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Peter Lowen, Designer

Last week London played host to the 14th annual London Design Festival and we took the opportunity to go and explore some of the hundreds of venues showcasing all formats of design.

In a series of reports, we will take you through some of the things we experienced and a pattern we saw emerging, around changing the perception of what a product is or what a material should be used for, and therefore how we feel this can influence brands approach to retail over the next year and beyond.

In this, the first part, we will focus on the V&A, the second part will showcase Central & East London and the third in the series will look at the larger experiences that we feel are worth noting, before we wrap it all together with our insight into retail.

  • Look at existing elements you have in your stores and see how we can re-imagine them to keep them evolving.
  • Take your products and communicate them to your customers in a way that gets them to think differently about them.
  • Take inspiration from other sectors for influences on how you should be showcasing your offering to better fit your customers needs rather than forcing them to fit into yours.

From left to right; Mini Living ‘Forests’ installation by Asif Khan, Foil by Benjamin Hubert of Layer and The Smile by Architect Alison Brooks.

The V&A plays such a central role in the festival each year, therefore seemed a natural place for us to start. So, collecting our LDF16 guides and V&A maps we set off following the red arrows marked out on the floor directing us through our journey of the museum.

The Foil, The Tapestry Room

The Foil is an installation positioned in the large, gallery space of The Tapestry Room. Thousands of reflective stainless-steel triangles form a constantly rippling fabric structure that uses light from 23 LED spots to illuminate the darkened space, with almost enchanting results.

The natural curves of the ceiling as it merges into the walls allow the reflections to come in waves up and over you, revealing the historical tapestries in a way that almost feels as if you are unveiling them through starlight.

Black mirrored partitions at each end of the room completely enclose the space and give an impression of a never-ending tunnel, with specifically composed music enhancing the spellbinding nature of the experience. It’s truly immersive and multi-sensory.


Foil by Benjamin Hubert of Layer in partnership with Braun.

Green Room

Green Room is a great example of representing something we all experience every day, in this case, time, in a new execution that creates something unexpected and memorable. 160 multicoloured cords are suspended from a ring hanging almost the full length of the five storey atrium.

As the central arm within the ring rotates at a speed of one full circulation a minute, the cords move up and down in correspondence to where they are positioned. As a viewer, you work your way up the staircase catching snapshots of the installation through the existing portholes, mesmerised by the movement of the cords and their changing colour as they pass you. Green Room is an undoubtedly visually experiment capturing the ever-progressing nature of time.


Green Room by Glithero in partnership with Panerai.

Elytra Filament Pavilion

The Elytra Filament Pavilion positioned in the John Madejski garden of the V&A, looks like a cross between a natural wonder we are used to discovering on one of David Attenborough’s incredible documentaries with something that was dreamt up by Neil Blomkamp, director of futuristic sci-fi movies District 9 and Elysium, and to be fair that’s pretty close to what it is. A carbon fibre structure weaved together by a robotic arm referencing the formation of the forewing shells of flying beetles, known as ‘elytra’.

Apart from its unique visual impression, the characteristic that really grabbed our attention was the ability the canopy has to grow and expand, reacting to how visitors inhabited the pavilion. The robotic arm is built inside the structure and will weave new hexagonal sections throughout its residency, then use sensors built into the canopy to track visitor movements, the new element will be added to grow the overall span of the pavilion in a specific direction. A collaborative structure that evolves to its users needs, very nice.


Elytra Filament Pavilion by architects and engineers Achim Menges, Jan Knippers, Moritz Dörstelmann and Thomas Auer.

Although these are just three out of the 25 installations at the V&A for LDF16, they all show a conscious effort to take something existing and re-imagine and reinvent for a new purpose. Whether that be transforming the way we view displays we have seen before, visually representing an everyday experience to recapture our understanding of it or using existing techniques taken from unusual sources to build something completely new.

This has great similarities with retail and how we can keep evolving our offering, to allow it to never get stale whilst re-energising us so we don’t run out of ideas to keep our customers engaged with our brand.