London Festival of Architecture 2024

In June, the London Festival of Architecture returned for its 20th year in the capital. Being such a landmark anniversary across two decades, the month-long celebration of architecture and city-making focused on ‘Reimagine’. This year’s festival is a chance to reflect on the last 20 years, a moment to reset and looking to the future.

Richard Huck, executive at Magenta Associates, attended a flavour of the experiences on offer at this year’s festival, which ran throughout June and across venues throughout the city.

Bio-Spaces: Regenerative, Resilient Futures – Roca London Gallery

Bio-Spaces was an exhibition installation curated by experiential nature-based designers Planted, and Oliver Heath Design, a design practice specialising in biophilic design. The focus of the installation was to highlight innovations and projects from across the concepts of biophilic, biomorphic and bio-regenerative design, using bio-based materials.

The space was split into the headlining themes and within each space you found case studies, tangible technologies, models and presentations on projects helping to support and further innovation in their space.

A favourite space of mine was the biophilic design area. The term “biophilia” refers to the connection of innate affinity to nature that we share as humans. Biophilic design seeks to foster a connection through design that enhances the wellbeing of people within it Those who live, work and relax in ‘concrete jungles’ can often lose their connection to natural spaces. This practice of design seeks to swim upstream, against the heavily increasing rate of urbanisation, and offer a little bit of natural bliss in those spaces.

A new term that I discovered attending this event was ‘biomimetic’ design. It is all about emulating and drawing inspiration from nature’s own regenerative powers. Biomimicry is a resource-efficient means of design, pulling only from materials and energy needed. Resilient to the changing conditions and growth of its surroundings, this approach to design rethinks how much impact we can have on natural spaces. Amidst a developing climate crisis, practices that seek to mitigate environmental and ecological impact in the long term are a welcome and valuable voice in the conversation.

Urban Radicals Street Assemblies: PUBLIC ASSEMBLY – The Maughan Library

This was a design structure that sought to ask the question of, what if civic buildings in London’s Square Mile transformed into open, collaborative and inviting places that encouraged public assembly?

The structure was placed in the middle of the pathway and was used by an array of people from the public to converse, meet up with people, relax or take shelter. The designers, Urban Radicals, hoped that strictures such as this could open up the idea of civic assembly being accessible to a diverse audience, prompting Londoners to actively engage in shaping the city’s discourse.

PUBLIC ASSEMBLY was described as a street auditorium for public debate, discussions, performances, summer screenings and small community gatherings.

Re-imagining Spaces: Changing Uses, Changing Meanings, Changing Place

Hosted at the Broadway Malyan studio, this evening discussion brought together five speakers from a wide variety of design and curation practices to discuss re-imagining spaces across the globe. From rejuvenating whole areas of cities, bringing people together into unexpected places for theatre activations, and, how we are all re-approaching the way we think about local immediate amenities.

The session was incredibly thought-provoking and raised questions about how we should approach spaces more imaginatively so they can become more than their base intention. Places change with the times, so the spaces we occupy need to evolve to match those changing demands.

Be that how a space is designed and built from the ground up, how a space can be brought to life through performance or activations, or how existing spaces can have new life breathed into them – and the wider effects on the local economy and lifestyle.

Takeaways from the festival

The London Festival of Architecture takes place across a multitude of venues and spaces across the city of London. As such, you’re taken on your own architectural journey, taking in the different districts and spaces of London with their own visual identities.

A lot of the sessions take place within architectural practice firms, inviting you into the creative labs of these innovators. Across any level of involvement, there is something for everyone here. I look forward to visiting in 2025.

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Richard Huck