Must-see show designjunction curates cutting-edge contemporary design in King's Cross for London Design Festival 2016
BY DEE IVA
Once upon a time King's Cross was a seedy and somewhat shifty part of London. An industrial wasteland home to cheap bedsits, drug dealers and prostitutes, it was an area best avoided, unless you were going clubbing. The once-spectacular Midland Grand Hotel, a red-brick Victorian Gothic masterpiece, had become a shabby office block and the 1987 fire at King's Cross Underground Station only contributed to the area's overall gloom.
Fast-forward to the Nineties and King's Cross slowly began to resurrect itself, bursting into popular culture with the arrival of the Spice Girls who zig-a-zig-ahhd their way around the lobby of the Midland Grand in the video for their first single ‘Wannabe’. Old warehouses were converted into slick live/work spaces attracting the likes of Clive Sinclair, inventor of the ZX Spectrum home computer, photographer David Bailey and architect John Pawson. The relocation of the Eurostar from Waterloo in 2007, the arrival of Britain’s first high-speed rail service in 2008, and the rebirth of the Midland Grand as the luxe St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in 2011 confirmed that King’s Cross had finally been reborn.
Now for London Design Festival 2016, designjunction – the capital's premier exhibition of contemporary design – is setting up home here too, simultaneously creating new design district the King's Cross Creative Quarter. Leaving central London for the first time, designjunction will bring the hottest established and up-and-coming modern interiors brands to N1 from 22 to 25 September, under the theme 'Immersed in Design'. This year the show will be spilt into four areas, wrapping itself around the banks of Regent’s Canal, plus a lighting zone. Miss #djKX at your peril!
ABOVE: 2016's designjunction show sets up shop in King's Cross, including Cubitt House with a facade of modular GRID cubes
ABOVE RIGHT: The revived St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
BELOW: Granary Square will display installations in 12 pop-up houses
Granary Square, home to recently relocated arts and design college Central Saint Martins, will feature 12 custom-built red houses showcasing immersive design installations. Headline exhibitors include online interior design platform Houzz, which will be offering free design clinics from their own bespoke green pop-up hut, and German bathroom company Dornbracht. Techies can come out to play too in the house of Japanese technology brand EIZO.
designjunction will cut a swathe through Central Saint Martins itself at The Crossing, featuring specially commissioned installations by major design brands, as well as flash factory demonstrations. Danish flooring company Dinesen, which has created the main registration area in this zone, will exhibit new ranges of their understated but to-die-for wooden floors; Brit brand Kirkby Design will share 'Geo', a new collection of graphic fabrics; and Native Union is bound to tempt you with its latest smart accessories for digital devices.
ABOVE: Lofty design zone The Crossing links Cubitt House and The Canopy, and is home to visitor registration and interactive installations
ABOVE RIGHT: Kirkby Design's geo-print woven textiles
BELOW: Sleek wooden floors by Danish firm Dinesen
The main attraction is Cubitt House, host to more than 100 international furniture, lighting and accessories brands. London's Satellite Architects has been commissioned to craft a striking facade made of over 4,000 slim nylon frames that graduate from black to white in a pixelated effect. The 'GRID' system, by Danish designer Peter J. Lassen, will wrap around the venue, creating a translucent skin perforated by plants. Inside, established brands such as UK furniture firms Isokon Plus and Modus, and Czech lighting label Brokis, will rub shoulders with smaller British independents including Deadgood, Another Country and Very Good & Proper, the modernist design team founded by 'Pigeon Light' designer Ed Carpenter and André Klauser.
ABOVE: The skin of Cubitt House boasts cubes and plants
ABOVE RIGHT: Streamlined wooden furniture by Isokon Plus
BELOW: Very Good & Proper's pastel-perky 'Sled' storage
ABOVE: We love the colourful 'Knot' pendant lights by Vitamin; Czech glass firm Brokis will show seductive coloured 'Lightline' lamps
Lighting fanatics will also be illuminated by the return of lightjunction, the designated zone for the best in contemporary lighting. Always a popular draw, this year sees UK lighting brand Cameron Peters launch its first own-label collection, which includes the cute 'Nelly' table lamp by Brogliato Traverso. If you need to wet your whistle after negotiating your way around the stands there will also be a secret outdoor champagne bar where you can pull up a pew and down a couple of glasses of bubbly.
ABOVE FROM TOP Floor_Story's graphic rugs include a collaboration with print queen Camille Walala; Tom Pigeon's minimal screen prints
Finally, if you’re in the mood for a little retail therapy, The Canopy is where you’ll be able to buy design-led accessories from more than 60 independent designers. Look out for Welsh textile design label Melin Tregwynt, debuting new collection 'Vintage Star' which riffs on Sixties style, East London brand Floor_Story's graphic colour-blocked rugs, and Fizz favourite Tom Pigeon, which will launch its first silver jewellery collection inspired by modern architecture and a new set of minimal screen prints.
There's only one thing left to do after a busy day pounding the design beat and that's to treat yourself to a well earned feed. The King's Cross Creative Quarter has no shortage of restaurants and bars and it's at the Fizz's favourite Bombay cafe Dishoom, on Granary Square, where you'll find us snacking on tasty Indian street food at the end of the day. Why don't you join us?
designjunction runs from 22-25 September 2016 at 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, London N1. Ticket prices from £12 in advance or £15 on the door