• All the fun of the fair

    Every year temporary pavilions are commissioned specially for the festival

  • All the fun of the fair

    Old buildings are opened up for events and exhibitions

  • All the fun of the fair

    There are plenty of covered spaces to eat, drink and relax


All the fun of the fair

The usually low key streets of Clerkenwell, London’s hub for architects, designers and makers, will burst into life this May for Clerkenwell Design Week, the district’s annual show of design talent. By Liz Bury.

Architects and designers, lured by the area’s stock of Victorian brick warehouses, and its location between The City and West End, first began colonising it in the late 1980s. Now, it’s the heart of London’s design community, served by plenty of artisan coffee houses, craft breweries and upmarket cafes and restaurants.

Stretching from Spa Fields in the north to Smithfield in the south, the festival wends a trail through Clerkenwell’s creative community, its historic public spaces, and contemporary design showrooms.

The green space of Spa Fields, a historic site of riots and rebellions, will host Design Fields, a large, curated exhibition of contemporary design within a specially constructed two-storey pavilion, with spaces for events and relaxation.

There is a trail of specially commissioned installations, CDW Presents, along the two-and-a-half mile route. Swedish architects White Arkitekter take pride of place in St John’s Square with its Museum of Making, an exploded barn pavilion with an exhibition celebrating Clerkenwell’s rich heritage of craftsmanship and making.

New exhibitions are introduced for 2016. Project will present international furniture, lighting and product designers, sharing St James’s Church Garden with Additions, focusing on small scale interiors products from ceramics, to candles to tableware; and British Collection, in the crypt of St James’s Church, is a new, dedicated exhibition of home-grown design talent.

Brewhouse Yard, midway along the trail, will act as a gateway to the many design showrooms nearby, with a pop-up cafe, information point, workspace, and events. Established names like Vitra, Italian interiors brand Arper, and Sto Werkstatt, will rub shoulders with emerging studios such as BD Design and Forest & Found, and a new generation of makers which has gravitated to Craft Central in St John’s Square.

The big, established exhibitions return this year. Detail is showing luxury interiors at Museum of the Order of St John, and Detail Pavilion, on St John’s Square, will focus on luxury surfaces. Cutting edge show Platform, which will incorporate a number of Clerkenwell Design Week debuts in 2016, is at House of Detention, the subterranean former 19th century prison.

Goldsmith’s Centre will be a destination for a special exhibition on contemporary goldsmithing, the popular Conversations at Clerkenwell and ‘salons’ curated by Dutch designer Ineke Hans exploring the future of furniture design.

Clerkenwell’s night time economy of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, echoes its centuries old reputation for radicalism and debauchery, and this year, Icon’s House of Culture, a show of international design curated by the lifestyle publishing brand, takes up residency at Fabric, London’s legendary nightclub venue.

Liz Bury is a freelance journalist and film maker.


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