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A guide to tackling Clerkenwell Design Week 2015

Posted at 4:15 pm, May 18, 2015 in Arts & Entertainment, Design
farmiloe building

From May 19 to May 21 Clerkenwell celebrates what it’s best known for. No, not meat and doughnuts in tiny historic buildings but Clerkenwell Design Week 2015 – a mammoth festival that crams a lot into its three-day programme. We’re on hand to make sure you find the best talks on Barbican Brutalism instead of a lecture about kitchen sinks.

The main stage

A pinnacle part of Clerkenwell Design Week is the Farmiloe Building: a huge Victorian warehouse that’s been a backdrop in ‘Inception’, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Batman’, which is converted into a showroom for the week. Here you’ll find a four-floor space that brings together international, modern design, lighting and craftsmanship. You’ll also have a map foisted on you, and then realise how easy it is to get lost in the sheer amount of talks, shows and events that are available.

farmiloe building


Things to see


Agora is an installation by Article 25 and RBM that aims to bring the Clerkenwell Green space to life. The team behind it claimed awards for their installation at the 2014 festival, so we’re looking forward to seeing this one.

Agora on the green


Over in St John’s Square, Cousins & Cousins have create a multicoloured jewel-like glass pavilion inspired by Venetian glass. Expect a jumbled walkway of opaque and transport glass colour.

The best of London

Brutalism: Save it or Scrap it?

We might as well call this talk ‘an ode to the Barbican’ (or at least, that’s what we’re hoping for). For all its raw utopian values, as London grows upwards and outwards, the value of Brutalism’s raw appeal is under fire. We’d vote to keep the Barbican in place over new developments any day, frankly. Here’s hoping Sunday Times architecture critic Hugh Pearman and his panel of experts, including Simon Henley (Henley Halebrown Rorrison), George Saumerez-Smith (ADAM Architecture) and Matthew Whitfield (English Heritage) feel the same. May 21, 1.30pm–2.30pm. RSVP


Check out our pick of London’s 20 best buildings. Spoiler: the Barbican Centre comes in at number six.

Moving with the tides: The Thames as London’s future public space

As new developments succeed in filling the city with newer, taller, shinier buildings and chip away at the skyline, designers are challenged to save London’s public spaces. Farrells, David Kohn Architects and Studio Octopi will discuss how designers might create innovative public spaces around the river. May 20, 4.30pm–5.30pm. RSVP

International design: do all roads lead to London?

How big an effect does London’s design scene have on the rest of the world? Christopher Turner, deputy director of the London Design Festival is talking to two designers who started their practices in the city, working with Tom Dixon and a host of other brands, then upping sticks and moving further afield, taking our city’s style with them. May 21, noon–1pm. RSVP

Reclaim the street: designing the urban commons

Save our public spaces! This talk looks at the politicisation of open spaces and the indisputable value that sitting in the middle of a park brings us. Panelists from a world of urban design and architecture will delve into London examples to explain how they approach designing the public realm. May 21, 4.30pm–5.30pm. RSVP

public spaces

Make something

Punch a Pendant

Craft your own pendant or keyring with The Goldsmith’s Centre. Rock up to pop-up workshop and grab yourself a hammer to get creative with them on their café terrace. May 19, 10am–4pm.

goldsmiths - clerkenwell design week


Origami with Sam Tsang

Join an origami masterclass with paper crafter Sam Tsang. Italian luxury paper manufacturer Fedrigoni is holding the spring-themed sessions across two days. May 20 and 21, noon–2pm.

Paint a tile

Channel your inner Rob Ryan and get creative at Designworks Tiles hand painting yourself a tile. Sure, your project might not join one of their somewhat more professional projects on a yacht, airport, railway or oil rig, but you can take it home to give pride of place. May 19-20, 10.30am-6pm.

Creative classes with the London Graphic Centre

Join the London Graphic Centre at their smaller of four homes by Old Street. Each day there will be live drawing by HASSELL architects and you can witness it unfold through out the week. For a more hands-on experience, you can join a ProtoPaper creative workshop every day. May 19–21, 2pm–4pm.


Clerkenwell design week - Design works tiles

Mindfulness and wellness

Mindfulness is a theme that keeps cropping up at Clerkenwell Design Week. As words like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘wellness’ appear increasingly in pop culture, it’s also a theme that’s beginning to appear in the way design supports our lifestyles.

Hypnos: the architecture of sleep

Take some time away from the bustle to discover Sto Werkstatt’s Hypnos installation. Francesco Draisci of Draisci Studio and HASSELL architects have created an interactive and multi-sensory exhibition exploring our need for dreaming, sleeping, dilly-dallying, and mental withdrawal from life. You’re invited to try a Yoga Nidra session – the closest form of yoga to sleep. The installation runs 10am–7pm each day of the festival, and you can book into free yoga May 19–21, 1pm–1.50pm. RSVP for your spot.

hypnos clerkenwell design festival

Being Human

The Being Human exhibition is a celebration of people who have made a change to the world and those who might be the next to. A celebration of daydreaming from a bus or letting your imagination roam on a daily walk.


Something unusual

Explore The Family Business

Meet a different kind of craft. Revered Exmouth market studio The Family Business has a reputation for brilliant artistry and inky excellence. For Clerkenwell Design Week, they’ll be opening their doors to show the artists who practice there, and allow you to explore what a buzzing day in the life of ‘one of London’s most prestigious tattoo parlours’ is actually like.

family business


Lisa Lloyd’s paper art

Lisa Lloyd’s paper craft art is excellent. This year she’s not only designed and made their summer garden centre piece but will be in residence in Davison Highley’s showroom creating an artwork based on their ’50s ‘Inspiration chair’. Pop in at The Old Brewery at 16 Brewhouse Yard and watch it take form across the three days. 

Hidden history walks

Join a design walk exploring Clerkenwell. Heading out three times a day, the tour will explore five installations that bring to life some of the area’s hidden history. Join at 11am, 1pm or 3pm throughout the three days, heading out from the Designworks Tiles showroom at 91 St John Street.

Clerkenwell Design Festival is partnering with local restaurants and offering special design week discounts. Discover some of our favourite places to eat in Clerkenwell.

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