LDF19: Biodesign Here Now at Open Cell

open cell




After my recent visit to the biotech hub Open Cell at the Shepherds Bush Market, I was keen to learn more about biodesign and its future. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long because at the London Design Festival this year, Open Cell organised an event called Biodesign Here Now at its premise over one weekend.

The event showcased over 30 emerging international designers and startups with innovative ideas that are breaking boundaries between biology, design, and technology. Although I missed the fashion show on the opening night, I did manage to visit the exhibition and listen to some designers talk about their projects.


bio design now


Yggdrasil – an architecture collective of PhD researchers from Newcastle University specialising in living technologies for the future. Our mission is to challenge conventional methods of construction by proposing an ecocentric alternative. We believe that the buildings of the future should be living, breathing and inclusive of nature.


Paula Nerlich

Paula Nerlich – her current research explores vegan biodegradable bioplastics and foams from industrial and household food waste with diverse possible applications within interiors and product design.

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic

Nina Jotanovic (in collaboration with Bartlett School of Architecture) – ‘Biogenic Luminosity’  is a research project that questions ‘flat’ appearance and unsustainability of synthetic materials in comparison to those of biogenic and geologic origin.


Mohammad Jawad

Mohammad Jawad

Mohammad Jawad – Manufactured by Nature: Growing Generatively Designed Products


Post Carbon Lab

Post Carbon LabPost Carbon Lab

Post Carbon Lab – a design research studio launched their service pilots of two pioneering microbiological processes for sustainable and regenerative fashion applications: Bacterial Pigment Dyeing and Photosynthesis Coating on fabrics and garments.


Studio Aurelie Fontan  Studio Aurelie Fontan

Aurelie Fontan is a sustainable fashion designer, with a focus on bio-design and circular economy (including zero-waste production methods in texture making and cutting). Her collection includes a bio-designed dress from bacteria, recycled materials and four fully recycled leather outfits, none of them being sewn together but rather linked through innovative re-usable elements that allow complete disassembly and recycling.

Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

BIO DESIGN  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture  Piero D'Angelo's Wetwear Couture

Piero D’Angelo’s Wetwear Couture uses Physarum Polycephalum/slime mould to create fascinating fashion pieces



Nicole Stjernswärd KAIKU Living Color

Nicole Stjernswärd KAIKU Living Color

Nicole Stjernswärd – KAIKU Living Color is a sustainable alternative to colours made from petroleum. KAIKU uses plant waste to create natural powder pigments. Many plants & fruits we eat every day, such as avocados, onions, and oranges, have valuable colors within their skins and peels. Normally these are left to rot in landfills, but KAIKU transforms this waste into a high value resource.


img_2253  img_2251


Nikoletta Karastathi & Zafer Tandogdu’s ‘Awareness of the Microbial World’ explores antimicrobial resistance and the human-microbe relationship as key concepts for creating bio-textile.


Carolyn Raff

Carolyn Raff uses Agar Agar, an algae based gelatin substitute for many different experiments as a new kind of bioplastic. The complete biodegradable material can be created in many different shades, looks and structures. It is dyed with natural dye, mainly with algae based colours, such as astaxanthin and phycocyanin.


Mira Nameth Biophilica

Mira Nameth Biophilica  Chiara Tommencioni Pisapia - 'Made by moths'

Top & bottom left: Mira Nameth – ‘Biophilica’ is the result of a year long material development, working with plant-based resources. Biophilica materials are truly local, biodegradable, and recyclable.
Bottom right: Chiara Tommencioni Pisapia – ‘Made by moths’ is a project that investigates the potential of clothes moths and their digestive enzymes as collaborators in selecting and breaking down keratin-based textile-waste.


Silvio Tinello - 'Grown Objects'
Silvio Tinello – ‘Grown Objects’ is a collection where all the producrs have been bio-fabricated. This means, grown and harvested using biological processes. Grown in two predominant materials: A fungi bio agglomerate and bacterial cellulose, both grown in yerba mate: part of the “argentine cultural DNA’.

Lindsay Hanson, Margot Vaaerpass and Zaki Musa Resistance Runner  Wearable Lab on Body

Left: Lah Studio – ‘The Resistance Runner’ is a bio-formulated shoe that utilizes cloned bacteriocins and micrococcus in a nutrient broth cocktail; essentially harnessing the bacteria’s own defense system as a protective layer. 

Right: MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group creates ‘Wearable Lab on Body’ wearable systems and interfaces for cognitive enhancement.

Valentina Dipietro Mychrome

Valentina Dipietro – ‘Mychrome’ is a project that explores the possibility of mycelium and its surface applications. Mycelium is the vegetative part of mushrooms and it has been used to bind agricultural waste and create new sustainable materials which are naturally fire retardant, insulating and sound-absorbing. Dipietro likes to focus on designing with waste as well as using it as a pigment to dye and finish her materials.

Midushi Kochhar A waste project

Midushi Kochhar – ‘A waste project’ is made from by-products of poultry industry, namely, eggshells and feathers. The aim is to create alternatives for plastic disposables and encourage sustainable living. All the objects are 100% biodegradable and once their purpose is over, they can literally be crushed and thrown away in the compost.


Pat Pataranutaporn wearable lab on body

Pat Pataranutaporn from MIT gave a talk on the future of ‘Wearable Lab on Body’




Denimaize gave a talk on denim made from corn husk


The last talk of the day was by Denimaize, a studio from the University of Pennsylvania, which includes bio-designers, artists and engineers. They use wasted and diseased corn husks and process them to extract their cellulose fibers. The corn fibers are spun with flax and woven in a twill pattern. The fabric is then coloured with microbial dye and relaxed with cellulase enzymes. Denimaize is a response to the dominance of the corn crop in the U.S. and the waste it generates, as well as the pollution in the denim industry. Denimaize is proposing a biological (albeit corny) alternative to the old way of denim processing.

