What to expect? Where to start? Which exhibits to go to?
As a “newbie” in the UK and a little out of my comfort zone in that my career was built on designing and detailing building envelopes in South Africa where there are a total different set of influences and solutions.… I was feeling nervously excited about heading off to Clerkenwell Design Week.
Arriving at Euston station with the anticipation of a school girl; I was off on an adventure to discover new designers, manufacturers, distributors, installers and products in a City I was last in some 15 years ago.
An hour later, after a tube ride and a 5 block walk to the first exhibitor, I was out of the starting blocks. With current and imminent projects to consider for furniture and display units, I arrived at Brunner, the first showroom I found which set the scene for what was to be one of the themes carried throughout the event. Collaborative / break-out / soft seating meeting areas for a flexible working environment.
Then, on my way to the registration point, came my memorable “welcome to London”: Special delivery via air mail by a pigeon, right on the middle of my head!! Cry… but then again it is supposed to be a lucky omen.
At registration; and most of the exhibits / showrooms after that, I got zapped by a smart-phone barcode reader which captured my details for exhibitors to send me their brochures and promotional information. Armed with a map indicating all the venues, I set off from there with the aim of visiting as many of the 87 showrooms & 7 exhibitions as I possibly could in the 2 days I had in London. I managed 60 showrooms & 6 exhibitions. A major feat! And speaking of feet….. They sure knew they were being pushed to the limit, and the filing system in my head felt like it was suffering from information overload. But OH boy!! What fun it was to make the suppliers jump through hoops…
A chair is a chair is a chair is………. NOT just a CHAIR….
It’s all in the detail……! I saw so many chairs I was beginning to wonder what set one supplier / manufacturer apart from the next. What special details are incorporated? Where are the materials sourced? Where and how is each piece made? So I started looking at the specific details. Had suppliers turn chairs upside down so I could see for myself. If you have a design in mind, or a specific budget, whether it is a shoe string or opulent luxury; there is a chair for you!
Well what can I say? Definitely my favourite showroom! 5 floors of open plan space, linked by a stairwell, in which you find encouraging messages to get active. They exposed a focus on solutions for new collaborative workspaces with special attention to the technical and generational changes sweeping workspaces across the world. And the cherry on the top: they had the best sandwiches, and coffee served up ”just the way you like it”…. by an iPad…
Display trends and multi-purpose fixtures.
In the current market of minimal space and super-advanced technology; many of the businesses showcase their goods within the office working environment so samples may need to be hidden so the spaces can be used for workshops and training etc. Some very cleaver ideas have emerged. One can see the changing needs which dictate high density working areas with break-away pods for private meetings without having to allow for the additional “office” space.
London must have felt bad about my welcome yesterday as this morning’s welcome was far better received: A brass band playing as I emerged from the tube station to have breakfast at Canary Warf.
Craftsmanship is still very much alive.
Being able to walk into the workshops of manufacturing participants, and watch young men craft the fixtures using hand held tools to produce intricate designs, was a refreshing endorsement for our future. Leather lamp shades, wooden jewellery cupboards with embedded jade details strips, and a wooden bicycle to mention only a few. Many products for use on floor and wall surfaces combined natural and synthetic materials in new innovative ways producing unique patterns and designs for even mass produced coverings.
Re-cycle / Up-cycle / Eco-friendly.
The planet is in distress and it was reflected in the policies of many of the manufacturer who made maximum use of the latest technological advances in sustainable materials to produce low / zero carbon footprint fixtures. In striding to save our planet many of the resulting offers have also been modulated for use in just about any environment; from the home to office, commercial to hospitality and medical and many of these using masses of junk which would previously have ended up on land-fills. Many more have improved energy efficiency and durability which help to reduce the cost of construction, finishing and on-going maintenance of our buildings.
The changing face of London
As I continued on my extensive walking tour of the Clerkenwell district, I found myself admiring much more than just the showrooms and exhibitions. There are many new and revamped building projects in progress. The contrast between new and old along a single city block a reflection of the modernisation and up-cycling of what once was.
Since my visit
The 2 days delivered far more than I expected and I am still filtering through information and company profiles and brochures which are still arriving via the post. I will certainly be heading back next year for the next search and discover.