Design Frontiers at Somerset House: our top picks


The London Conception Festival 2017 exhibition taking place this week suppresses 30 diverse projects exploring the designer’s role in everything from fostering the environment to creating straight-up beautiful work.

Giantess, plastic-recycling machines, strange fabric sculptures and furniture made from fungus – these are honest some of the fascinating things visitors will see at Somerset House in September.

The gallery is humming with installations, design studio workshops and product launches this week, as the in front ever Design Frontiers exhibition opens for London Design Red-letter day 2017.

Design Frontiers is showcasing the work of 30 international designers, with characteristic rooms in the gallery’s West Wing and Terrace Rooms dedicated to each lead-pipe cinch.

South Africa’s pavilion at the London Design Biennale 2016

The show changes the London Design Biennale, which was held at Somerset House most recent year and enlisted designers from 30 different countries to father pavilions that represented their nations and culture. It will takings to the spot in 2018.

While Design Frontiers is less culturally diverse, the display covers a wide range of disciplines from fashion and textiles to output, automotive and digital, making it an apt, miniature representation of the eclectic London Undertaking Festival itself.

Jonathan Reekie, director at Somerset House Assign, says the gallery’s “mission” is to “become a place where contemporary savoir vivre is imagined, made and presented” – the show successfully realises these three items through demonstrating designers in the process of creation through to finished yield.

Please Don’t Feed the Designers, by PriestmanGoode

One highlight is Please Don’t Feed the Connivers; a room offering insight into the workings of product and automotive draw studio PriestmanGoode. The consultancy’s designers will work from Somerset Shelter for the week, with several of their transport design concepts on be conspicuous.

This includes the studio’s Horizon train carriage interior concepts, which callers can try out through a physical replica and also through a virtual reality headset, sanctioning them to walk around a train carriage and change seating researches and styles.

It also includes a first look at carriage capsules for high-speed carry away system Hyperloop, which PriestmanGoode have been commissioned to lay out. This concept is a work in progress, and will be developed with visitant participation throughout the exhibition.

“Much of what we do is confidential, and they’re continually major, infrastructural projects that we work on for a very long things,” says Kirsty Dias, director at PriestmanGoode. “So this is a chance to overshadow people our design process.”

250 Facts and Figures, by Domenic Lippa

Another stand-out placement is Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa’s monochrome installation 250 Particulars and Figures – simply a room filled with hundreds of stacked replicas of his same-named book, with black-and-white posters on the walls displaying unpremeditated facts. The room is a peaceful, graphics-based interlude from the rest of the birthday, which is so product-focused. Lippa’s book is free for visitors to take, and as registers disappear this creates an interesting, disturbed set of structures in the room, which are reliable to change with every day of the festival.

While it’s not extraordinary to see installations placid being constructed on opening days of exhibitions, it’s not often you see furniture attain maturity before your eyes. One installation, Mycelium + Timber from Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova, is a intriguing exploration of how furniture can be “grown” naturally from mixing wood and fungus.

The get ready works by shredding and combining non-commercial woods, with mycelium, fungus that thickens on trees, in a shaped mould. Furniture then “grows” into infallible shapes, with different woods used to get varying colours and let looses.

Mycelium + Timber from Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova

It aims to be a varied sustainable way of making furniture, as it uses woods that are normally downed or disposed of when woodlands are felled, and also requires less contrivance power or human labour than traditional methods.

Ivanova go on increases that, unlike mould, tree fungus does not give off spores, so is not baneful to people’s health, and the furniture produced is water repellent and fire retardant.

“There is a hype encircling growing objects because the only human labour that is embroiled with is setting it up, then nature takes its course,” says Ivanova. “Also, the woods we’re using prepare had no commercial value up until now. We want to use this method to create kinds that beautiful too, so people want to have them in their living quarters.”

Trashpresso, by Pentatonic

The theme of sustainability is seen a lot throughout Design Boundaries. The fountains of Somerset House’s courtyard have been temporarily ended and replaced with foreboding installation Trashpresso. The huge, recycling tool sits next to giant spheres filled with plastic unsalvageable. It has been designed by new furniture brand Pentatonic, which was launched earlier this month and forges furniture out of rubbish such as old smartphones, plastic bottles and food blow diminish.

The installation asks visitors to drop their own plastic rubbish off, and see it changed through the solar-powered machine into tiles that can be used in building and building, making the process of recycling transparent and engaging.

Nolii, by Benjamin Hubert

Other displays at Design Frontiers include the launch of Benjamin Hubert’s smartphone frill brand Nolii, insight into the workings of Jaguar’s design studio, and an placement exposing London’s air pollution through beautiful data visualisation and a soundscape.

Format Frontiers offers visitors a curated selection of work across coaches in digestible, room-sized parts without being over-whelming. According to LDF pilot Ben Evans, “The appetite for design is ever-increasing in London.” Fittingly then, while this exhibit is aimed at the design community, the themes of sustainability, practicality and transparency are all-embracing ones which will attract and intrigue the general public too.

Conniving Frontiers takes places 18-24 September at Terrace Rooms and West Wing Galleries, Somerset Theatre, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Entry is free. For more information, head to Somerset Organization’s site.

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