This year’s Design Junction has moved to the south side of the river – shock!, horror! Last year’s site at King’s Cross near Central St Martin’s is no longer available, having been landscaped and redeveloped, but fortunately the unloved and under-utilised car park at Doon Street has provided a new location. It is astonishing to think that this site in the heart of the busy South Bank, has sat empty since the 2nd World War, though part has been redeveloped as studios for the Rambert Ballet. Who says there is no land in London for new homes?
On one side, the site looks out to the National Theatre; on the other to what was apparently the largest hospital in Britain in its day, opened in 1915. Having been built originally for HM Stationery office and an important landmark in the history of concrete buildings in London, it was requisitioned at the start of the First World War and it is claimed that there are tunnels underneath that brought the injured soldiers from Waterloo Station, so that they would be out of sight of the public (who might panic). Do the tunnels still exist? No doubt these were lost with the development of the roundabout that encircles the IMAX cinema.
Now part of King’s College, the building provides a backcloth to Design Junction, the pavilion of which follows the format of previous years – a light and transparent first floor sitting on a solid ground floor, no doubt for structural reasons, with exhibitors such as LSA International Ltd and Modus and taking advantage of the transparency of the first floor windows in their displays.
Modernist-style classical furniture and lighting using natural wood continues to be very much to the fore, in particular in the display of the work of 9 designers from Uruguay – a counterbalance to the exhibition of Brazilian furniture designers in Trafalgar Square – and, with perhaps a nod to Mexico, Mr Jones Watches turns the everyday watch into an artform, while Hornit have designed such a simple way of storing cycles vertically that you wonder why on earth someone has not done it before – but perhaps that is the secret of great design.
Doon Street is only the start; one of the masterful touches of its location is that Design Junction can stretch along the South Bank to the Oxo Tower, where by coincidence Mr Jones Watches is based along with other designers and artists, and the atmospheric old Bargehouse has been brought into use for the second part of Design Junction.