Clerkenwell Design Week Returns for a Successful Sixth Installment

Several thousand designers and design enthusiasts descended on Clerkenwell last week for the sixth installment of Clerkenwell Design Week. Founded to showcase Clerkenwell’s burgeoning status as an international design hub, CDW provides an opportunity to look around the largest concentration of design showrooms in the world, and to hobnob with the world’s foremost architects and interior designers.

Larger in scale than previous design weeks, this year included over 80 showrooms, as well as the shared exhibition spaces in the Design Factory and the public installations CDW is famous for.

Highlights included Glaze, a multi-coloured glass pavilion installed on St John’s Square, the opening of Old Sessions House to the public by Icon Magazine, the Shed and five storey old warehouse at the Design Factory used for exhibits, and Buzzispace’s new outdoor work space the Buzzished.

The Shed in the Design Factory. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian, and used with kind permission
The Shed in the Design Factory. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian, and used with kind permission
Glaze public pavilion on St John's Square, created by architects Cousins & Cousins and glaziers GxGlass
Glaze public pavilion on St John’s Square, created by architects Cousins & Cousins and glaziers GxGlass

One installation of particular note was the wooden Invisible Store of Happiness installation underneath St John’s Arch, created by sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon and furniture maker Sebastian Cox.

The Invisible Store of Happiness by Laura Ellen Bacon and Sebastian Cox
The Invisible Store of Happiness by Laura Ellen Bacon and Sebastian Cox

Named after the invisible store of happiness a craftsman leaves in each piece of work they produce, the installation had an additional function as an example of diversifying the range of timber used by furniture makers, so that an overemphasis is not made on a select few species. In this case, Laura and Sebastian used maple and cherry as an alternative to a current trend for white oak and walnut.

A deeper exploration of the Clerkenwell shows a unique emphasis on materials, with organisations such as the SCIN Gallery holding one of the only material libraries in Britain, this shared emphasis is part of the explanation for the exponential growth in design firms moving to the area. The other explanation is the unique relationship between architects and interior designers that has encouraged firms to cluster around each other.

A simple walk along Clerkenwell Road through to Old Street will reveal dozens of showrooms all in close proximity to one another, and it is not just Clerkenwell Design Week that will enable you to poke around a bit deeper.

Clerkenwell Design Quarter is another popular event in designers diaries as an official destination within the London Design Festival this September. And Craft Central, an unique charity-supported building in Clerkenwell Green that provides studio and workshop space to artisan design-makers, regularly opens its doors to the public. Here you can find hand-crafted jewellery, gold, silver and copper engravings, ceramics and fashion, and take away something truly unique.

Icon's House of Culture, in the Old Sessions House. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian
Icon’s House of Culture, in the Old Sessions House. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian

The energy in Clerkenwell can be summarised by several out of town designers who were overheard saying ‘we just have to move here’. With space still relatively cheap and designers desperate to get in on the Clerkenwell design scene, Clerkenwell looks set to grow even further as a design hub, and CDW 2016 will definitely be design event of the year for architects, interior designers, and anyone with an enthusiasm for design in the UK and beyond.

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