Seventh Heaven

With Clerkenwell Design Week having recently appeared on our streets for the seventh time, we pick out ‘seven wonders’ from this year’s show.

The near-god of a designer showed that working in a church doesn’t mean you have to be a member of the clergy – for Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW), he transformed St James’s on Clerkenwell Green into a hip co-working space and café. With permission from vicar Andrew Baughen and following on from his fitting out of the co-working space Atrium in Camden, Dixon added his modern tables, chairs and lights to the historic building – plus plenty of wifi and refreshments.

A treat for regulars and newcomers alike was that there was even more to see and do this year – the event was the biggest yet. Its eight exhibition venues spread right up from Fabric nightclub to Spa Fields park in a sinewy trail through Clerkenwell. For the first time, a navigation masterplan, created by local architects OMMX, helped the 35,000 visitors find their way, as did four special “billboards” of shimmering glass tiles by Giles Miller. Those tired out from their exploratory exertions could rest up in St James’s Church gardens, on loungers made from recycled milk cartons.

Every year, dozens of the many showrooms in the area take part in CDW, opening their doors, creating special exhibitions and hosting a variety of workshops, talks and parties. This time, the Brewhouse Yard area became the main focus for this part of the festival, and had a temporary, purple-themed makeover from its two resident architect practices, BDP and Studio Egret West (SEW). There was a pop-up café and workspace, and a programme of events. SEW installed in its own offices a carpet of fresh purple flowers – purple is said to be the colour of creativity.

Certainly among Clerkenwell residents, CDW will be particularly known for its “CDW Presents” programme – its series of original, sometimes wacky, street installations dotted around the area. This year, Flea Folly Architects conjured up a 4.5m high folly of its own, directly beneath St John’s Gate. It was a simple, church-like structure that echoed the monastic history of its surroundings, created from horizontally stacked timbers that didn’t look too unlike a grown-up version of Stickle Bricks. A shrine to design, one could say.

Inspiration is the name of the game at CDW, and this year the event launched two initiatives encouraging students into creative careers. The airy, wooden “Future of Design” pavilion in St James’s Church gardens, CDW’s first education project, was created by GCSE students over a two-day workshop. Meanwhile, 12 students were given the chance to have work experience in EC1 showrooms during the festival, thanks to the “[email protected]” enterprise.

Anything for the chance to whittle, hammer and chisel, eh? We all love making things, and there were plenty of opportunities for doing that. Right in the centre of St John’s Square, the blue and green “Museum of Making” pavilion (designed by White Arkitekter to look like a deconstructed Swedish barn) displayed local craft-related artefacts from the Museum of London and hosted workshops in card making and pendant punching. In addition, fringe events all over EC1 allowed punters to try their hand at jewellery making, wood carving, bonsai tending and cocktail mixing.

Every year, CDW hosts a series of topical debates featuring international household names; this time, the architect Daniel Libeskind and Italian designer Patrizia Moroso discussed the synergy of architecture and product design, while British bigwig Tom Dixon championed a new respect for materials. Naturally, the latest techniques in 3-D printing were also food forthought– didyou know that a 3-D-printed wheelchair was launched at the show?