Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW), the UK’s largest and free design festival, is back in EC1 London with its most extensive programme yet – featuring more than 600 events. Opened 23rd May (until 25th May 2023) with pre-registrations up by 50 percent (vs 2022), the 12th edition of CDW takes place across the whole of Clerkenwell, a neighbourhood renowned for its high concentration of architects and designers.
The 2023 festival sees a total of 11 exhibition venues presenting more than 300 design brands and makers – supported by a network of over 160 local showrooms hosting a range of product launches, workshops and talks. Over the three days, architects and specifiers, interior designers and the general public alike can explore everything from new furniture and lighting to kitchens and bathrooms, materials and surfaces, decorative accessories, and more.
Headling this year’s event is a specially commissioned, inflatable public art by British artist Steve Messam at St John’s Gate of the Order of St John. In collaboration with SketchUp and measuring 6m high by 15.5m long, Gateway features 27 giant spikes hand-sewn in a striking blue textile. Visitors can also experience Messam’s artistic treatment of the iconic, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott-designed telephone boxes. Sponsored by Budvar, they can be found on Cowcross Street, as well as on Clerkenwell Road and outside St James’s Church during the festival.
Another immersive design to look out for is Symbiocene Living: Mycelium Building Block by PLP Architecture. Situated on St John’s Square, the modular structure is made of mycelium blocks with a 3D-printed timber shell encouraging the public to envision and engage with fungi architecture. While East London-based artist and designer, Russell Bamber has designed a ‘ha ha’ fence located on Jerusalem Passage, a whole host of brand activations also spread across Clerkenwell; from Texxa’s unique acoustic installation to BAUX’s temporary exhibition with feature walls by Morag Myerscough. Other participating brands include Universal Fibers, Jennifer Newman, Swatchbox and Duffy London.
New to CDW this year is a set of design destinations where key areas are highlighted as creative hubs to host installations, brand features and temporary design showcases; from The Goldsmiths’ Centre and Cowcross Yards to Paxter Locher House, Groupwork Architects, Brewhouse Yard and Bourne and Hollingsworth.
Sponsored by RAK Ceramics, Conversations at Clerkenwell – a compelling schedule of daily talks exploring a series of industry topics – returns to Spa Fields and is housed in an AirClad structure. The three-day discussions feature headline names including Morag Myerscough, Philippe Malouin, Nipa Doshi of Doshi Levien, Yuri Suzuki, and James Patmore of Soho Home.
Over at Old Sessions House, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, ICON magazine hosts a series of intimate talks, ICON at 20 (sponsored by Dyson and Humanscale) with the likes of Mimi Shodeinde, Tom Dixon and Todd Bracher, followed by interactive workshops with BRIK Chocolate.
For those interested in lighting, there is also [d]arc thoughts, a talks programme dedicated to this subject matter at House of Detention – curated and hosted by lighting magazine Darc and supported by Lutron.
Last but not least, as part of the Fringe programme, various design studios open their doors to visitors offering a variety of creative workshops – while they enjoy one-off discounts and deals from local food and drink partners.
The 12th edition of Clerkenwell Design Week takes place across EC1, London from now until 25 May 2023. For more information, please visit clerkenwelldesignweek.com.
Photography by Sam Frost.