Preview: what to expect at Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW), now in its 12th edition, will return to London between May 23 – 25. Taking place across the whole of Clerkenwell, a neighbourhood renowned for its high concentration of architects and designers, the festival is set to offer its biggest programme yet – featuring more than 600 events and for the first time, merging with its sister show, Design London. Here are a few of the events and exhibitions that have caught our eye…

spiked blue inflatable art installation by Steve Messam for CDW 2023

CDW 2023 sees a total of 12 exhibition venues across Clerkenwell including Design Fields, Contract, Light, Project, Elements, British Collection, Detail, Platform, Ceramics of Italy, Old Sessions House (the festival hub) and two new additions – Catapult and The Garden. While these unique venues will present over 300 design brands and emerging talent covering furniture, kitchens and bathrooms, materials and surfaces, textiles, decorative accessories and lighting, an extensive network of more than 130 local showroom partners will host product launches, workshops and talks over the three days of the festival. So much to see, so little time…

Headlining this year’s CDW Presents programme is a specially commissioned installation by British artist, Steve Messam – who exhibits internationally and is well known for his large-scale, inflatable artwork reimagining our everyday surroundings. At the festival, the County Durham-based artist will bring his distinctive public art to St John’s Gate of the Order of St John. This site-specific piece, titled Gateway, will feature 27 giant spikes hand-sewn in a striking blue textile. It forms part of Messam’s ongoing art series taking over historic architectural sites – and inviting the public to examine their environment in a new light through its deliberately ambiguous shape and size.

exploring mycelium building blocks at cdw 2023

Image credit: CDW

Creating a more sustainable way of living remains a key subject matter for many design manufacturers and makers. Using modern technology and the latest research, designers are exploring new ways to challenge the status quo while tackling these industry-wide issues with a global outlook. As part of the CDW Presents series, SYMBIOCENE LIVING: Mycelium Building Block is an interpretive, artistic mycelium installation that encourages the public to envision and engage with fungi architecture. While the modular feature is made of mycelium blocks with a 3D printed timber shell, the blocks will be arranged to create a different formation incorporating abstract seating and towers on each day of the festival. Set to be situated outside Clerkenwell & Social on St John’s Square, this one-off installation is designed by East London-based PLP Architecture – which has produced some of the world’s greenest and most intelligent designs through a profound commitment to social, economic and environmental values.

an edible tablescape designed by Heiter and Terra Firma for cdw 2023

Image credit: Heiter X / CDW

At Old Sessions House, Heiter X – a sustainable food design and experience studio founded by Estonia-based Helis Heiter – will launch its first collection of sculptural tableware in collaboration with Krohwin. Crafted using traditional building techniques and innovative 3D clay printing technology, the Mound Collection is made from raw clay and natural carnauba wax – as well as repurposed food industry waste including buckwheat and hemp shells. The collection symbolises the mounds of food wasted every day, serving as a visual reminder of the need for more conscious consumption and waste reduction. The new tableware will be shown alongside Terra Firma, an edible tablescape aimed to spark conversation and inspire change in the way we think about and interact with food.

Among some of the headline names this year is London-born-and-bred artist and designer Morag Myerscough – who will open the festival’s talks programme, Conversations at Clerkenwell, in Spa Fields. She will speak with Bethan Ryder, Editorial Director of WGSN, about her unique approach to transforming places and championing community through joyful installations and artworks. On St John’s Square, Myerscough is also responsible for creating the exterior wall of a freestanding installation from leading acoustics specialist, BAUX. Designed by its in-house team along with Form Us With Love, this special exhibition highlights the work of eight students from Scandinavia’s finest architectural institutes.

Keeping things colourful, Domus has teamed up with London-based multidisciplinary artist and designer Yinka Ilori to create his debut tile collection which will be launched in the showroom at CDW. Drawing on inspiration from nature and sunlight alongside his British-Nigerian heritage, two ranges – Glaze and Screen – capture the dynamic, geometric lines and shapes used across traditional African patterns and architecture.

Continuing the conversation on collaborations and colour, Parkside will be celebrating the Parkside 40 Years x Lois O’Hara collection with the artist adorning the exterior and interior of the company’s Clerkenwell Sustainability and Design Studio with a one-off design. Bringing colour to the streets of Clerkenwell throughout the festival, it’s a must-see stop for anyone visiting Clerkenwell Design Week.

The UK continues to lead the way in championing the best talent and finest craftsmanship – and visitors to this year’s CDW will not be disappointed by the eclectic mix of independent makers and businesses this country has to offer. Impossible to list all the makers and designers in this sneak peek, but here are a few that we will be looking out for:

Now in its 12th year, Curiousa is renowned for its bespoke hand-blown glass lighting made in its Derbyshire-based old mill studio. At CDW, the brand will present its new Wave chandelier – designed by its founder Esther Patterson – as part of the Light exhibition, which is always top of the design checklist.

London-based furniture designer and sculptor Kostas Synodis will join the festival for the first time. Blending art and design with his signature pared-down aesthetic, the newcomer will exhibit a new foldable low deckchair. Made from three pieces of veneer plywood cut out of the same panels to minimise material.

Fibre artist Livi Hecht of London-based Knot My Name will display her contemporary artwork. Using eco-friendly materials, Hecht produces handmade macramé products and made-to-order pieces. Both Synodis and Hecht will have work on display at the Platform exhibition venue.

next-gen thinking: Designing for the future at Clerkenwell Design Week

Image credit: Hotel Designs

Taking to the stage in the Havwoods showroom, Hotel Designs Editor Hamish Kilburn will be speaking with Hen’a Yadav, Creative Director at HBA and exploring the concept of designing for the future.

And finally, Clerkenwell is as much about people as it is about products and at the end of the day as buyers, designers, architects and developers get to network over variations of cocktails and canapés. Hotel Designs will be hosting a CDW Takeover in collaboration with Sanipex Group in the new Bagnodesign showroom, which is strictly open to designers, architects, hoteliers and developers.

You can find more information about the events taking place during CDW23 here.

Main image credit: CDW