It’s that time of year again—London Design Festival 2015 is in full swing and Inhabitat is kicking off coverage with a look at some of the best green designs from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Every year, designers convene at the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design to display incredible site-specific installations that celebrate the best of contemporary design in a historic setting. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite environmentally conscious designs from this year’s show. We were particularly taken with how environmentalism played a role in ‘What is Luxury,’ an exhibit which explores the concept of luxury that will be on show at the museum until September 27, 2015.
In the intricate gilded interior of the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room, Austrian design team Mischer Traxler presents a modern take on Art Nouveau’s nature-inspired designs. The duo installed 250 mouth-blown glass globes, which from a distance, creates a quietly intriguing scene. As visitors enter the room, the globes light up and come to life with the twirling and rattling of “insects” trapped inside. However, the insects are not live—the art pieces are printed onto foil, laser cut and then hand embroidered. The interactive piece charms all that enter the space.
Mise en Abyme literally means ‘placed in abyss’. Artists Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale play with one-point perspective to warp the viewer’s perception as they walk through a colorful series of amorphous shapes that span the walkway. The grout lines of tiles lining the bridge create an illusion of exaggerated depth that draws you into an immersive experience. “We wanted to create an abstract installation with a strong visual effect that is light and floating, in contrast to the heavy marble surroundings in these galleries,” said the creators.
In Tower of Babel, artist Barnaby Barford pays homage to Britain’s number one pastime: shopping. The sculptor meticulously photographed 3,000 shops from boarded up fast food joints to exclusive department stores like Harrods. Printed images were attached onto porcelain to create stackable building blocks. The precarious looking 6-meter-tall Tower likens our efforts to find fulfillment through retail with the biblical Tower of Babel’s attempt to reach heaven. Each shop in the Tower will be for sale during its exhibition starting at just a couple of hundred pounds for the smaller, lower shops and going up to thousands of pounds for others. Prestigious but less affordable properties are placed higher in the Tower, and can only be viewed with binoculars. The feeling of property being out of reach financially or due to scarcity is something perhaps many people living within London’s boundaries can relate to.
Studio Drift crafted this LED chandelier from dandelion seed heads carefully picked by hand and attached seed-by-seed to an LED. This labor-intensive process makes a clear statement against mass production and throwaway culture. This piece was created as part of the ‘What is Luxury’ exhibit.
Artist Joris Laarman uses computers to create artwork that looks as if it grew organically in nature. He worked with computer programming and 3D printing to create sculptures shaped in the same way bones and trees grow. His furniture designs reshape our concept of luxury through biomimcry and modern technology.
Studio Swine’s Hair Highway speculates on future sustainable materials. As population growth explodes and natural resources diminish, human hair could become an increasingly viable alternative. The hair used in Hair Highway is sealed within bio-resin to create surfaces that evoke rare and endangered materials such as horn and tropical hardwoods.
Hong Kong-born maker Nora Fok uses nylon fishing lines to make complex jewelry inspired by a wide variety of natural forms. Her delicate, intricate structures mutate organic forms into wearable sculpture. With Bubble Necklace, Fok used children’s marbles to produce replica bubbles for an elaborate look.
Imagine it’s 2052, all the oil’s gone, or we’ve sensibly decided to leave fossil fuels in the ground to avoid climate meltdown. In ‘The Rise of the Plasticsmith,’ designer Gangjian Cui looks to his hometown Daqing in Northern China, currently a large hub for plastic manufacturing, and its possible post-industrial fossil-fuel-free future. He suggests how new skills will have to be developed for working with this now rare material, and has produced some pieces of furniture using a hand-operated extrusion machine.
Shane Mecklenburger manufactures diamonds from a superman script, bullets and road kill armadillo ashes that look the same as the infamous ‘blood diamonds.’ His work begs the question: Why is it that these manufactured diamonds don’t have the same luxury appeal and exclusive price tag as those mined from the earth’s crust? Could a greater awareness around the unsustainable nature of gem extraction lead to conscious buying? We can only hope that future luxury buyers will desire lab-made diamonds made from everyday carbon, rather than diamonds mined from the earth using slave labor.
Unknown Fields Division spent time at China’s rare earth mines to study the impact of our lust for electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and even green technologies like solar panels. They condensed their observations into a fascinating augmented-reality-style video and three ceramic pots that represent the amount of waste produced in the manufacturing process of a smartphone, a laptop, and a smart car battery. The Rare Earthenware Video and Ceramics Installation at the ‘What is Luxury’ exhibit is a must-see for anyone interested in green design, sustainability, and technology.
Photos by Liz Eve for Inhabitat