Seasons greetings: the festive installations of 2017 getting us in the mood

With the festive season in full swing, our eyes turn to those designers, artists and institutions that are offering up alternatives to the usual tinsel strewn and over illuminated trees. This year, sculptures are getting reflective with glass trees and recycled lighting, while others are feeling playful with vibrant hued staircases and even a christmas tree turned on its head. We bring you this year’s best seasonal spectacles. Writers: Rosa Bertoli, Luke Halls, Pei-Ru Keh, Alexandra Onderwater, Elly Parsons

Madrid-based architect Sergio Sebastián Franco is a seasoned festive designer

‘Bells’ by Sergio Sebastián Franco

Barcelona, Spain

(Image credit: TBC)

Madrid-based architect Sergio Sebastián Franco is a seasoned festive designer, having worked alongside the Madrid City Council since 2004. For 2017, he presents ‘Bells’, an interactive installation at the Monastery of Sant Cugat in Barcelona. Three highly-polished steel bells sit adjacent to each other with different internal functionalities – one a kaleidoscope that reflects it surroundings, another is an interpretation of the nearby monastery’s rose window, and the last is a giant xylophone, activated by user interaction. Bells’ innards are interchangeable too, allowing it to take on a different form next Christmas – a gift that keeps on giving.

Plaça d'Octavià, 1, 08172 Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain

Christmas tree

Claridge’s Christmas tree by Karl Lagerfeld

London, UK

(Image credit: TBC)

Christopher Bailey, John Galliano, Alber Elbaz and Dolce & Gabbana have all designed Christmas trees for the iconic Mayfair hotel. The latest in a long line of designers is Karl Lagerfeld. Claridge’s’ iconic lobby has been festooned with Lagerfeld christmas trees, each with a 180 degree twist – they’re upside down. With shining white roots on show, reaching to the ceiling, gold baubles drip elegantly downwards, towards a draping cloud of white, snow-like fur.

Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR

Bigert & Bergström’s sculptural, egg-shaped

Solar Egg by Bigert & Bergström

Paris, France

(Image credit: TBC)

Formally installed at Sweden’s northernmost town in response to a commission from Riksbyggen, Bigert & Bergström’s sculptural, egg-shaped sauna has moved to the Swedish Institute in Paris. Made from stainless steel mirrors with titanium gold colour coating, the ‘egg’ refracts sunlight into a multiplicity of different mirror images. Inside, a structure has been formed out of wood, with the wall panels and floor decking made out of pine and the bench of aspen. In the centre stands the wood-heated, heart-shaped sauna stove made out of iron and stone. Until 10 December.

Swedish Institute, 11 Rue Payenne, Paris

Snarkitecture taps into ‘a white Christmas

White Christmas by Snarkitecture

Amsterdam, Netherlands

(Image credit: TBC)

At De Bijenkorf Amsterdam, Snarkitecture taps into ‘a white Christmas’ by bringing the ubiquitous pine to new heights, literally. The 12m tall installation, a gigantic tree made out of 360 synthetic trees suspended in the air, presents the first ever collaboration of the New-York based practice with the Dutch luxury department store. The brief? ‘An architectural installation in a white festive mood’. So far so good: the enticing myriad of countless trees creates a smart grid that makes the forest appear utterly random, continuously surprising and tricking the senses of gift-seekers and personal shoppers moving through all of the store’s five floors.

De Bijenkorf Amsterdam, Dam 1, 1012 JS Amsterdam

light dusting of snow this winter

Snowfall by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

London, UK

(Image credit: TBC)

The elegant façades of the The Berkeley’s Wilton Place location in Belgravia have been given a light dusting of snow this winter, courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP). Inspired by blizzards, ‘Snowfall’ comprises 137,000 lights hanging from the external entrance. They’re ‘placed as low as possible so that they can almost be touched, as if the snow was bearing down’, says Stephen Spence, the project’s lead designer. During the day, the honeycomb effect set within the triple-glazed glass will refract the sunlight, forming a glistening canopy whatever the weather. This festive installation is the latest design in a sequence of projects by RSHP created for The Berkeley, following the complete redesign of the hotel’s façade in 2016, a later extension to the hotel’s ballroom, and a series of sweeping terraces added to new suites, unveiled this autumn.

The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL

Based on the ‘Otto’ glassware and ‘Cipher’ light collections

The Upper House Christmas Tree by Yabu Pushelberg and Lasvit

Hong Kong, China

(Image credit: TBC)

The Upper House Christmas tree returns for its second annual iteration, taking centre stage in the stalwart Hong Kong hotel. Based on the ‘Otto’ glassware and ‘Cipher’ light collections launched at Salone del Mobile earlier this year by Yabu Pushelberg and Lasvit, the design represents a balance of heritage techniques, dramatic textures and contemporary forms. A warm and illuminated entrance will receive guests before they commence their upward journey through the House. Until January 2018.

Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong

hand-blown glass pendant lights

The Tree of Glass by Lee Broom and Nude

London, UK

(Image credit: TBC)

Installed at Aqua Shard on the tapering 31st floor of London’s tallest skyscraper is a ‘shard within a shard within a Shard’ – a collaboration between Lee Broom and Nude. The London-based designer has collaborated with the Istanbul-based glass specialists to create a sculptural take on a Christmas tree, inspired by The Shard’s iconic silhouette. Comprising 245 cone-shaped, hand-blown glass pendant lights, the installation stands 10m tall, casting shadows across the lobby of the contemporary restaurant. Appearing to float from the floor, there’s plenty of room for metaphorical presents underneath – namely the striking London skyline, which twinkles and refracts through the glass ‘branches’. Until February 2018.

32 London Bridge Street, Southwark, London SE1 9SG

At Swarovski’s Kristallwelten HQ in Austria

Winter Wonderland by Tord Boontje

Innsbruck, Austria

(Image credit: TBC)

At Swarovski’s Kristallwelten HQ in Austria, winter is celebrated with a new pavilion by Dutch designer Tord Boontje. The 8 sq m walk-in space is composed of three igloo-like domes that visitors can wonder into while exploring the magical grounds. Until March 2018.

Kristallweltenstrasse 1, 6112 Wattens

Inspired by the columnar organisation of the proximate Flatiron Building

Flatiron Reflection by Future Expansion

New York, US

(Image credit: Noah Kaline and Future Expansion)

Inspired by the columnar organisation of the proximate Flatiron Building, architecture practice Future Expansion has created a sculpture out of shimmering tubes that reflect the hustle and bustle of the busy plaza. A matte white surface traces around the installation catching subtle plays of light, while the reflective tubes capture changes in colour and tone. Darker, wintery hues during the day evolve into pinks and golds at sunset, working in ensemble to give the plaza a seasonal ambience that changes on a day-to-day basis. Until 1 January 2018.

East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010.

the scraps of some of Slamp’s most iconic lamps

Recycled Tree by Ilaria Venturini Fendi 

Naples, Italy

(Image credit: TBC)

Ilaria Venturini Fendi has designed a limited-edition set of recycled Christmas trees, created from the scraps of some of Slamp’s most iconic lamps. The dynamic tree design nods to Slamp’s luminosity by wrapping fragments of its wares to create a reflective sculpture. In addition, the trees will be sold by the Sergio Valente Association at Naples’ Teatro San Carlo, with proceeds going to to the Santobono pediatric facility.

Teatro San Carlo, Via San Carlo, 80131 Naples

install In Turin’s Piazza Palazzo di Città

Luci D’Artista

Turin, Italy

(Image credit: TBC)

Since 1997, the Italian city of Turin has commissioned contemporary artists to create site-specific light installations that light up the central streets and outer suburbs throughout the festive season. This year, a collection of 25 works (and counting) are on display in this city-wide open-air museum. The lights are created by a mix of local and international artists, including Rebecca Horn, Tobias Rehberger, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alfredo Jaar and Mario Merz. Catching our eye is Daniel Buren’s Tappeto Volante (pictured), or magic carpet, installed in Turin’s Piazza Palazzo di Città. A suspended grid of miniature cubes bearing the colours of the French flag, Buren’s installation features the artist’s recurring themes of colour and geometry.

Piazza Palazzo di Città, 10122 Turin

Christmas tree

Snøhetta Stories by Snøhetta

Lillehammer, Norway

(Image credit: TBC)

For its tenth year of creative collaborations, Maihaugen open air museum in Lillehammer, Norway tapped Snøhetta to decorate its tree – the first time an architectural practice has been appointed for the job. For this, the Norwegian firm utilised materials from their office, like crushed glass, paper clips, models and cables to create the decorations on the tree. These materials have been hung from the tree via test-tube style vessels, each one telling a tale of their office, alluding to the title ‘Snohetta Stories.’

luxury department store Galeries Lafayette Haussmann this year

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

Paris, France

(Image credit: TBC)

Playful festive cheer to is being encouraged at luxury department store Galeries Lafayette Haussmann this year. Their tree is cone structure set under the dome in the grandeur building, and is made up of an explosion of vibrant balloons, doughnuts and other sweet treats – inspiring a sence of whimsical joy amongst any erratic christmas shoppers.

40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris


Haas for the Holidays by the Haas Brothers

New York, USA

(Image credit: TBC)

For anyone who’s ever wanted to delve deeper into the Haas Brothers’ already immersive world, there’s now the chance. The artists have teamed up with Barneys New York this holiday season to bring their psychedelic universe and equally tongue-in-cheek cast of characters to life. From the department store’s window displays to interactive environments on the shop floors, a giving campaign and over 40 limited-edition products, the collaboration focuses on the theme ‘The Future is Your Present’ and celebrates the coexistence of species on earth. Embodying the spirit of individuality and inclusivity, this whimsical display couldn’t come at a better time.

660 Madison Avenue, New York, NY1006

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.