The weekend event was interesting and inspiring, and it is very encouraging to see so many designers, startups and innovators coming up with sustainable solutions to address the issues our planet is facing right now. Sustainability is not a trend, it has to be here to stay for the sake of our future.



London Design Fair & Shoreditch Design Triangle

 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge


Please Be Seated is a large-scale installation designed by Paul Cocksedge, and it is made from more than 1,000 scaffolding planks. Cocksedge collaborated with Essex-based high-end interiors company White & White to re-imagine and re-use the building wood. The curvy seating encouraged passerby to sit and relax with their books or lap tops, which subsequently turned the square into an interactive and social space.


 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge

 Please Be Seated Paul Cocksedge


At the annual London Design Fair in the Old Truman Brewery, the main focus was on craftsmanship and sustainability (a big trend at the festival this year).


london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19


One of the surprises was to see United Arab Emirates showing for the first time at the fair. Curated by the Irthi Contemporary Arts Council and the NAMA Woman Advancement Establishment, the pavilion featured 12 works made by UAE women using a range of traditional crafting techniques and local resources. Designed to reflect the nature and landscape of the UAE, elements such as wood and camel leather are featured in the works.


london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

Contemporary craft work by UAE women curated by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council


This year’s Material of the Year was all about biomaterials – another hot topic in the design world today. Developed from the by-products of the agricultural industries, biomaterials are innovative materials that are created mostly from food and industrial waste. One of the most intriguing materials is Totomoxtle, a new veneer material made with husks of heirloom Mexican corn designed by Mexican designer Fernando Laposse. Meanwhile, Italian design firm High Society has created plant-based lighting from the post-industrial waste including hemp, tobacco and residue leftover from wine production.


Fernando Laposse's Totomoxtle

london deisgn fair 19  Palmleather Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

Top: Fernando Laposse’s Totomoxtle; bottom left: High Society’s Highlight; Bottom right: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven‘s leather-like material and products made from palm leaves.


london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19  london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19


london deisgn fair 19

london deisgn fair 19



In the nearby Shoreditch, I stumbled upon a pop-up shop showcasing a new brand that also uses industrial non hazardous waste as the main elements of design. Cancelled plans is created by Indian designer Mallika Reddy, who has been collecting rejected materials from local factories and combined them with conventional materials to create a range of fashion accessories. The range will be available for purchase on the website at the end of the year.






Cancelled plans’ pop up shop






London design festival: Kings Cross design district


coaldropsyard  coaldropsyard

Coal Drops Yard


This year, the ever-changing Kings Cross was chosen as the design district for the first time at the London design festival. Aside from the annual design trade show, DesignJunction, there were many exhibitions and activities taking place during the festival.

I received a trade preview invitation to visit Designjunction, so I set off earlier to see what was happening in the area. The initial installations I encountered were two giant wooden sculptures that resembled robots. Designed by Steuart Padwick, the “Talk to me” installations were designed to ‘converse’ with passerby, as part of Designjunction in support of the charity Time to Change to encourage Londoners to talk about mental health.


img_1841-min  img_1842-min

‘Talk to me’ installations


img_1844-min  img_1845-min

Camille Walala’s installations


Probably the most ‘bizarre’ installation at the design festival was “Disco Carbonara”, by London-based Italian furniture designer Martino Gamper. Inpspired by the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a Potemkin village, the designer used film sets and scaffolding to create a temporary structure. There was disco music playing inside and a bouncer standing outside stamping visitor’s hands, yet there was nothing inside… it was just a façade.

The fake disco structure was made from a patchwork of cladding created from waste offcuts from an Italian company called Alpi. The conceptual installation aimed to make visitors think about urban design, and the sustainability of temporary structures created for short-term events like the London design festival.


Disco Carbonara by Martino Gamper

Disco Carbonara by Martino Gamper


Tottex and Kiosk N1C 

Textile waste banner installations by Tottex and Kiosk N1C



img_1905  img_1907

STORE Store making meringue


Granby Workshop launched a new range of ceramic tableware made from 100% waste materials. The range has grown out of extensive research by the Liverpool-based ceramics studio gathering, testing and analysing materials from a wide range of post-consumer and industrial waste streams including glass, metal and ceramic recycling, steel production, quarry spoils and water filtration. Collectively, these sources generate hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste per year which otherwise goes to landfill. The range is now available for purchase on Kickstarter.


Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop  Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop

Granby Workshop


tom dixon  tom dixon

tom dixon  tom dixon

TouchySmellyFeelyTastyNoisy at Tom Dixon


PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg Studio

PRINT - Bill Amberg

PRINT – Bill Amberg Studio‘s new ccollection of digitally-printed leather hides are made with collaborators including Marcel Wanders, Calico Wallpaper, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Lisa Miller, Alexandra Champalimaud and artist Matthew Day Jackson.


Out of all the exhibits and events that I saw on the day, ‘Designing in the turbulent times‘ initiated by Maison/0 – the sustainable innovation programme created at Central Saint Martins in partnership with the luxury group LVMH – was by far the most interesting and thought-provoking. The exhibition showcased graduate projects from Central Saint Martins offering compelling propositions for more sustainable and equitable futures. “How can we break away from our current systems and adapt a more sustainable way of living?” is the question that we should all be thinking about, and here, these young designers are trying to address this issue in their work.


designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times  designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times

Maria Cuji

Bottom: Maria Cuji’s worked with artisans from Ecuador tp produce woven textile made from factory offcuts and leftover yarn.


