This article titled “London Design festival 2012: 10 of the best” was written by Steve Rose, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 18th September 2012 11.08 UTC
Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Victor Papanek’s influential book of the same name, Design for the Real World continues his quest for inclusive and sustainable design for real people – from a reimagining of the doctor’s bag, to a community lighting scheme in Tower Hamlets, to a pedal-powered mobile coffee shop. Students from the RCA’s sustainable design group also showcase their work. Design for the Real World, Royal College of Art, SW7
Japanese designer of the moment Oki Sato has scattered 11 installations throughout the V&A’s exhibition spaces, each consisting of clusters of white metal chairs that have been customised to respond to whatever is around them. In one room, chairs of varying sizes reflect the different-sized paintings on the walls; while, in a room hung with tapestries, the chairs morph into giant white frames. These minimal, spectral pieces are a surprise and a delight. Mimicry Chairs by Nendo, Victoria & Albert Museum, SW7
Is that Lord Nelson dancing?
Nothing to see here, but plenty to hear. A big black rubberised pod plonked in the middle of Trafalgar Square will serve as a “sound portal”, taking visitors to other worlds – aurally at least – via five soundscapes created by sound designers and musicians (including Tom “Squarepusher” Jenkinson). Nelson might be glad he’s at the top of a very tall column. BE OPEN, Trafalgar Square, WC2
Architect Akihisa Hirata was a contributor to the Japanese Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, which won a Golden Lion. He holds his first UK exhibition in the form of a continuous, looping spiral: on and within this will be hundreds of models, drawings and films to illustrate his unique approach. Akihisa Hirata: Tangling, the Architecture Foundation, SE1
First class venue
Under the London Design festival umbrella are five large exhibitions – each an event in itself. The biggest are 100% Percent Design (in Islington) and Decorex (in Chelsea) – but Design Junction is the most atmospheric, being set over three floors of a disused Royal Mail sorting office near Clerkenwell. Against this industrial backdrop is work by 60 international designers, plus talks, bars, restaurants, and even a pop-up cinema. Design Junction, the Sorting Office, 21-23 New Oxford Street, WC1
Train timetable with a view
Look up as you walk into the V&A’s main entrance and you’ll see the tip of Prism by Keiichi Matsuda, a strange installation situated in a secret room reached by a narrow, winding staircase. The room contains crystalline screen-like forms onto whose facets are projected real-time data concerning the city outside – from wind speed to tube train activity. It’s like a supervillain’s lair, and boasts a rooftop terrace with great views. Prism by Keiichi Matsuda, Victoria & Albert Museum, SW7
At home with the Pontis
For some classic mid-century modernism, manufacturer Molteni&C has reissued some pieces the Italian master Gio Ponti conceived for his own home, between 1935 and 1957. Chairs, tables and chests of drawers are exhibited here, alongside original drawings and photographs, taking you inside Ponti’s Milan studios and his enviably refined homes. The Gio Ponti Collection, Molteni&C, WC2
Design of the times
Thomas Heatherwick, Zaha Hadid, Tom Dixon, Alberto Alessi and Yves Béhar take part in a day of talks, debates and interviews questioning the current state of the design industry and its changing role in the digital era – particularly in the light of global recession. Global Design Forum, Central Saint Martins, N1
One colour: red
To celebrate 25 years at the Michelin Building, the Conran shop has created a gallery of products all coloured pillar-box red. Some are special commissions, others limited-edition red variations of design classics. Chairs by Jasper Morrison and the Eameses, tables by Nendo, lighting by Ingo Maurer, boots by Manolo Blahnik, you name it. RED at the Conran Shop, SW3
Dish of the day
Can British crockery stage a renaissance? A resurrected, family-run Stoke-on-Trent firm – taking its name, 1882 Ltd, from the date of its founding – hopes so. Designer Max Lamb presents his new bone china collection, whose pieces are cast from rough, hand-carved plaster models, while fifth-generation-potter Emily Johnson’s plates combine traditional craft and LED technology. 1882 Ltd, Bamford, SW3.
• The London Design festival runs until 23 September.
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Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.