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Seven examples that design has learned from the lessons of this pandemic


There was expectation about what would happen with this great quote from the design and what had to happen happened, that the London Design Festival (LDF) celebrates coming of age, albeit in a slightly lackluster context. The deployment in the digital environment has made the absence of those who have not been able to physically attend the festival more bearable, with a well-nourished schedule of daily events, from courses and workshops to presentations and debates, through virtual visits to museums and the already usual routes through the districts, at the click of a mouse.



Ben Evans, co-founder and director of the London Design Festival. |

After all, London It is one of the great design capitals of the world, and the undisputed locomotive of the sector. Therefore, Ben evans, co-founder and director of the London Design Festival, considered it almost an obligation to raise the curtain on this 18th edition of the festival despite this strange dance that we have had to attend: “London has the largest creative community in the world,” he says. “However, the pandemic has proven to be one of the biggest threats to the sector, as almost all events have been canceled and businesses have been closed for an extended period of time. Therefore, the festival has an incredibly important role this year, providing a platform for design talent to showcase their work. “

In addition to a lot of design, in the 2020 edition there is a lot of reflection: highlights in the face of climate change, a sense of responsibility as a sector when designing a new world, optimistic metaphors or provocative winks and an attempt at learning postcovid with a positive look.

These are seven of the lessons that the quarantine has left us in their projects, talks and installations and that have marked the festival:

one. The importance of caring for the planet (and enjoying the pleasure of growing beautiful plants) – ‘The Hothouse’

Londoners Studio weave presented The Hothouse, a large-scale installation in the International Quarter London (the IQL, a new neighborhood in the heart of Stratford, to the East of the city), which was born from the concern of the fight against climate change as a global motive, but also from the individual daily gesture of taking care of our own garden, even if it is a flowerpot on our balcony.

london design festival


Th Hothouse, by Studio Weave, in the International Quarter London. |

The Hothouse is a structure inspired by Victorian glass greenhouses that provides the right habitat to grow plants that even in your best dreams could grow in the London climate. For this, the studio has collaborated with the garden designer Tom massey.

The area where it is located, next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has a great tradition in greenhouse cultivation and, as early as 1930, dedicated dozens of hectares of land to the production of ornamental plants, flowers and exotic fruits.

london design festival


The hothouse doesn’t stop running at night. |

The facility will be here for a year and will produce avocados, quinoa, mango, sweet potato, and chiá seeds, among others. All crops that now do not grow here, but could grow in 2050, according to experts, if global warming continues this dynamic. The slap on the wrist is more than evident.

Je Ahn, founder of Studio Weave, assures that “amid the strangeness of the covid era, the reduction in human activity has produced what feels like a profound change in the environment, advancing a much-needed dialogue that is he hopes that it will translate into sustained and effective action. We hope that this small greenhouse will act as a continuous reminder of our fragile relationship with nature, while allowing us to rediscover the simple and enriching pleasure of caring for beautiful plants. “

2. Only together can we get out of this – ‘Unity’

The desire to have learned something from this whole crisis and, above all, that what has been learned does not remain in theory, is also present in the project that the French designer has brought to this edition Marlene huissoud (which we already saw at the festival last year with his sculptures inspired by the insect universe in the South Kensington neighborhood). This time it was commissioned by the festival for Coal Drops Yard, in King’s Cross, one of the design hot spots in the city, and he wanted to launch a cry of optimism: at a time when we were forced to keep our distance , Marlene’s work reflects on the importance of being united and working together, rowing in the same direction and, above all, sharing and reusing our resources.

london design festival


‘Unity’, a work that only works if efforts are united. |

According to the designer, this approach was not part of the initial plans, and was the result of the quarantine: “We completely changed the concept of the original project, since the pandemic urged us as human beings to make a last call to action. More than ever, artists and designers need to redefine their roles and use their skills to shake up society. This installation is more than an interactive piece, it is for society to wake up and realize how vital it is for us to be united and act as a whole ”.

london design festival 2020


Detail of ‘Unity’. |

This has been carried out, literally, in its installation, Unity, in which visitors must stand two meters apart in a circle around the room and, by means of foot pumps, breathe life into it. It is transforming, growing, dancing, breathing … and if no one is pumping, the installation will deflate. There she leaves it.

3. If the economy is not closed, the economy will not close it – The Circular Design Project

The Global Design Forum has returned to this edition with its program of keynotes, talks and workshops, on-line and free. Within it, stands out The Circular Design Project, organized by the technological SAP, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the LDF, in which the issue of the circular economy in design is addressed from various angles, given its enormous responsibility as an engine of change.

london design festival 2020



According to Joe Iles, leader of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Design Program, “Everything around us has been designed: from the clothes we wear, to the buildings we live and work in, to the systems that provide food and mobility. Today, the way we design and manufacture these things is based on continuous extraction and consumption, and creates economic, social and environmental challenges. The design sector and creativity play an essential role in the change of our economy from linear to circular. By applying a circular design approach, designers can influence whether their new creation will eventually end up as waste or remain within a circular economy, providing value. It is one of the greatest creative challenges of our time and I look forward to being part of this journey with a new audience of designers at this year’s LDF. ”

Under this umbrella, they have been celebrated during these days several debates in which names such as Lena Pripp Kovak, IKEA’s sustainability manager; Ivy Ross, vice president of Hardware Design at Google; Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founder of Snøhetta, or chef Massimo Bottura, owner of Osteria Francescana and Founder of Food for Soul.

4. Yes you can telework … – ‘Connected’

Connected, which is exhibited in the London Design Museum, is the result of a pandemic experiment in which nine designers from different origins (including the Spanish Jaime Hayón) and one of the best craft workshops in Europe have participated, Benchmark Furniture. Their respective models of tables and seats and their personal reflections can be seen in the museum.

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Sketch for ‘Mesa machine’, by Jaime Hayón. |

American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark Furniture and the Design Museum challenged these designers to get involved in the project of creating a table and seats for their personal use, which would adapt to their new ways of living and working from home. They could choose from three sustainable American hardwoods: red oak, maple or cherry, and they had to share their sketches and ideas from their home / office with the craftsmen, exclusively using new technologies to communicate with each other.

london design festival 2020


‘Pink moon’, a shared work table, by the Milanese designers that make up Studio Pepe, for ‘Connected’. |

The other eight designers involved are: Ini Archibong (Switzerland), Maria Bruun (Denmark), Heatherwick, Studio (UK), Sebastian Herkner (Germany), Maria Jeglinska- Adamczewska (Poland), Sabine Marcelis (Netherlands), Studiopepe ( Italy) and Studio Swine (UK / Japan).

london design festival 2020


Maria Bruun’s design, from Copenhagen, for ‘Connected’. An extendable table with stackable stools. The rounded shapes give it an organic appearance that contrasts with the robustness of the wood. |

5. … But no one said it was going to be easy

During all these months we have all had to work from home and the dream of many of doing it in pajamas has come true. But, in the end, was it so idyllic? Most will say no, but at least they will have been able to put themselves in the shoes of the self-employed, whose day to day, it is like that. They have also suffered more than ever from the impacts of the pandemic, that is why this year, the LDF dedicates a portal within its website where workers freelance they can share their portfolio with all the community.

6. 2020 only has three months left

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London institution and benchmark and inseparable companion of the festival since its birth, could not exhibit the facilities that were scheduled this year for health security reasons. In return, he made tours of the Museum, run by members of his staff, which he broadcast on his Facebook channel. However, she already has her sights set on next year: “We hope to return in 2021.” And we, so be it.


elpais.com