'Weighting feathers' by Jing Jiang

'Weighting feathers' by Jing Jiang

‘Weighting feathers’ by Jing Jiang uses waste feathers from the farming industry to create a jewellery design range


Olivia Page

Olivia Page

Olivia Pages exploration on bio-waste materials and has created a “Recipe Book of North Portugal, Abundant Biological Wastes for Construction Materials”


designing in turbulent timesi  designing in turbulent times

designing in turbulent times

Grayshan Audren‘s ‘Seamless: Woven workwear for the automated future’ addresses the waste issue in the fashion industry; Top right: ‘Wool: Re Crafted’ by Nathalie Spencer is a vegan alternative to wool by utilising the discarded waste leaves of pineapples from markets and juice bars around London and processing the fibres into a wearable material. 


Tansy Hamley  Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley  Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley

Tansy Hamley’s ‘An Indian traffic jam” display of blockprinted and indigo-dyed textiles at Central St Martins reminded me of my textiles trip in Indian earlier in the year.


designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse by LSA & Friends

designjunction: The Greenhouse showcased LSA’s new CANOPY collection, a partnership with the Eden Project alongside a range of products and concepts from brands such as Vitra, String Furniture, Artcoustic, with plants decorated by The Botanical Boys.


The organiser of designjunction changed this year, and the locations of the show were scattered around different parts of Kings Cross. I skipped the Canopy pop-up shops because there were too many activities happening at once! At the main Cubitt House Pavilion, there were less emerging designers and fewer exhibitors than before, which was quite disappointing. I visited my friends from Di Classe, had some drinks and decided to call it a night.


diclasse  di classe


isokon  isokon

Designjunction at Cubitt House Pavilion


The last stop of the night was Designjunction’s Rado Star Prize in the King’s Cross Light Tunnel where they showcased design pieces by the next generation of young British designers. The theme, ‘Re:Imagine’, explored different ways design can improve life: by evolving existing product forms through materials, function, technology, end-use or even, re-use. Surprisingly, this section of the show was more interesting than the main pavilion, so I believe the organiser need to make some changes to improve the show next year.





Top: Judges’ winner 2019 – Huw Evans’s Concertina collection


London design festival & Kengo Kuma at the V & A museum

bamboo ring


Over the past few years, I have been quite disappointed with design industry’s ‘slow response’ in tackling the sustainability issues, and felt the same way when I visited trade shows and exhibitions at the London design festival. Finally, things have changed this year. Sustainability and handmade crafts became the main focus of this year’s festival, and it was conspicuous at the V & A museum, the official hub of the festival.

At the entrance of the festival, visitors had to walk under a massive cube suspended from the ceiling. The ‘Sea Things’ installation, created by Sam Jacob studio, addressed the ocean plastic waste issue that we face today. An animated motion graphic created by Rory Cahill was projected within the cube, which showed the growing numbers of plastic waste alongside with sea creatures. It reflected an infinity that seemec both as wide as the ocean and as large as the challenges we face.


sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob

Sea things by Sam Jacob studio


At the John Madejski Garden, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma worked with Ejiri Structural Engineers and the Kengo Kuma Laboratory at The University of Tokyo, to create a nest or cocoon by weaving rings of bamboo and carbon fibre together. The 2m-diameter ring was made from strips of the bamboo Phyllostachys edulis, and was combined with carbon fibre to achieve a certain rigidity while maintaining the unique material properties and beauty of bamboo. The installation was intended to be a catalyst for weaving people and place together.


bamboo ring kengo kuma

bamboo ring kengo kuma

bamboo ring kengo kuma

Bamboo ring by Kengo Kuma


At the Global Design Forum, Kengo Kuma was invited to give a talk on material explorations. Kengo, who recently designed the £80m V&A Dundee, his first building in the UK, as well as the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, revealed that nature has always been his main source of inspiration. Located on the edge of the River Tay, the V&A Dundee was inspired by the eastern cliff edges of Scotland, and it is partly built on the water to emphasis the connection with nature.

It was interesting to hear him talk about his past projects and the materials he used for them. The world will certainly be focusing on him next year when the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opens. After so much controversy over his timber stadium, I wonder if it will prove the critics wrong.


kengo kuma

kengo kuma

kengo kuma

Kengo Kuma at the Global Design forum


Non-Pavilion by Studio MICAT, There Project and Proud Studio

Non-Pavilion by Studio MICAT, There Project and Proud Studio. The Non-Pavilion is a digital pavilion and it used AR technology to invite visitors to engage with the idea of ‘less’ as enrichment rather than loss.


robin hood gardens

robin hood gardens

The demolition of Robin Hood Gardens –the Brutalist housing estate in Poplar, East London, completed in 1972 by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson– was recorded by London-based Korean artist Do Ho Suh in 2017. His panoramic film used time-lapse photography, drone footage, 3D-scanning and photogrammetry to create a fascinating visual journey.


sacred geometry

sacred geometry

Rony Plesl’s unique glass installation draws inspiration from fire and wood – key components of glass making – and from the idea of Sacred Geometry, a universal language organising all visible and invisible reality according to basic geometrical principles. 


affinity in autonomy  affinity in autonomy

Supported by Sony Design, Affinity in Autonomy is an A.I. installation featuring a pendulus moving in random directions inside a round cage. However, human presence would be detected and the pendulus would respond to visitors’ physical movements outside of the cage.


