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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

The Gentlewoman #6 (Designed by Veronica Ditting)
1/11
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.

MA Collection (Designed by Craig Green)
2/11
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.

Olympic Cauldron (Designed by Heatherwick Studio)
3/11
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.

Little Printer (Designed by Berg)
4/11
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.

Child Vision Glasses (Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn)
5/11
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.

A Room for London (Designed by David Kohn Architects, photo: Charles Hosea)
6/11
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.

Wind Map (Designed by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini Viegas)
7/11
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.

Medici Chair (Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi)
8/11
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.

Rain Room (By Random International)
9/11
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.

Donkey Bicycle (Designed by Ben Wilson; photo: John Selby)
10/11
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.

The Shard (Designed by Renzo Piano)
11/11
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

Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies

Like many of you, I’ve long wanted to see the Santa hat Jake Gyllenhaal wore on his knob in ‘Jarhead’ up close. So it’s a tribute to the scope of this not-massive show on the history of war in cinema that it gives you the chance to do just that. In 1916, cameramen were allowed to record the build-up and action of the Battle of the Somme. The resulting film was part documentary, part propaganda. 

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Imperial War Museum , Kennington Until Sunday January 8 2017

Jukebox, Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl

Go on a magical musical tour through the history of records at this beautifully designed and satisfyingly informative exhibition on the top floor of Camden’s Jewish Museum. You’ll be greeted by a row of antique gramophones and the story of how music came to be widely played on vinyl, told with a focus on contributions from Jewish inventors and businessmen. 

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Jewish Museum , Camden Town Until Sunday October 16 2016

Colour and Vision

If ever a show was made for Instagram, this is it. The Natural History Museum’s exploration of colour, vision and their roles in the natural world is chock full of beauty. Stuffed hummingbirds glimmer like opals. A case holds dozens of cinnabar moths, scarlet wings spread wide. Even the jars of bisected animal eyes have a gruesome aesthetic appeal.

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Natural History Museum , Brompton Until Sunday November 6 2016

The BFG in Pictures

Unlike the Big Friendly Giant’s ears, this exhibition of original drawings – some on display for the first time – is pretty tiny, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in charm. Quentin Blake himself has provided text for the labels (he is the gallery’s founder, after all), meaning they’re extra loveable and a little fact-light, but the joy here is being able to almost press your nose up to the beautiful illustrations.

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House of Illustration , King's Cross Until Sunday October 2 2016

Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design

The late Danish-British engineer Ove Arup was responsible for some of the world’s most iconic buildings. He didn’t design them; he built them. Before his death in 1988, Arup brought his groundbreaking techniques to realise projects from the penguin pool at London Zoo to the Sydney Opera House. The firm he founded is now a multinational empire whose current projects include Crossrail.

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday October 9 2016

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Once again you can expect to see remarkable feats of astrophotography at the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. It’s a chance to see magical views of both our own night sky and of galaxies far, far away. The winning spacey visions come from dozens of professional and amateur snappers in various categories including ‘Planets, Comets and Asteroids’, ‘Stars and Nebulae’, ‘Galaxies’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ for under-16s.

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Royal Observatory , Greenwich Until Friday December 23 2016

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

Despite ancient texts being full of references to them, the Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion remained a lost mystery for years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that an archaeological team discovered their remains – not on dry land, but a few miles off the coast, beneath the Mediterranean. This spectacular show is the first time these pieces from the drowned cities have been seen in the UK. 

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British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday November 27 2016

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

The V&A is a victim of its own success. Ever since the Alexander McQueen exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’, with its drama, tragedy and preposterous gorgeousness, the bar for their fashion exhibitions has been set impossibly high. While this is not another ‘Savage Beauty’, it is a thoughtful and interesting show. ‘Undressed’ tells the story of undies from the eighteenth century to more recent times. It reveals the ingenuity of underwear, from the missing bones at the back of crinolines which allowed women to sit, to corsets designed for horseriding – forerunners to the sports bra. 

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday March 12 2017

Clangers, Bagpuss & Co

Hopefully you were first introduced to the wonderfully weird worlds of Smallfilms, the production company of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firman, at an early enough age that this small but beautifully put together exhibition will be like a magician revealing his secrets. See the paper pieces that became Noggin the Nog, find out which '60s model was the fashion inspiration for the Clangers, learn how Bagpuss ended up pink and make your very own stop-frame animation starring Ivor the Engine. With lots of beautiful artefacts to admire – including Bagpuss himself – you'll feel even more fond of the shows than you were to start with.

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V&A Museum of Childhood , Bethnal Green Until Sunday October 9 2016

Buckingham Palace Summer Opening

Recommended

Each year there's a special themed exhibition at Buckingham Palace to coincide with the public opening of the State Rooms during August and September. In 2016 (when the Queen will celebrate her ninetieth birthday) the exhibition will be devoted to the royal wardrobe.

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Until Sunday October 2 2016
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Visit more exhibitions in London

Comments

1 comments
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!