Look Closer: V&A Installations at London Design Festival 2013

Look Closer: V&A Installations at London Design Festival 2013

The London Design Festival installations at the Victoria and Albert are always a must-see. Returning for the fifth year as the design festival’s hub, the V&A’s many grand spaces and interesting objects provide an interesting setting for playing with unexpected contrast and scale. For London Design Festival 2013, the installations feel more accessible, more intimate than in previous years. More modest in some ways, as well, but perhaps these times call for more modesty, more honesty in design.

Whether it’s calling out the details of items in the museum’s vast collection or exploring the potential of existing materials and spaces, there’s a theme of doing better with what we have, of looking closer. Less showiness, more sincerity in design — I certainly support that!


God is in the Details, various locations

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“God is in the Details” invites visitors to physically look closer, using Swarovski optical lenses to magnify the detail of items, selected by a group of influential designers. Ross Lovegrove’s selection is an ornate gold spoon from the 16th century, and he spoke eloquently about marvelling at the amazing feats of creation that are the things we might see every day.


28.280 Chandelier, Main Entrance Foyer

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Canadian designer Omer Arbel’s 28.280 chandelier descends from the highest point of the V&A and is a cascade of shining glass and copper hovering above visitors heads as they enter through the main entrance on Cromwell Road. Made up of 280 individual 28 Series glass pendant lamps by Bocci, the piece is more than 30 meters long. The designer said he was led in part by what the material wanted to do, the copper being both malleable and stiff. The view from the 6th floor ceramic galleries offers a whole new perspective of the space and the chandelier.

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Bums on Seats, Sackler Centre

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I loved Nendo’s Mimicry Chairs installed throughout the museum last year, but as beautiful as they were, they were not meant to be used or even touched. In contrast, Ally Capellino’s Bums on Seats series of tubular chairs with custom seats made from leather, on display in the Sackler Centre, entreat you to give them a try.


The Wind Portal, Staircase N, end of Gallery 114e

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The Wind Portal by Lebanese designer Najla El Zein is simply delightful — a gateway of 5,000 paper windmills that invites the public to step through. The designer wanted the public to be able to get close to the installation, which is at the end of a beautiful light-filled, 8-meter-high gallery. The rotation of the pinwheels, inspired by the concept of wind as a transition between indoor and outdoor space, makes a soothing thrumming sound. The paper pinwheels are handmade, as are the wooden pins, but the custom clips that attach them to the structure are 3D-printed.

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Here’s an Instagram video of The Wind Portal in action: http://instagram.com/p/eMv30fjggf/


The Progressive Extension of the Field of Individual Development and Experience — aka the Cork Floor

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The Progressive Extension of the Field of Individual Development and Experience” is a mouthful, but the actual installation is discreet and thoughtful. The floor of the bridge over the V&A’s Medieval Galleries has been covered in a natural cork, the parquet pattern is based on the cellular structure of the material. A collaboration between London’s FAT Architecture and Portugal-based Amorim, the world’s largest producer of cork, it celebrates the material — and visitors can walk on it and experience for themselves how comfortable it is underfoot.


Garden of Russolo sound installation

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Yuri Suzuki’s interactive sound installation, Garden of Russolo, invites visitors to “have a sonic experience with their own voice.” Speak into the horn that protrudes from each machine, then crank the handle to get the sound back, getting more and more warped, until you won’t recognise your own voice.

In this Instagram video, Yuri Suzuki demonstrates how much fun you can get from a simple “hello”:

On 13–20 September, the installation will be in the Sackler Centre Foyer. On 21–22 September, it will be in the John Madejski Garden (weather permitting, I’m assuming).


The Dinner Party, British Galleries

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The Dinner Party, the theatrical installation by Dutch studio Scholten & Baijing, is in the ornate Norfolk House Music Room in the British Galleries. Apparently this French-style panelled room — it’s kind of like an inside-out wedding cake — is usually empty. For the festival, the space houses an imaginary, interrupted dinner party, with a long table set with Scholten & Baijing designs and prototypes. All the food on the table are artful fakes, from the beautiful textile rhubarb to the delicious-looking foam bundt cake. Along with music based on the sounds made by the objects in the rooms, it’s an immersive installation that offers visitors a difference experience of the room.

(The British Galleries can be hard to find. Go up the stairs on the left as you enter through the V&A’s main entrance, go to Level 2 and head back from there.)


Oki Naganode, Gallery 108

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Oki Naganode by V&A artist-in-residence Julia Lohmann is an extraordinary installation made from a seemingly ordinary material: seaweed. In particular, Naga Kombu, a type of Japanese seaweed, that has been hand-stretched on a cane frame, and shaped into modular pieces that fit together to create sculpture and installations. The piece is eye-popping, in a striking setting, and eye-opening, revealing interesting potential new uses for seaweed.


To see all the installations and events at the V&A during the London Design Festival 2013, visit the V&A page on the London Design Festival site and the LDF13 page on the V&A site. And make sure to pick up a map at the LDF welcome desk in the V&A’s main entry foyer to help you navigate!

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