One of my favourite exhibits at the V & A was the Black Masking Culture inside the Tapestries Gallery – the huge Mardi Gras Indian suits are composed of intricately hand-sewn beadwork created by New Orleans artist, Demond Melancon. The beaded suits illustrate actual and imagined events of the indigenous people in America and enslaved Africans, with imagery rich with symbolism and meaning. The suits blended surprisingly well with the tapastries in the background despite being made centuries apart.


black masking in culture

black masking in culture

black masking in culture

black masking in culture  black masking in culture

Black Masking Culture


blanc de chine

blanc de chine  blanc de chine

blanc de chine

blanc de chine  blanc de chine

blanc de chine

blanc de chine

Blanc de Chine, a Continuous Conversation (ongoing until 2020) showcases historic pieces from the V&A’s Asian and European ceramics collections, as well as a selection of new works by contemporary makers including: Babs Haenen, Lucille Lewin, Liang Wanying, Jeffry Mitchell, Su Xianzhong, and Peter Ting. Retelling the story of porcelain-making in Dehua, the display builds a bridge between the past and the current, tradition and innovation, and breaking the boundary of Chinese and non-Chinese ceramic practices.


sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob

sea things sam jacob  sea things sam jacob

Sea things by Sam Jacob studio showcased eight historic water vessels remade in new sustainable materials such as recycled plastic, sea shells and bioresin etc.




Repair-Making and the Museum – V & A resident maker Bridget Harvey examined repaired and broken objects in the collections, and conservation practices.


bamboo futures

bamboo futures

Bamboo Futures – Bali-based designer Elora Hardy and her team at IBUKU construct sustainable bamboo buildings across the world, with every IBUKU building being devised using a bamboo model. This installation of miniature buildings demonstrates how IBUKU’s model-making is both integral to their creative process and an invaluable tool throughout construction.


Leaders of London’s cultural institutions were invited to collaborate with some of the world’s most prolific designers to create a ‘Legacy’ piece of design – an object of personal or professional relevance to them. The 10 pieces were beautifully crafted in American red oak, a sustainable hardwood species that grows abundantly in American forests, and were fabricated at Benchmark Furniture in Berkshire.


KWAME KWEI-ARMAH OBE Artistic Director, Young Vic, with TOMOKO AZUMI  legacy v & A

legacy v & A

legacy v & A  legacy v & A

legacy v & A

Top left: Kwame Kwei-Arwah, Artistic Director of Young Vic, with Tomoko Azumi; Top right: Hans Ulrich-Obrist, Artistic Director of Serpentine Galleries, with Studiomama; 2nd row: Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of Science Museum Group, with Marlene Huissoud; 3rd row: Dr Maria Balshaw CBE, Director of Tate, with Max Lamb; Last row: Alex Beard, Chief Executive of Royal Opera House, with Terence Woodgate






The Ingenious Mr Leman: Designing Spitalfields Silks (on display until October) showcases James Leman’s silk textiles from the early 18th century. 

staging places

staging places

staging places

Staging Places: UK Design for Performance (ongoing until 2020)






Pioneered by the V&A Research Institute (VARI) and Design Thinker in Residence, Ella Britton, this experimental school inside the V&A will collectively create a design curriculum for the 21st century. The School is about exploring what a design education could be. And who it should be for. 


London design festival 2017 at the V & A museum

london design festival 2017


After visiting Paris design week, I came back to London just in time for the London design festival. The scale of the festival is much bigger than the Paris one, which makes it harder to cover, hence I decided to focus on the main venue and the trade fairs.

My first stop was the V & A museum, where visitors were given maps to navigate through the maze-like space and hunt for various design installations by the hottest designers working in the industry today.


Patkau Architects Ice-Skating Shelters

Patkau Architects’ plywood “Ice-Skating Shelters” in the courtyard


One of the most striking installations is Rachel Kneebone‘s five-metre-high “399 Days” porcelain sculpture. The monumental sculpture does not look out of place among the masterpieces in the V&A’s sculpture court, and it will be on display until January 2018.


Rachel Kneebone  Exhale' Bionic Chchandelier by Julian Melchiorri

Rachel Kneebone

Top left & bottom: Rachel Kneebone’s “399 Days” sculpture; Top right: Julian Melchiorri’s “Exhale” Bionic Chandelier


At the side entrance of the museum hangs a less conspicuous but fascinating installation: “Exhale” Bionic Chandelier by design engineer and entrepreneur and CEO of Arborea, Julian Melchiorri. I encountered the designer’s highly-innovative bionic leaves a few years ago; and here, he has used the bionic-leaf technologies to create the world’s first living and breathing chandelier, designed to purify the air and remove air pollutants. In my view, this is what design innovation is about, and I strongly believe that the industry needs more collaborations between designers and engineers in order to create advanced products that would make our world a better place.


'While We Wait' by Elias and Yousef Anastas  'While We Wait' by Elias and Yousef Anastas

“While We Wait” by Elias and Yousef Anastas


Another towering structure is a meditative installation While We Wait” created by Bethlehem-based architects Elias and Yousef Anastas. It is made of over 500 modules of stone from different regions of Palestine, fading upwards in colour from earthy red to pale limestone. The architects have been using local stones and working directly with factories and artisans in Palestine to optimise energy consumption and create a more sustainable way in contemporary architecture.


‘Reflection Room’ by Flynn Talbot  ‘Reflection Room’ by Flynn Talbot

An immersive coloured light experience by lighting designer Flynn Talbot in the “Reflection Room”


'Transmission' by Ross Lovegrove

Ross Lovegrove‘s 21.3 meters long fluid sculpture of folded material “Transmission” in the tapestry room


'High Tide for Carmen'

'High Tide for Carmen'

'High Tide for Carmen'

“High Tide for Carmen” installation reveals the design process of the opera. Stage design by Es Devlin and video design by Luke Halls.


'Evocations' by Petr Stanický

'Evocations' by Petr Stanický

Two intriguing sculptures “Evocations” by Czech glassmaker Petr Stanický


On the top floor of the museum, I was captivated by Lubna Chowdhary‘s “Metropolis”, a multi-object work of over 1000 handmade miniature clay sculptures. The installation charts the material culture of our urban environment, reflecting the complexity of the man-made world and human production. The work was shortlisted for the Jerwood Ceramics Prize in 2001 and Lubna has continued to build on it over time, adding new objects to the original installation. It is truly wonderful.


