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Transforming familiar spaces at the London Design Festival

Familiar spaces at the V&A, Covent Garden, St Paul’s and the South Bank have been transformed by installations that force visitors to re-evaluate their surroundings

For the next month the main entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum is home to Timber Wave, a giant spiral lattice made of American red oak.

Created by architects AL_A and Arup the structure mimics the museum’s portal, rising three storeys and cascading down the steps to the entrance. Although asymmetric, Timber Wave has many repetitive motifs in its lattice pattern that reflect the ornamental entrance to the V&A. The structure is a feat of engineering that uses oak’s great strength-to-weight ratio to create the large-scale structure.

Inside the V&A exhibits have been installed that respond to some of the permanent pieces on display. The Raphael Gallery, which is historically the museum’s most popular attraction, now houses a raised cushioned platform called Textile Field that covers 240 square metres of the gallery.

Visitors wearing specially-provided slippers are able to mount the the structure, which is covered in foam and fabric of various colours, to contemplate Raphael’s paintings and the surrounding space in a new way. Textile Field by French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec paired with the Danish textile company Kvadrat, responds to the Raphael Gallery, replacing a sense of scared reverence encouraged by the ornate gallery, with a more relaxed contemplation space.

Two installations at Covent Garden make use of the busy piazza. The first is 39, a chandelier by Omer Arbel. Made of trumpet-shaped pendants, the chandelier is constructed through a ‘popping’ technique where blown glass is punctured and spun at the same time, making each piece unique.

In the north piazza is the world’s first fully-functioning greenhouse made entirely of LEGO bricks. Designed by Sebastian Bergne the LEGO Greenhouse takes Covent Garden’s history as a fruit and vegetable market as its inspiration and is filled with real plants.

At St Paul’s architect John Pawson has created Perspectives in the cathedral’s geometric staircase. The installation comprises a meniscus lens that sits on a reflective hemisphere, above which is suspended a spherical convex mirror in the tower’s cupola. This creates a magnified view up through the tower while also completing one of Sir Christopher Wren’s ambitions – that all his buildings should include a scientific instrument.

Finally, on the Southbank, Two Lines, an installation by David Chipperfield Architects, is part of the London Design Festival’s Size + Matter series, which pairs a leading designer or architect with a material or manufacturing process.

Two Lines comprises glass panels, layered with a metal-coated fabric mesh that have been arranged in a series of arches on a plinth just behind the Royal Festival Hall. Due to the layering of the panels the glass changes from reflective to translucent depending on the change in light over the course of the day.

Timber Wave, Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Until 15 October 2011.

Textile Field, Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Until 25 September 2011.

39, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8HA. Until 25 September 2011.

LEGO Greenhouse, North East Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8AA. Until 25 September 2011.

Two Lines, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. Until 16 October 2011.

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