|Clerkenwell Design Week Map. Source: clerkenwelldesignweek.com|
A first for myself, Clerkenwell Design Week 2014 was a 3-day hot-pink signposted discovery of top British and international designers housed in some of London's most illustrious buildings.
Locals and London history buffs will be aware of Clerkenwell's glorious watch-making past, dating back to the 18th century. Today it has the highest concentration of creatives and architects in the world, yet still remains one of the least gentrified parts of the capital. So what happens when the old and the new creativity collide?
My CDW14 Highlights
|The Farmiloe Building at St John St. Source: clerkenwelldesignweek.com|
|The Farmiloe Building's wrought iron staircase next to funky new lighting designs|
Rugged and full of Dickensian character, charming features that survive include a spindly wrought-iron staircase which sprouts seemingly out of nowhere like a beanstalk. The abundance of natural light is also enough to make any sun-starved office worker envious. It’s little wonder The Farmiloe Building has been a popular film location of Hollywood blockbusters from Gotham City in 'The Dark Knight' to 'Sherlock Holmes'.
|Prooff's 'Niche Chair'. Source: dreamwall1.wordpress.com|
Dutch company PROOFF creates ‘intimate dialogue for public space’. The ‘Niche Chair’ (design by Axia Design) did exactly what the tin says. It’s sofa dream of geeks, which I imagine wouldn't look out of place at Google HQ. A three-walled, covered enclosure complete with chargers beneath your seat, it's roomy enough for two - blocking yourself out from the world on your laptop is a breeze – or you can have a nice conversation with your neighbour. My suggested further improvements to a PROOFF sales rep – namely embedded TV on either headboards outdoor-proof upholstery were sadly politely declined.
Established in 2008 by Japanese, French and Chinese founders, Stellarworks is a modern furniture company possessing a truly unique cross-cultural vision. The re-issued classics on show included this sleek 'Cotton Club Chair' by Italian designer/philosopher Carlo Forcolini.
|'Cotton Club Chair'. Source: stellarworks.com|
I also loved the duck-egg blue hue on this 'Piano Chair' made with dyed leather and wood (a 600-year old Japanese tradition) by Danish designer Vilhelm Wohlertm- thus justifying my earlier use of the term ‘sexy chair’.
|'Piano Chair'. Source: stellarworks.com|
Against stiff competition Auxilium Salvage’s candy-coloured recycled German lamps caught my eye (They're on Twitter and Instagram too, go follow). Rescued from a disused cable factory in Cologne and lovingly refurbished in London, these fun, space-age hair dryer shaped lights strike the right balance between the age-old 'Form versus Function' dilemma.
|Auxilium Salvage 'Candy Collection' at The Design Factory|
'Details' @The Order of St. John, St John's Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ
A Medieval crypt and church garden might sound like a creepy exhibition venue, but considered in context ('Details' celebrates the fine craftsmanship and high glamour of luxury interiors), it was a stroke of genius.
|The famous Edra x Campana Brothers 'Vermelha' chair in the Norman Crypt|
Known for its tactile, avant-garde pieces, Italian brand Edra showcased chairs designed by the Campana Brothers, made from frankly bonkers sources - including one made of stuffed leather dolphins. Juxtaposed against the Norman Crypt's gorgeous stained glass windows and resting tombs of presumably rather famous 12th century knights - the chairs appear strangely venerable; the dampness in the air amplifying their precious quality.
|The Order of St John Cloister Garden|
In contrast, outside visitors were welcomed to relax on contemporary furniture in the company of the cloister garden's tranquil monument and herb-filled surroundings - an unexpected oasis amid the typical break-neck hustle and bustle of London's Tech City. It took me a while to adjust to the element of surprise - it (the old with the new) shouldn't work, but here it does.
I ended my evening feeling curiously rewarded. Clerkenwell Design Week is a rare example of the ‘something old, something new’ clichéd promise done good. While the talent may not have been mind-blowingly brilliant this year, the event has made new visitors appreciate the beautiful designs of overlooked historical gems in a new light. CDW may be over for now, but there’s still time to get exploring before the bulldozers inevitably come in.
Photography by Christina Lai unless stated otherwise.