'Metropolis' by Lubna Chowdhary,  'Metropolis' by Lubna Chowdhary,

‘Metropolis’ by Lubna Chowdhary


chair bench by Gitta Gschwendtner

Gitta Gschwendtner‘s cool “Chair bench”


Contemporary Korean Ceramics

Contemporary Korean Ceramicsdsc_0410-min

Contemporary Korean Ceramics exhibition


I also enjoyed seeing the work of 15 emerging and established artists from Korea at the Contemporary Korean Ceramics exhibition. The different styles and techniques employed by the artists reveal a diverse and enthralling Korean contemporary ceramic scene today.


plywood exhibition

plywood exhibition

“Plywood: Material of the Modern World” exhibition


In conjunction with the festival is the free exhibition, “Plywood: Material of the Modern World”, which focuses on the flexible material that has been widely used in the modern age. The exhibition will end on 12th November.


Maison et objet (autumn 17)

maison et objet

Hall 6 at Maison et objet


The term ‘enochlophobia’ means fear of crowds, a phobia that I suspect I have – mildly. Although I don’t experience blackouts or panic attacks in crowded places, I do feel overwhelmed, as if my energy is being sucked out of me, and I often feel exhausted afterwards.

This can be a problem when I visit business-related trade fairs, hence I rarely spend more than a few hours at a trade fair (or even art fairs). However, once in a while, I have to conquer my fears and plunge into it. It took me some time to decide whether I should spend €60 on a ticket to Paris’ mega design trade fair, Maison et objet, particularly when most trade fairs in the world are free of charge. Perhaps the reason why they could charge so much is because of its reputation and history (it is 22 years old); and it attracts luxury and well-respected brands, independent names, as well as up-and-coming designers from around the world. If you want to know the trends of interior, furniture and products and what is happening in the design world right now, then this fair is most likely to provide some ideas. With over 3000 brands exhibiting at Paris Nord Villepinte (about 45 mins outside of Paris) for 5 days, it would be wise to do some preparations before the visit.


maison et objet

maison et objet  maison et objet

maison et objet

maison et objet


My strategy was to spend a day there focusing on 2-3 halls only (there are 8 in total), because it would impossible to see everything in a day. But soon after I arrived via the entrance of Hall 6 (the largest hall), I was lost, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the sheer scale of the venue was staggering. The layout of this hall was like a vast maze and it wasn’t easy to navigate at all. Luckily, Hall 7 (Now! Design a Vivre) was more spacious and it gave me some breathing space. Six hours later, I only managed to cover 2.5 halls, but it was sufficient for me already.


vitra eames  marimekko


Flensted Mobiles

Top left: The classic Eames Elephant at Vitra; Top right and 2nd row: new collection by Marimekko; Botton row: Flensted Mobiles


But was it worth all the fuss and sweat? Yes, I suppose. Since most of the trade fairs in London focus mostly on British brands and businesses, M & O provides a more global perspective of the design world outside of the U.K. There are many interesting brands that I have never heard of before, and many of them are based in Asia too.

Here is an overview of some of the brands/products that I encountered during the 6 hours at the fair including many Asian participants:



Gmund papermakers and stationery (Germany)


papier machine

Papier Machine (France) is a booklet gathering a family of 13 paper-made electronic toys ready to be cut, colored, folded, assembled or torn.



Samesame recycled glass products (Germany)



Storytiles from the Netherlands


Animal theme



elephant table and chairs element optimal

peacock at Element Optimal  Zoo collection at Element Optimal

Top and 2nd rows: super cute cuddly toy chairs at AP Collection from Belgium; 3rd row: elephant table and chairs; Bottom left: Peacock; Bottom right: Zoo collection at Element Optimal from Denmark



wonders of weaving

luce couillet

dsc_0063-min  img_4998-min

Top row: Wonders of weaving (Indonesia); 2nd row: Luce Couillet textiles (France); Bottom: origami textiles at the Material lab



In the last few years, Japanese art/digital collective teamlab has created some fascinating immersive installations around the world. After their popular installations at Pace London earlier this year, they have teamed up with tea master Shunichi Matsuo to promote his new brand, En tea, a new tea grown in Hizen.

Visitors were led into a dark room, where they would sit at the table and be given a bowl of green tea. Then virtual flowers would appear when tea is poured in the bowl; the visuals are rendered in real time by a computer program and are not prerecorded. Petals and leaves would scatter and spread as you move your bowl. It was a fun experience, and a nice way to rehydrate and enjoy a bit of downtime away from the hustle and bustle outside.


Espace en tea X Teamlab  Espace en tea X Teamlab

more trees

Top row: flowers blossom in the tea bowl: Bottom row: En tea & More trees space outside of the installation



Misoka – an award-winning toothbrush that requires no toothpaste



The quirkiest lamps ever… Pampshade is made from real bread by bread lover/artist, Yukiko Morita. I have ever seen anything like this before!


washi paper


Osaka design centre – Washi paper and K-ino Inomata


draw a line  suzusan

suzusan  suzuzan

Top left: Draw a line tension rod by Heian Shindo and TENT; Suzusan shibori textiles and lighting




lee hyemi


small good things  kim hyun joo

Top row: Ceramic products at I.Cera; 2nd row: Lee Hyemi; 3rd row: Korean craft & design foundation; Bottom left: Small good things; Bottom right: Kim Hyun Joo studio



A notable presence from Taiwan at the fair, aside from the Taiwan crafts & design stand, there were other independent brands like Haoshi, Toast, EY products, new brand called Melting, and the 2017 Rising Asian Talents: Kamaro’an.


