A short walk along the riverside from Doon Street at Waterloo and, rising in front, you discover an immense timber head on one of the old jetties, the face staring out across the River Thames, in the background of which multi-coloured ribbons create an arch going out into the river on a second jetty. Together they represent different aspects of diversity in our communities. Steuart Padwick’s classical and timeless ‘Head Above Water’, devoid of any indication of its gender, race or age, is a symbol of hope, bravery and compassion to those who both battle mental health issues and those who support others through them, while Lisa White of WGSN and Francois Dumas have created a colourful tunnel for the city of Saint Etienne to promote diversity within the design industry itself.
Behind them rises the brick edifice of the Oxo Tower, originally built as a power station in the late 19th century, taking on its current form with its famous tower when it was rebuilt in the late 1920′s and today it is a centre for small design companies and art galleries in its lower floors, who can thus join into the London Design Festival.
Hidden away at the rear of the Oxo Tower is the Bargehouse, which takes its name from when the royal barges were kept here, a semi-derelict warehouse building which today is a great venue for design and art exhibitions, with new contemporary work contrasting with the decaying brick walls and rough plaster. Here is the second half of Design Junction, the younger, edgy, more innovative part, showing new ides and new designers, some of whom have created installations especially for the space such as Tej Chauhan’s elegant designs in ‘Soft Power’ and Samuel Wilkinson, Chris Stimson and Bujar Shkodra’s lighting installation for Beem.
Reuse of old material continues to grow, here demonstrated by the Swedish design company Bolon who create new flooring from old and textile designer Joy Merron who displays new textiles made of recycled plastic bottle tops (the plastic of which is scandalously not recycled).
Osteopath Si Freedman has become a designer. As those of you with painful backs will know, most chairs that we sit on for hours on end are bad for our health; Si decided to do something about it, and after years of research had designed ChairSix which could redefine sitting in the workplace. Linking sustainability with technology, 3-D printers are here, as at the V&A Museum, Xiaonan Zhang’s beautiful jewellery showing what can be done, raising the question of why shops and warehouses need to stock so much when they could make an increasing amount of products on-site, on demand. Will this destroy the Amazon business model?!
Lastly, there are two exhibitions, the first the stunning images of the 2018 Blueprint Architectural Photography Awards, and the second being Rado’s Star Prize, giving new designers a showcase for their talents, not just in watches for which Rado is famous, but in other areas. One of the simplest and most imaginative is Aaron Mitchell’s very simple necklace which incorporates a USB stick. Science and art have really come together.