London Design Festival brings a packed programme of events and exhibitions to the city each September – this year bolstered by the inaugural London Design Biennale. Expect an unending parade of new designs from up-and-coming and established names. But if furniture porn doesn’t do it for you, the festival has a growing roster of installations that offer a fresh perspective on spaces across London – from iconic buildings to little-known corners of the city.

Here are 10 installations not to miss during the London Design Festival, including a giant wooden ‘smile’ and a sci-fi communications centre.

‘Smile’ by Alison Brooks Architects

A rendering by Alison Brooks Architects

Offering a ‘complete sensory experience of colour, texture, scent and sound’, this huge tulipwood installation invites London Design Festival-goers to experience the world from inside a ‘mega-tube’. While ensconced in the 34-metre-long curved wooden tunnel – which tests the spatial potential of cross-laminated hardwood – visitors will experience changing sun-dappled patterns created by external perforations. It may appear precariously balanced, but be sure to wander all the way down to one end to get the full experience of the Smile as a ‘balcony’ to the city.

16 September – 12 October; Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground, Chelsea College of Art and Design, 16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU

‘Below Stairs’ at Sir John Soane’s Museum

From left: the range inside the basement kitchen; the facade of the museum. Photography: RCHME and Edward

Previously hidden to the public, the newly refurbished Regency Kitchens at the Sir John Soane’s Museum will open for the first time during London Design Festival. Part of an ongoing restoration project, which has overhauled several parts of the building, the space will host new pieces by Barber & Osgerby, Jasper Morrison, Martino Gamper and Paul Cocksedge inspired by their historic surrounds.

13 September – 4 March 2017; The Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP

‘44’ installation by Omer Arbel at the Barbican

Barbican X Bocci rendering

The Brutalist surroundings of the Barbican foyer will be brought to life by a huge light installation designed by Omer Arbel. Made from hundreds of tendrils of free-poured aluminium which support globe-shaped lights – supplied by Canadian lighting brand Bocci – the piece will spread over the heads of visitors like a tree.

14 September – 18 April 2017; Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

‘Green Room’ installation by Glithero at the V&A

A rendering of Green Room by Glithero

Step inside an oversized timepiece set in a six-storey stairwell at the V&A, courtesy of London studio Glithero. The piece – suspended under a classical domed ceiling – comprises a curtain of brightly coloured cords that rotate mechanically to form an undulating wave of colour. Reflecting on the timely nature of the museum’s own collections, it aims to create the sensation of standing still inside the workings of a clock.

17 – 25 September; V&A, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

‘Foil’ installation by Benjamin Hubert at the V&A

A rendering of Foil by Benjamin Hubert

Taking mundane subject matter as a reference point – the shape of razor foils to be precise – designer Benjamin Hubert has created a 20-metre-long reflective ribbon, made up of tens of thousands of metallic pieces for the London Design Festival. Inhabiting the Tapestry gallery at the V&A, Foil moves in a constant sine-wave motion to cast unusual reflections on its surroundings, unveiling interior and architectural details that visitors may perhaps otherwise have missed.

17 – 25 September; V&A, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

Design Undefined at Clerkenwell London

Artist Camille Walala. Photography: Lucie Goodayle

For those looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the festival, graphic artist Camille Walala has created an oasis of Memphis-style calm at Clerkenwell London’s vinyl lounge. Floor, walls and ceiling will be covered in the designer’s trademark geometric patterns. ‘I want the viewer to be completely absorbed by the room and to take full advantage of the opportunity to go wild, as I often feel that I have to be a little more reserved when I have commissions,’ says Walala. And if that’s not enough for you, the artist will also be updating a pedestrian crossing in Southwark.

17 – 25 September; Clerkenwell London, 155 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3AD

The Counterculture Room at London Design Biennale

A historic photograph of the Cybersyn Operations Room
A historic photograph of the Cybersyn Operations Room. © Gui Bonsiepe

Perhaps one of the most fascinating installations at the inaugural London Design Biennale – timed to coincide with the festival – is Chile’s Counterculture Room which recreates a 1970s cyber communications hub. Expect tulip-shaped power seating and control panels big enough to transport you back into a world of retro science fiction.

7 – 27 September; Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA

LeveL installation at the London Design Biennale

First-lampshade-experiments mischer traxler-studio
First lampshade experiments by mischer’traxler studio for their installation

Design duo mischer’traxler has created a purposefully unsteady oversized mobile for Austria’s Design Biennale installation. While still, the installation fills the room with light, but as visitors enter and disturb the surrounding space the piece tilts and the lamps dim, creating a sense of disorientation.

7 – 27 September; Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA

A model for small-scale living by Studiomama at Viaduct

Studiomama’s Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama

Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama have taken small-scale living to a new extreme by designing a 13-square-metre house for north London – interior elements of which will be on show at Viaduct during London Design Festival. Conceived to make the most of a very current enthusiasm for alternative ways of living, it proves just how much can be achieved in an exceptionally limited space – once you’ve rejected off-the-shelf furniture and products, that is.

14 – 24 September; Viaduct, 1-10 Summers Street, EC1R 5BD

L’Eden installation by Perrier Jouet

Food designers Sam Bompas and Harry Parr. Photography: Stefan Braun

Famed food designers Bompas & Parr have transformed the basement of a Wardour Street building into a ‘bio-responsive garden’ that mimics the movements of visitors. Upstairs the botanical theme continues with an overhead installation created by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, which suspends champagne glasses from 3D-printed tendrils.

16 – 25 September; 147 Wardour Street, W1F 8WD

Read next: 11 culture hubs opening this autumn



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