taiwan craft design






1st row: Taiwan crafts & design; 2nd row: Haoshi; 3rd row: Kamaro’an; 4th row: Toast; 5th row: Melting; bottom row: EY products



Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) also showcased TALENT THAI, which introduced various Thai lifestyle/design brands to an international audience. Thai design studio, Atelier 2+ was also selected one of the 2017 Rising Asian Talents.


zen forum  saprang

atelier 2+ Greenhouse MinI

salt and pepper studio  img_4968-min

1st left: Zen Forum; 1st right: Handmade jewellery by Saprang;  2nd row: Greenhouse Mini by Atelier 2+; Bottom left: woven chair by Salt and Pepper design studio; Bottom right: wooden panels by Deesawat




The stand of Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA was named Designer of the year Asia 2017


Hong Kong


2017 Rising Asian talent: Lim + Lu Studio




Paris Design Week 17: Now! Le Off

now! le off

now! le off


I have to admit that I have not been keeping up with my blog writing this year, and there is a backlog of unfinished posts that are yet to be published; hence my new tactic is to reduce the amount of writing so that I can keep up to date with what is currently happening.

September is a busy month for designers, retailers and wholesalers as there are many design-related events and trade shows in both London and Paris. Although it is not my first visit to mega home and design trade show Maison et Objet, it is my first visit to Paris design week. Now in its 7th year, this design event might not be as prodigious as the London Design festival (which will start next week), yet it is still a good opportunity to see the current trends and offerings in the French capital city.


Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design  Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design


For those who don’t want to splash out €60 to visit Maison et Objet, Now! Le off design show (9th-13th Sept) at Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design is a good alternative as it is free and opened to the public. Here, you would find many up and coming young talents from France and beyond, and it offers an opportunity to meet the designers up face to face.




One pleasant surprise for me at the show was to see an inflatable and portable boat ‘Ar Vag‘ designed by French designer Thibaut Penven. The economical folding boat may be set up in five movements in a manner similar to a tent. It is made of panels of fibre glass and a welded PVC material, and it assumes its final shape thanks to a varnished pine bench. The oars are perfectly integrated into the folded boat’s format.


Ar Vag by thibault penven

Ar Vag by Thibaut Penven


Since I love origami, I was immediately drawn to an origami tent Les cocons designed by Origanid. This foldable and waterproof tent is made of TYVEK®, and it is a lovely way for children or adults to hide away from the world if they need to. I would love to hide inside when I am feeling blue sometimes!





I walked past a table full of playful ‘stuff’ which was surrounded by intrigued visitors, so I tried to squeeze near the table to figure out what these items were. It turned out that the interesting items on the table are designed by Flayou, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Tunis. The two former architecture students experimented with different materials to create miniature architectural models based on buildings in Tunis; they also adopted the traditional pottery-making craft to create three board games made from clay. I think their designs are intuitive, fun and delightful.



Playful designs focusing on materials and craftsmanship by Tunis-based Flayou


Du cote de chez vous‘, the creative label of Leroy Merlin, is showcasing 4 winning projects from its Young talents scheme at the show. These projects were created with the theme based on reinventing modularity in homes. I especially like Antoine Taillandier‘s ‘Plug and make’ organiser, which is a simple but highly functional plywood board that can be used as a table or shelf.

Nearby, Ecole Bleue Global Design showcases 13 projects designed by their design students. Key, designed by Yohann Hewak, is a bookshelf that requires no nails or screws; for those of us who constantly struggle to assemble an Ikea bookshelf, this bookshelf would no doubt save the day.


Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron  Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias

plug and make [organizer]

plug and make [organizer]  Liku by Juliette Chalumeau

key by Yohann Hewak

 Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere

Top left: Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron; Top right: Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias; 2nd row & 3rd left: Antoine Taillandier’s plug and make; 3rd right: Liku by Juliette Chalumeau; 4th row: key by Yohann Hewak; Bottom row: Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere



draft   atelier errance

Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici

Top: Design Lituanie showcases designs by Lithuanian designers; Left: Ripple table by Draft; Right: Plipli porcelain inspired from paper folding by Atelier Errance; Bottom: Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici


LAYERS by uau project

chaire idis  img_4834-min

Top: LAYERS by UAU project; Bottom left: Chaire Idis; Bottom right: An upcycled woven chair made from plastic waster by the Filipino company, junk not




Bottom row: Murmur lighting by Mona Ronteix Studio






2nd row: Maztri

Brixton Design Trail

 We Stand As Living Monuments

 We Stand As Living Monuments   We Stand As Living Monuments

‘We Stand As Living Monuments’ by 2MZ at Black Cultural Archives


My last stop at the London design festival was Brixton – a new addition to this year design district. Under the theme ‘Rebel Rebel’, Brixton Design Trail featured a series of installations, exhibitions and events throughout the town centre by resident artists, designers and creative organisations.

At the Black Cultural Archives’ courtyard, an interactive installation, ‘We Stand As Living Monuments’ was created by Brixton design studio 2MZ. The graphic patterned and mirrored cubes created an optical illusion of greater depth and allowed visitors to become the subject of the piece.


Rebel Space Resolve

Rebel Space Resolve

Rebel Space


Nearby in the garden of the St Matthew’s Church, a temporary structure, Rebel Space was used to host a series of workshops, exhibitions and events exploring the themes of space, radical politics and social movements.


