London Design Festival 2021 is now on across London (until 26 September 2021), with a new programme of outdoor installations, exhibitions and events throughout the city. The 2021 programme brings art and design interventions to the city’s landmarks, neighbourhoods and cultural institutions in collaboration with local and international creatives. 

‘London has some of the world’s greatest designers living and working here, who come from all over and make this city their home,’ says London Design Festival chairman Sir John Sorrell. ‘Over the years, this has enabled us to develop exciting programmes which showcase both design’s joyous side but also the ideas and innovations with the capacity to shape our societies. We hope that this year’s festival will not only be seen by those in London but audiences all around the world, and that we’re able to demonstrate that design will be at the heart of the future.’

London Design Festival 2021 at the V&A

Medusa by Sou Fujimoto and Tin Drum

Medusa by Sou Fujimoto at the V&A
‘Medusa’ by SFAP Sou Fujimoto Atelier Paris, produced by Tin Drum and presented by London Design Festival at the Victoria & Albert Museum, September 2021

The core of the 2021 edition of the festival will be a new installation titled Medusa’, staged at the V&A’s Raphael Court and created by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with mixed reality studio and technology developer Tin Drum. The mixed reality installation (a first for the Japanese architect) examines structure, nature and visualisation, through elements of light, sound, nature and architecture that responds to movements of audiences in the space; it creates a living design to prompt us to think about space, climate change and the role of nature in modern life. 

‘I really like to go back to the fundamental aspects of the architecture experience, creating the relationships between people and the place, or between a space and and people’s feelings,’ says Fujimoto. ‘Those experiences are quite important, and quite essential, especially these days when everything is digital and [we are] connected with each other but not really connected. So I like to explore those fundamental experiences, via technology that can remind people of the importance of human touch in these relationships.’

Between Forests and Skies by Nebbia Works

An installation by Nebbia Works at the Victoria and Albert Museum, featuring a perforated sheet of aluminium creating shade on the fountain in the John Madejski Garden 
‘Between Forests and Skies’ by Nebbia Works. Photography: Ed Reeve

An installation taking centre stage over the fountain of the V&A’s John Madejski Garden, ‘Between Forests and Skies’ by emerging architecture practice Nebbia Works is an immersive, low-carbon aluminium pavilion using a minimal amount of material to demonstrate its expressive and structural qualities. Supported by low-carbon aluminium specialist En+ Group, the pavilion comprises a self-supporting structure crafted from a single sheet of metal, cut and bent to create shade over the courtyard, making for a poetic space suspended between sky and water. 

LDF special commissions across London

Woman walking over colourful pedestrian crossing on Tottenham Court Road, London

A crossing from the ‘Bring London Together’ series by Yinka Ilori

Winner of the 2020 Emerging Design Medal, Yinka Ilori transforms Tottenam Court Road into an outdoor art gallery, in collaboration with students from the University of the Arts London. The streetscape is part of the Mayor of London’s ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign, and is created in collaboration with the City of London Corporation, Cheapside Business Alliance and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, providing grants for arts-driven street interventions to improve safety and engage local communities through the revitalisation of public spaces. ‘We’ve had a year where we’ve had no galleries or museums open, so being able to work in the public realm that’s accessible for everyone is incredible,’ says Ilori. ‘What I want to try and do is celebrate London being open again, try to bring everyone out and celebrate what it means to be a Londoner.’ 

Installation of white beehive-like shapes hanging from the spiral staircase at Fortnum & Mason
Mellifera: The Dancing Bee Hives by Arthur Mamou-Mani at Fortnum & Mason

At Fortnum and Mason, French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani has created a 3D printed installation made from bioplastics to draw attention to Britain’s declining bee population. Titled ‘Mellifera: The Dancing Bees’, the installation swirls down the retail destination’s atrium and celebrates Fortnum & Mason’s rooftop beehives, a local effort to bring pollinators back to the city. 

Render showing Tower Bridge in the distance and parallelepiped architectural structure
The Cube by Henning Larsen with Velux

Observation Point on the South Bank hosts an architectural installation by Danish practice Henning Larsen with Velux, designed as ‘a sanctuary where Londoners can unplug, unwind, and let the combination of daylight and fresh air put their mind at ease.’

London Design Districts

Wooden signpost on red plinth
Tree-shaped wooden designpost on red plinth

Top, Jonah Luswata’s Designpost for Brompton, made by Sebastian Cox. Bottom, Darta Shokrzadeh’s Designpost for Southwark, made by Jan Hendzel Studio. Both created in collaboration with AHEC. Photography: Thom Atkinson

For the first time in the festival’s history, the city’s ten design districts will be unified thorugh a project in collaboration with American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Benchmark (also involved in ‘Discovered’, a project supporting design’s next generation in collaboration with Wallpaper* at the Design Museum, until 10 October 2021). Ten sculptural waymarkers will welcome visitors to each location, created by students and recent graduates under the mentorship of architect Izaskun Chinchilla and designer Peter Marigold. Districts include Brompton, Clerkenwell, Islington, King’s Cross, Mayfair, Shoreditch Design Triangle, the William Morris Design Line, and the newly launched Design Districts at Greenwich Peninsula, Park Royal and Southwark South. 

‘Cultural and creative activity is a powerful tool to help reignite the city and kick-start London’s economy,’ comments London Design Festival director Ben Evans. ‘London Design Festival will provide the public and visitors with an opportunity to take to the streets to discover new pockets of London, and find works by leading designers and emerging talent, while enjoying all the city has to offer.’ §