Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Gateway by Steve Messam in collab with SketchUp (Image: Sam Frost)

Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW), the UK’s largest and free design festival, recently returned to EC1 London with its most extensive programme yet – and featured more than 600 events.

The festival returned on May 23 with pre-registrations up by 50 per cent (vs 2022). The 12th edition of CDW took place across the whole of Clerkenwell, a neighbourhood renowned for its high concentration of architects and designers.

The 2023 festival saw 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 were able to explore everything from new furniture and lighting to kitchens and bathrooms, materials and surfaces, decorative accessories, and more.

Headlining this year’s event was 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 featured 27 giant spikes hand-sewn in a striking blue textile. Visitors were also able to experience Messam’s artistic treatment of the iconic, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott-designed telephone boxes.

Symbioscene Living by PLP Architecture (Image: Ashley Bingham)

Another immersive design included Symbiocene Living: Mycelium Building Block by PLP Architecture. Situated on St John’s Square, the modular structure was 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 had designed a ‘ha ha’ fence located on Jerusalem Passage, a whole host of brand activations were also spread across Clerkenwell; from Texxa’s unique acoustic installation to BAUX’s temporary exhibition with feature walls by Morag
Myerscough. Other participating brands included Universal Fibers, Jennifer Newman, Swatchbox and
Duffy London.

Morag Myerscough BAUX Installation (Image: Sam Frost)

New to CDW this year was a set of design destinations where key areas were 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 schedule of daily talks explored  a series of industry topics and returned to Spa Fields and was housed in an AirClad structure. The three-day discussions featured 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 hosted 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 was 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 opened their doors to visitors and offered a variety of creative workshops.