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Designs of the Year: the contenders

We round up our favourite contenders for the award that celebrates the most inventive design from the past year

Designed by Veronica Ditting

Pink and grey are always cool together, as shown in this issue of The Gentlewoman which features legend of stage and screen Angela Lansbury as its cover star.

Designed by Craig Green

Rising fashion star Craig Green plays with ideas of utility and function for his Autumn/Winter 2012 collection. Inspired by luggage carriers, the large wooden structures have connotations of religious pilgrimage and dwarf the models to create abstract, menacing silhouettes on the catwalk.

Designed by Heatherwick Studio

With its 204 copper petals aflame like a giant fiery sea urchin, Heatherwick Studio's design for the 2012 Olympic Cauldron wowed the world at the 2012 Games opening ceremony. We reckon it’s flamin' brilliant whether it wins or not.

Designed by Berg

This happy little chap is designed to live in your home, bringing you news, puzzles and gossip from your friends. In a natty combination of new and old media, Little Printer enables you to use your smart phone to set up subscriptions, which it will gather together to create a mini newspaper.

Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn

Designed by The Centre for Vision in the Developing World these self-adjustable glasses allow the wearer to tweak the lenses until they focus clearly. The specs are based on a fluid-filled lens technology developed specifically for use by kids and young adults who have no access to opticians.

Designed by David Kohn Architects, photo: Charles Hosea

A Room for London (nominated in the Architecture category) is a wonderfully whimsical temporary hotel room designed by David Kohn Architects in collaboration with artist Fiona Banner in response to a competition organised by Living Architecture. It looks like a boat washed up by a freak high tide on the Thames and has proved a poetic addition to the Southbank skyline, playing host to numerous artists, musicians and thinkers as well as paying punters.

Designed by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini Viegas

The Wind Map shows the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US using different shades to signify different speeds and directions in endlessly entrancing patterns.

Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi

Three types of wood – thermo treated ash, walnut and douglas – are joined at irregular angles to make the Medici Chair. We think it looks like a stylish update of the classic Adirondak chair and a pretty comfy perch.

By Random International

Random International’s Rain Room gives visitors the chance to experience how it might feel to control the rain. The trick is that due to the special sensors built into the structure, as the water pours down from the ceiling, you can stand in the middle of the shower and not get wet. During its Barbican Curve Gallery stint it offered a double-whammy of Britishness, being both weather-related and so popular that to see it you had first to stand in a lengthy queue.

Designed by Ben Wilson; photo: John Selby

It’s the steel beam that turns this compact bicycle, created by British industrial designer Ben Wilson, into a load-bearing donkey of a bike. Perfect for those gas bottle/terrier transportation dilemmas.

Designed by Renzo Piano

You can probably see it from your home, your office, and your bus on the way in to work. Towering over the rapidly regenerating London Bridge Quarter, Italian architect Renzo Piano’s omnipresent Shard has already made the transition from super-ambitious building project to hot new London landmark. Can it also scoop a ‘Design of the Year’ gong?

Polish your interesting specs and pause to marvel at the best design from the past twelve months. The Design Museum's Designs of the Year exhibition shows nominees in seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – and, as ever, it's a deliriously broad mix. Where else can you see The Shard, Angela Lansbury and a mini newspaper-maker all vying for a prize? Category champs and an overall winner – the gov.uk website – were announced on April 16, but why not tell us your favourite designery delight in the comments box below.

See more fantastic exhibitions in London

Drawing on Childhood

What links Peter Pan, Tom Jones, Superman, Jane Eyre and the Boy Who Lived? They are, as this poignant little exhibition so deftly illustrates, all foundlings and orphans. Which makes them particularly at home in the soothing Bloomsbury building constructed on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital.

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Foundling Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday May 1 2016

Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptian penchant for adorning the body is well documented, with plenty of historical information available about swaddled-up corpses (and plenty of films set in Egypt BC featuring Cleopatra’s lot balancing immoderate headdresses above kohl-lined eyes). It’s a big topic, to be sure, and you might reasonably expect this to be an expansive exhibition. But Two Temple Place isn’t the British Museum, and it’s not trying to be: instead, this select collection of archaeological booty has a charm all of its own. 

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Two Temple Place , Temple Until Sunday April 24 2016

Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne’s Watercolours of Rome

I love this show, though maybe not for the reasons the curators expect. In 1780, Francis Towne (1739-1816) took a trip to Rome in search of pictorial scenes. He was an established painter, albeit a provincial one. Rome opened his eyes: he painted it conscientiously and – at times – spiritedly. His compositions grew bolder and more stylised. They stopped looking like the Lake District on an unusually sunny day. 

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British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday August 14 2016

Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

Space. To go, boldly or otherwise, isn’t really an option for most of us, despite the advent of contactless TfL payment . But we have sent countless craft, probes and bits of hardware, as well as the odd mammal, into the heavens. And they have returned with or beamed back screeds of technical information – now held in the archives of various space agencies. It’s this data that artist and writer Michael Benson sifts through, taking individual frames of often grainy black-and-white footage to come up with the seamless colour montages of celestial goings-on in this show. 

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Natural History Museum , Brompton Until Sunday May 22 2016

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age

This exhibition tells the story of how Russia won the race and became the first country to explore the galaxy that lies beyond our own planet. See moving testimonies and memorabilia from some of space travel's biggest names and hear how its pioneers made lift off happen.

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Science Museum , Brompton Until Sunday March 13 2016

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York

This celebration of creative talent in both the West End and on Broadway reveals the great range of skills that goes into making a successful stage production. As well as costumes, photographs, film and awards the exhibition will include immersive aspects, inviting visitors on a behind-the-scenes experience.

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V&A , Brompton Until Wednesday August 31 2016

Tibet’s Secret Temple

Discover the history of Tibertan Buddhist yogic and meditational practices at this major exhibition from the Wellcome Collection. Over 120 objects from across the world feature in the display.

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Wellcome Collection , Bloomsbury Until Sunday February 28 2016

Alice in Wonderland

150 years have passed since 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' was first published. To celebrate the anniversary, the British Library have curated this special exhibition within their entrance hall where visitors can sneak a peak at Lewis Carroll's original manuscript complete with hand-drawn illustrations, as well as beautiful editions by Ralph Steadman, Mervyn Peake, Leonard Weisgard, Salvador Dali and Arthur Rackham.

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British Library , Euston Until Sunday April 17 2016
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Daniel O'Farrell
Daniel O'Farrell

It has to be The Rain Room. Simply jaw-dropping. Sure, the aura of it is a lot more impressive to the reality, but it's still pretty darn good experience!