Report: London Design Festival 2012

Uplifting blue skies and sunshine kicked off this year's London Design Festival, here's what I saw.
A novel use for old traffic cones: the striking entrance to the V&A turned out to be part of the Thomas Heatherwick exhibition
One of the ten benches in the V&A courtyard to mark ten years of the London Design Festival. This one (above) is called 'Bench of Plates', by architect Amanda Levete's studio AL_L, and was inspired by the V&A's ceramic collection.
Out of The Woods talk at the V&A
While at the V&A, I attended a talk which posed the timely question: does the world need another chair?  'Out of The Woods: Adventures of 12 Hardwood Chairs' is an interesting collaboration between RCA students (the designers), Benchmark Furniture (the manufacturers) and American Hardwood Export Council (who provided the wood).

The students spent a week down at the Benchmark factory where they produced 12 unique chairs, currently on display at the V&A, with sustainability as a core requirement. Each chair was made using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study which measures the environmental impact of the hardwood from the moment it is chopped down through to the end of its life. So the answer to the question seemed to be: yes, to more chairs, if they are made this way.

I spoke to Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder with Sir Terence Conran of Benchmark, and he said this: "Life Cycle Assessment will be something that ten years from now everyone will talk about. We won't have VAT, we'll have Life Cycle Tax. You won't pay tax on what something costs in money, you'll pay tax on what something costs in real terms”.
Serious global-warming-what-does-the-future-hold-stuff aside... the students' designs were genuinely good.

'Tree Furniture', by RCA student Anton Alvarez is made from a single untreated Cherry wood log to look as if it was carved where it was felled (photo by Petr Krejci)

It was made with just three cuts (photo by Petr Krejci)
Alvarez intended his seat to be something people might chance upon while walking in the woods (photo by Mark O'Flaherty)
'Leftovers Chair', by fellow RCA student Lauren Davies, was inspired by food and cooking, and made from a variety of hardwoods. It has 'smoked' Hickory legs, the seat is 'pickled' in vinegar and Maple spindles 'flavoured' with fruit essences - for a  literal take on a classic Windsor kitchen chair.

Round the corner in the Brompton Design District there was a riot of colour set against black walls at quirky upholsterers Squint

Over at Designjunction held in a huge former sorting office on New Oxford Street, W1 there was some highly original re-use and recycling going on with this very fine anchor, the bulbs are made of glass door handles, by Solid ID
The three-floor warehouse space was the ideal backdrop for a design show. Fifty vintage Chair 69s by Alvar Aalto (rescued from a building in Finland) in use and for sale at the 2nd Cycle Cafe by Artek.
This one's for charity: Joy of Living Part 2 (as previously featured on this blog) is this year raising money for Maggie's Centres with customised furniture donated by designers.
Other interesting stands at Designjunction included: elegant furniture at Another Country and Bethan Gray both available at new shopping site FAO, interiors at Nordic Elements, old school cooking at Falcon Enamelware, posters at Outline Editions and random ephemera at Theo.