Flash Crossings

flash crossing  rebel rebel

Top & bottom left: Flash crossings by Eley Kishimoto with Dolman Bowles; Bottom right: ‘Windows of Brixton’ project created by Hustlebucks, a local youth social enterprise


The colourful and playful Flash crossings were created Eley Kishimoto with Dolman Bowles at a prominent local junction with heavy traffic. Eley Kishimoto’s eye-catching iconic Flash patterns aimed to slow foot and wheeled traffic, and made them aware of other road users and improve safety at the busy junction. Perhaps TFL could consider replacing the standard zebra crossings with these or other fun patterns all over London one day?


brixton revival map

brixton revival

diverse store  diverse store

Brixton revival map, collection and other products at the Diverse gift shop


A Pop-Up Tourist Centre was installed at the Diverse gift shop, featuring a range of memorabilia and souvenir merchandise. Local celebrated artists – Alvin Kofi of Kofi Arts and Terry Humphrey of Trunkstore also launched their design collaboration, Revival, a series of products and stationery celebrating Black presence in Brixton.

I spoke to Terry who was DJing at the shop, and we both reminisced about Brixton before the gentrification. Terry explained that their collection was created to pay homage to the culture, diversity and creativity of Brixton.


Brixton Village   Brixton Village

Brixton Village

img_8357-min  p1170550-min


Brixton Village 


My last stop in Brixton was Pop Brixton, a temporary shipping container village that opened last year. Supported by local activists, a developer and an architect, and with backing from Lambeth Council, the idea of the project was to turn a disused space into a thriving destination for independent retailers, restaurants, street food startups and social enterprises.

The ‘village’ was packed with hipsters when I was there, and I couldn’t help but think that the vibe was more ‘Shoreditch’ or ‘Dalston’ or ‘Peckham’ than Brixton. There was a clear contrast between the people hanging inside and outside of this ‘village’. Suddenly, I saw a white middle-class village in the middle of a former black working class area, and it somehow didn’t feel quite right.


design unboxed pop brixton

  design unboxed brixton

We Can Be Heroes

pop brixton  pop brixton

Design Unboxed at Pop Brixton – 3rd row: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ origami paper cranes installation


After spending almost more than 1/2 a day in Brixton, I felt quite sad that the area has become almost unrecognisable. The changes that took place in the past 10 years had been staggering. Even though I like Brixton village and I am glad that many of the food stores under the railway arch have survived… but for how long, I wonder?

My next entry will continue to explore the gentrification of Brixton…


Brixtopia Brixton Pound

Posters for the Brixtopia event


The London Design Biennale 2016

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's installation 'Forecast'

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s installation ‘Forecast’ by U.K.


The inaugural London Design Biennale which coincided with The London Design Festival took place at Somerset House (7 – 27 September) with over 30 countries and territories participating. Curated by the leading museums and design organisations in the world, the newly commissioned installations explored the theme ‘Utopia by design’, inspired by Thomas More’s famous book/texts, and marking the 500th anniversary of its publication.


Helidon Xhixha's Bliss   image1

Left: Helidon Xhixha’s ‘Bliss’ by Albania, which won the Public medal


A few weeks before the opening, I was invited to attend the Eatopia food tasting and performance hosted by the Taiwan Pavilion, yet regrettably, due to my trip to the US, I was unable to attend the event.

Admittedly, I was quite skeptical about another design event during the design festival initially, but I was curious at the same time. Eventually, my curiosity prevailed over my skepticism, and I spent an afternoon wandering around the vast exhibition area – almost the entire building – and pondering over the meaning of ‘utopia’ in design today.


UN/BIASED BY Marta de Menezes, Pedro Miguel Cruz  water machine by Basma Bouzo, Noura Bouzo   Design Diorama: The Archive as a Utopic Environment


Top left: ‘UN/BIASED’ by Portugal; Top middle: ‘Water machine’ by Saudi Arabia; Top right: ‘Design Diorama: The Archive as a Utopic Environment’ by The Netherlands; Bottom: Freedome by Indonesia


Although the show exceeded my expectations, I was relatively disappointed by some exhibitors’ lack of endeavour and their tenuous link with the theme. For me, the weakest pavilions were U.K. ( there was no pavilion – only an outdoor ‘art’ installation), U.S.A., Sweden, Australia, and Korea; while my favourites were Russia, Turkey, Japan, and France.


Top & 2nd row left: Autoban’s ‘The wish machine’ by Turkey; Top, 2nd row right & bottom: Yasuhiro Suzuki’s ‘A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe’ by Japan


Designed by Istanbul-based multi-disciplinary practice Autoban, ‘The Wish Machine’ is a fun contemporary version of the ‘wish tree’. Messages written on note paper sealed in capsules are fed into the machine and then carried through a tunnel of transparent pneumatic tubes and around the West Wing of Somerset House, before being deposited into the unknown. Concept aside, the transparent machine itself is a fascinating design, and it certainly created some buzz when it was at work.

Japanese designer, Yasuhiro Suzukis ‘A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe’ consisted of designs, videos, animations and drawings inspired by everyday objects like zipper, apple and spoons. The designer’s aim was to encourage visitors to look and question the way we view the world around us and perceive everyday life.

Benjamin Loyauté’s moving documentary film, ‘The Astounding Eyes of Syria’ addresses the refugee crisis, which is an ongoing issue that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. The designer also created a vending machine dispersing pink candy sweets with proceeds from each pack going to help displaced Syrian families.


Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design

Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design  Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design

Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design

swiss pavilion London design biennale

First 3 rows: ‘Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design’ by Russia, which won the Utopia medal; Bottom row: ‘In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral’ by Switzerland, which won the Jaguar Innovation Medal


The show’s well-deserved Utopia medal winner was Russia’s ‘Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design’. The rediscovered archive, told the story of the forgotten projects created at the All-Union Soviet Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) and Soviet Design Studios (SHKB) between the 1960s and 1980s. The ‘utopian’ visions of the future imagined by designers in the Soviet Union were never realised, but some are still inspirational even in today’s standard.


mischer'traxler studio Level

VRPolis, Diving into the Future  'Daalaan' by Pakistan

'Daalaan' by Pakistan

EUtopia  'Pulse Diagram' by Tunisia

Top row: Mischer’traxler’s ‘Level’ by Austria; 2nd left: ‘VRPolis, Diving into the Future’ by Spain; 2nd right & 3rd row: ‘Daalaan’ by Pakistan; Bottom left: Benoît van Innis’ ‘EUtopia’ by Belgium; Bottom right: ‘Pulse Diagram’ by Tunisia


Top row: Porky Hefer’s ‘Otium and Acedia’ by South Africa; ‘White flag’ by Italy; 2nd left: ‘Eatopia’ by Taiwan; 2nd right: ‘Cadavre Exquis: an Anatomy of Utopia’ by Poland; Bottom: Fernando Romero’s ‘Border City’ by Mexico


Shenzhen: New Peak

Shenzhen: New Peak

Sumant Jayakrishnan's 'Chakraview'

Sumant Jayakrishnan's 'Chakraview'

Top 2 rows: URBANUS’ ‘Shenzhen: New Peak’ by China; Bottom 2 rows: Sumant Jayakrishnan’s ‘Chakraview’ by India


The main issue with this show was inconsistency, due to some exhibitors’ insubstantial effort and uninspiring answer to the brief. The show also made me question the blurry line between art and design today… clearly some installations should have been classified as art rather than design, so why were they submitted and presented in a design show? Although there were some interesting and thought-provoking work, the show’s overall curation was rather slacked, and this was a let-down for me.


Mezzing In Lebanon

Mezzing In Lebanon

‘Mezzing In Lebanon’ by Lebanon, which won the London Design Biennale Medal


London Design Fair 2016

Rive Roshan at the design fair 2016

Installation by Rive Roshan using Kvadrat Divina


This year, Tent London & Super Brands London celebrated its 10th anniversary and was rebranded as London Design Fair. The fair at the Old Truman brewery hosted over 500 exhibitors from 29 countries, making it the most international fair of the Festival. Exhibitors include independent designers, established brands, and international country pavilions, such as 100% Norway, Portugal, China, Sweden, India and Italy.

I felt that the overall standard of this year’s fair was high. There was a strong emphasis on handmade crafts and designs using mostly natural and organic materials. The pavilions that caught my attention were Inspiring Portugal, China academy of art and Scotland: Craft and design.


ceramics made at Cerdeira village  serip

Gencork  Kit Miles and Moooi Carpets   Corvasce Design

Top left: Ceramic crafts made at the Cerdeira artist village; Top right: Lighting by Serip; Bottom left: Gencork and BlackCork by Sofalca; Bottom middle: Kit Miles and Moooi Carpets; Bottom right: Cardboard chairs by Corvasce Design


I am a big fan of Portugal or anything Portuguese, and so I was particularly intrigued by Portuguese designs. Cork is one of Portugal’s most popular raw materials, and it is often featured in the creation of local crafts and designs. Aside from cork, a range of beautiful crafts were on display to show the craftsmanship from the Cerdeira artist village.


leonora richardsonmamoutzis

Forest and Found

Wooden & woven spoons  img_8227-min  yuta segawa

Jie Yang

img_8259-min   Liang Liu

Top left: Leonora Richardson‘s ceramic cylinder cells; Top right: Ceramic lighting by Mamoutzis; 2nd row: Handmade wooden objects and textiles by Forest and Found; 3rd left: spoons by Wooden & woven; 3rd right: Yuta Segawa‘s miniature vases; 4th row: Ceramic designs by Jie Yang; Bottom right: Ceramic designs by I Liang Liu


Fung and Bedford

img_8251-min  calendar by An everything  caroline mcneill-moss

glass marbles by kosmosphaera

Top: Fung & Bedford‘s origami installations; 2nd middle: Paper calendar by An everything; 2nd right: Brass sculptures by Caroline Mcneill-Moss; Bottom: Giant glass marbles by Kosmosphaera




naomi mcintosh  julia smith ceramics  img_8271-min


Scotland: Craft & design pavilion – 3rd left: Naomi Mcintosh; 3rd middle: Julia Smith ceramics; 3rd right: Lizzie Farey; Bottom row: Utopian surface tiles and condiment Set by Jennifer Gray


I thought the most impressive pavilion at the fair was the Scotland one. The Scottish designers and makers’ work demonstrated their ability to combine traditional skills with new digital technology to create outstanding pieces of craft.


img_8276-min  img_8243-min


feelex by Gong Qiaolin/ Qiu Kushan/ Wang Weijia  img_8246-min

Design east exhibition – Top left: Relation textile by Lang Qing & Tea ware by Wu Peiping/ Gu Rong/ Chen Jun; Top right: Blue by Li Jie; 2nd row: Black T by Hu Ke; Bottom left: Feelex by Gong Qiaolin/ Qiu Kushan/ Wang Weijia; Bottom right: Meditation seat ware by Gao Fenglin/Nanoin design studio


Another pleasant surprise was the Design East exhibition that featured a range of impressive work by designers and craftsmen from China. The exhibition challenged our perception of Chinese-made designs, and revealed a changing design landscape that is taking place in China today.



img_8279-min  img_8289-min


img_8284-min  img_8285-min  cobalt design

2nd right: This is India exhibition; Bottom middle: Claymen; Bottom right: Jerry can water flask by Cobalt design


Out of all the trade fairs at the design festival, I enjoyed this show much more than others. I think sometimes emerging designers and craftsmen are more daring in their creation, probably because commerciality is not their high on their priorities. Designers and craftsmen have to follow their intuitions rather trends, and it is always encouraging to see people following their hearts than their minds.