The London Design Festival transforms V&A entrance

The London Design Festival transforms V&A entrance

Timber Wave

The V&A’s Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road is undergoing a dramatic transformation, with the installation of a 12m diameter timber wave cascading down the steps.

Award-winning architects AL_A (winner of the V&A’s recent international competition to design a new courtyard and underground extension) are working in collaboration with structural engineers at Arup in the creation of Timber Wave, a striking three-dimensional spiral made from oil-treated American red oak. It is the first time that this type of timber has been used structurally on such a large scale, using ultra-thin laminates glued together to create the tightly curved shapes. The project is supported by the American Hardwood Export Council, with lighting by seam Design.

Timber Wave is one of 12 installations, and a large programme of events and talks, that make up the London Design Festival residency at the V&A.


Textile Field

Within the Raphael Gallery, France’s most accomplished design duo, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, will be working with international textile company Kvadrat to inspire a very different view of the famous Raphael Cartoons, which have been owned by the British Royal Family since 1623, and on loan to the Museum since 1865.


Textile Field will take over the gallery with gentle undulations of soft fabric, creating an expansive, coloured foam and textile ‘lounge’.

Erwan Bouroullec said: ‘We were invited by the London Design Festival to choose any space we wanted within the Museum for our installation and were immediately drawn to the Raphael Gallery. It’s an opportunity to create an environment for viewing art which has never been done before.’


Thumbprint by Ron Arad

The John Madejski Garden will feature a site- specific installation by Ron Arad, in collaboration with Veuve Clicquot, who have generously supported the commission, Arad’s Thumbprint chair is recreated in bronze.  Ron Arad says:

“Normally you see your pieces in the factory and then they disappear to somewhere in the world. You don’t really get to enjoy them or to know them very well. Bronze loves to be in water which it shows it by accumulating patina”.  Of the chair he says; “The Thumbprint is a sphere that was pressed by a giant thumb, leaving its print on it.  Now every landscape has its own fingerprint; I wish I could claim credit for the beauty of this pattern but it’s not me, it is nature.  The pool will get a minimal treatment to mark the Festival’s occasion.  I’m very glad that a piece that normally disappears to the private world will enjoy some time in the sun in public”.


Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World Will Newly Materialise

Renowned New York-based design gallerist and curator Murray Moss will collaborate with Belgium-based industry leader Materialise, to create this special exhibition which pushes the parameters of 21st century 3D ‘printing’. A series of unique ‘printed’ works, using cutting edge laser and digital technologies to build three-dimensional objects, are placed throughout the Museum’s most important galleries, wittily referencing eight of the Museum’s key pieces and spaces. For example: 

  • The ‘Fractal.MGX’ table, recently acquired by the V&A for its permanent collection, is based on growth patterns seen in nature, which can be described with mathematical algorithms. This object is impossible to produce in any other manufacturing technique, and reinforces the growing bond between nature and mathematical formulas.
  • Renowned milliner Stephen Jones has re-imagined, using computer scanning technology, a special reproduction of the Museum’s renowned 1827 bust of Lady Belhaven, adding, of course, a contemporary hat (Dorothy and Michael Hintze Sculpture Galleries).



During the Festival period, The V&A is launching its major autumn exhibition, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 -1990, the first comprehensive study of a period of design freedom that changed our understanding of style. It provides an in-depth survey of the art, design and architecture of the 1970s and 1980s. The Festival will reflect this major contemporary showcase with a temporary Postmodern Café at the Exhibition Road entrance.

Power of Making

At the same time Power of Making, a V&A and Crafts Council exhibition, will explore the universal nature of making by showcasing the widest possible range of creativity in over 100 exquisitely made objects. Curated by Daniel Charny the exhibition will provide a snapshot of making in our time, with works including a ceramic eye patch, dry stone walling, a bamboo car, a lion-shaped coffin, a six-necked guitar, bio-implant embroidering to aid surgical implants, cake decorations and new technologies such as 3D printing.


Other London Design Festival events at the V&A include:

Betatank – Scaffolding Brut

The Berlin-based, Israeli design outfit BetaTank, is presenting a strikingly visual juxtaposition of materials by creating scaffolding made from porcelain. “Scaffolding Brut”, the studio’s exploration of a potential future for scaffolding and believes that there is an argument for ‘beautifying’ this urban eyesore. It will showcase various porcelain scaffolding parts in the Tunnel entrance.


This is a chance to see the best new works from recent graduates of the University of the Arts London, curated by Giles Deacon. Supported by John Jones, this exhibition will juxtapose striking new work against historical objects in the V&A’s British Galleries.

Beyond the Valley

This offers digital design for visitors in a relaxed environment. Here’s a chance to put the iPad ‘Granimator’ through its paces by taking an assortment of patterns and wallpaper designs and watching them ‘come alive’ and be ‘remixed’ in your own interpretation. Your new design will then be uploaded to a website for all to view.

Outset Design Fund

There will also be a showcase of new acquisitions for the Museum, purchased with funds raised through the new Outset Design Fund and supported by the London Design Festival.

V&A and Me Designer Maps

The V&A has invited another five cultural figures to contribute to the V&A and Me Designer Maps series launched at last year’s Festival – Tom Dixon, Lulu Guinness, Annie Lennox, Dame Judi Dench and A.S. Byatt. Designed by the Johnson banks studio, they will provide a range of personal and inspirational tours across the collections. Maps will be freely available at the V&A during the Festival.


The Google Design Lectures are four weekend events in which designers develop ideas in public view, demonstrating cutting-edge design, innovation and technology in front of – and with the help of – a live audience.

Postmodern Café

The London Design Festival’s dedicated entrance to the museum at Exhibition Road plays host to the Postmodern Café. In homage to the Italian masters of the movement, this will be a playful rendition of a colourful environment, for relaxation, repose and refreshment.  Contemporary interpretations coexist with past realities, including elements designed for firms with roots in Postmodernism, active today, such as Alessi and Bisazza.

Workshops, Breakfast talks and Seminars

UK Trade and Investment will host a series of market-briefing sessions, providing UK design businesses with opportunities to meet the vast array of international visitors and interests at the London Design Festival.

The Digital Design Hub will stage a Digital Design Festival as well as a place where you can drop in to join design bloggers, digital inclusion designers and design writing students.

The Sackler Centre will provide the home for the press and information centre for the London Design Festival as a whole, with the generous support of Hitch Mylius. Nigel Coates will be designing the VIP press room, featuring his new version of the OXO chair.


Festival Information

Continually updated Festival details are at and the official guide to the London Design Festival 2011, will be distributed free across London in early September.



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