I’d describe myself as a fledgling cyclist yet have already been the unhappy recipient of a Penalty Notice for Disorder and a £60 fine courtesy of the Royal Parks Police on my way to work one morning, so was eager to educate myself more about the UK’s fastest growing method of urban transport at the ‘Cycle Revolution’ exhibition. Visitors are greeted by Ben Wilson’s steel sculpture created from bike frames in the museum atrium, and tyre tracks then lead you up the stairs to the exhibition floor itself. Once there the show is separated into different “tribes” – ‘High Performers’, ‘Thrill Seekers’, ‘Urban Riders’, ‘Cargo Bikers’, ‘Frame Builders’ and a look into the ‘Future of Cycling’. Numerous iconic bikes including Bradley Wiggins’ 2015 Hour Record bike and 2014 World Championship Time Trial bikes, Chris Hoy’s 2012 Olympic Track bike and the earliest Brompton prototype in existence are all handsomely displayed. However what I found more interesting were the personal stories of London’s 155,000 inhabitants who now cycle to work every day including the ultimate urban cyclist Lucy Granville, heavily pregnant and still using her bike to navigate her way across the city! Similarly the ‘Future of Cycling’ provided insights into urban planners global responses to the growing needs of 21st century cyclists as well as showcasing pioneering new bikes; notably Bamboo Bicycle Club’s innovative and sleek matt black 2015 Road Bike created from sustainable bamboo and joined using flax fibre and an eco-epoxy resin. This bike could have equally sat amongst the other British ‘Frame Builders’ as the Club teaches people to build their own bespoke frames rather than mass producing bikes. This is the Design Museums’ final exhibition at their current Shad Thames location, and it has certainly clicked into gear and ended on a high.
Design districts (Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Chelsea, Brompton, Islington and Bankside), temporary installations, large-scale fairs, and hundreds of talks and events popped up across London last week to celebrate the city’s annual Design Festival. After lack lustre RIBA installations in flagship store windows along Regent Street and a frustrating visit to the V&A involving disorganisation, poor signage, a map with the wrong orientation, and long queues when you finally did locate a related room – Somerset House provided a welcome change and was extremely satisfying. It was easy to navigate, the central courtyard contained clear signage with arrows directing visitors to different areas, and actively encouraged public engagement and interaction. Although not strictly part of the festival, Marc Quinn’s ‘Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes’ sculptures currently inhabiting the courtyard are certainly worth a mention, comprising five monumental stainless steel pieces including a 7.5 metre long wave and four conch shells. Moving into the Terrace Rooms six ‘#Powered by Tweets’ competition winners were on display, each challenged to create something beautiful or solve a problem using Twitter. Given my cynicism towards social media I was surprised by how thoughtful the entries were; one design equipped pigeons with pollution monitors enabling real-time tweets to report on air quality in various global cities, another harnessed Twitter to create visual mindscapes to help relax patients receiving chemotherapy, whilst another monitored language to create a real-time visualisation of the most popular words being used on Twitter. On the subject of communication technology, Punkt in the West Wing also touted their MP01 mobile which refreshingly contains no status updates, notifications or multiple alerts but instead “focusses on the things that matter, like communicating”! Finally, the sunken Embankment Galleries showcased ‘My Grandfather’s Tree’ where Max Lamb beautifully explained his story of felling an ash on his family farm which was cut into 130 sections, each transformed into a stool, table or chair, and all displayed homogenously.