwich Peninsula

Normal Phenomena of Life launch product

The Exploring Jacket by NPOL

(Image credit: Courtesy Normal Phenomena of Life)

Home to London’s Design District, Greenwich Peninsula is an ever-evolving creative hub. This year, the area hosted the launch of Faber Futures’ and Gingko Bioworks’ new brand, NPOL (Normal Phenomena of Life), offering an array of ‘grown to order’ products.  

Meanwhile, Simone Brewster’s exhibition, ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, remained on view until the end of the Festival.

Design Fairs

Material Matters at LDF2023, Smile Plastics

Smile Plastics, part of Material Matters' showcase

(Image credit: Courtesy Material Matters)

The returning London Design Fair took over the spaces at Truman Brewery (21-24 September) with a showcase of independent brands and makers and a programme of conversations around design and innovations. 

Bethan Laura Wood for Kaldewei

Bethan Laura Wood for Kaldewei

(Image credit: Courtesy Kaldewei)

Meanwhile, the showrooms of Design Centre Chelsea Harbour came together into Focus/23, a showcase of the best new designs from brands including Dedar, Kaldewei (launching its psychedelic collaboration with Bethan Laura Wood), Gallotti&Radice, Porada and Visionnaire. 

Over in Southbank, the Material Matters fair returned for a second edition, taking over the Bargehouse at Oxo Tower (20-23 September). A concept developed from Grant Gibson’s popular design podcast of the same name, the fair presented 45 world-leading brands, designers, makers, and innovators, 'to investigate and celebrate the importance of materials and their ability to shape our lives.'


Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.