Clerkenwell was again flooded with interior, furniture and product designers, buyers, artists and architects for last week’s Clerkenwell Design Week, which continues to grow from strength to strength and reinforces the area as the UK’s premier centre for design, the importance of which the Government has yet to realise as it charges into Brexit negotiations. It was good to see the Fabric nightclub back in use, after it closed last year, as the Icon House of Culture supported by Bang & Olufsen, with lighting and light and sound installations from companies such as Il Dizionario Delle Lampade brightening up the darker subterranean spaces and furniture in the larger volume spaces, along with new talent at Platform in the spooky subterranean vaults of the House of Detention, British designers in the crypt of St James Church and more luxurious designs at Detail contrasting with the historic architecture of the Priory Church of the Order of St John.
As the area gradually runs out of older atmospheric venues as they become refurbished, Clerkenwell Design Week now relies on temporary pavilions to compliment the old buildings, within the grounds of St James, in Spa Fields and with Additions showcasing smaller accessories by designers such as Emma Shipley set up like a street market in St John’s Square.
While there is a strong focus on the corporate and work interior, in particular with new designs for pods and booths to give privacy in open offices, there is much for other sectors and a few pop-ups that break the mould – Joanna Sterling’s collection of brooches linked to the London Underground along with new designs such as Raul Garcia’s “Underground Cult” inspired by the London Underground roundel and map, David Hughes exhibition of LEGO sculptures, and installations at key locations along the route such as Aldworth James & Bond’s “Order” which used digital technology with the material Corian to create a structural work of art linked to the heritage of Clerkenwell and, reminding us that traditional crafts are alive and well, Michael Northcroft demonstrated traditional carving that adds detail to his furniture designs.
We are used to seeing excellent design from a countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy. Perhaps reflecting the new confidence which Donald Trump has given, if one country stole the show, it was North America with the dynamic thrusting geometrical shapes of the display from the Watermark Collection of New York to the curving black steel pavilion of Shinola from Detroit, a city which is reinventing itself since the decline of the car industry, in a collaboration with the London design-based Giles Miller Studio celebrating US-British relationships, and the North American Innovation Exhibit taking centre-stage in Project.
It’s not just interiors, the grounds of St James Church contained conversation structures from a garden pavilion for presentations and discussions to BuzziJungle designed by Jonas Van Put, a vertical solution to provide different spaces for relaxation and conversation in tight urban locations.
A huge amount to see, and that’s before the visitor even starts to visit the many design showrooms in Clerkenwell with special events and activities during the week.