Clerkenwell Design Week 2019



As Clerkenwell Design Week 2019 draws to a close we thought we would give you a behind-the-scenes look at the complete design process that goes into conceptualising, fabricating and assembling one of these incredible installations, as well as provide our highlights from CDW 2019! This year, we collaborated again with Hakwood, a premium supplier and manufacturer of hardwood flooring & wall panels, to create an installation as part of Clerkenwell’s ‘Decade Candle’ exhibit. This exhibit was comprised of ten ‘candles’, spread out across the whole of Clerkenwell, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Clerkenwell Design Week. Our candle held particular significance, as it also celebrated the 40th anniversary of Hakwood, earning it the name ‘The Beauty of 40’.


As it was part of a wider exhibit, we were working to a design brief set out by CDW, which stipulated the dimensions of the candle. Beyond these restriction however, we were free to let our creativity flow! From the outset, we knew we wanted to incorporate the duality and celebratory nature of both birthdays into the candle. Drawing on this, we wanted to incorporate an element of interactivity, inspired by the typical party games played at children’s birthday parties, into a larger piece of sculptural art.


From here, we discussed the brief as a team to identify the fundamental design characteristics that we wanted to incorporate and explore, then searched for precedents based on these on sites such as Pinterest. Once we had brought all these images & ideas together, we started sketching, before taking the best ideas into Sketchup to develop the design further. By using a 3D modelling software such as Sketchup, we’re able to very quickly test different forms and configurations and gradually tweak the design until satisfied with the resultant product. We then render the image in Photoshop to finalise material choices & colours. Mirrors & light art featured heavily in our precedents as we wanted to instill an element of sculpture in the installation, and knew that both would add that wow-factor that would make this installation a truly unmissable feature at Clerkenwell and one that could guide visitors around the event.


During the development process, we liaised with Hakwood to ensure that all ideas and the overall vision were embodied by the design of the candle. From these conversations, we settled on a final design that incorporated a game of pairs, printed on timber tiles provided by Hakwood, to display their beautiful selection of products, but also to ensure that an element of fun and play were featured. The reverse faces of the tiles were mirrored, to invite the user into the sculpture itself and beyond that, to interact with and become a part of Hakwood themselves by embodying their design ethos and collaborative approach that gives architects and designers the freedom to customise and tailor bespoke solutions for their design needs. The entire candle was backlit by LEDs, which direct the eye up to the illuminated Ice White Corian top, the glow of which completes the ‘candle’ aesthetic.

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Once the concept design had been signed-off, we commenced the technical design in Solidworks. We use Solidworks for its technical sophistication, accuracy and the ability to output all of the fabrication and construction information direct from the model, making it an incredibly efficient and powerful design tool. Each component is modelled separately, constrained by sketches, making it very easy to make small tweaks throughout the process, then they are all bought together in a master assembly, which the fabrication drawings and package is produced from. These are then sent to our suppliers and the workshop for fabrication.

Materials were ordered through our network of suppliers, the following of which kindly contributed to the installation: Sugatsune - concealed fixings; Current Phase - electrics; CDUK - the Ice White Corian for the top of the candle; Sabre - the direct print onto the timber tiles; Siteworx - the clear lacquer spray on the timber tiles; LED Lighthouse - LED tape and drivers; Lathams - plywood for the substructure; Creative Metalwork - SHS Steel subframe; Perspex Distribution - frosted perspex for core and mirrored perspex for the tiles.

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Whilst awaiting the materials to arrive at our workshop, we were designing the graphics for the tiles. Each square had a unique image (except for the matching pairs!) that included a fact, key project, milestone or team member of Hakwood. The arrangement and configuration had to be carefully thought through, taking into consideration the orientation, height, as well as the different tonal qualities of the wood we were printing on. Once approved the images and tiles were sent to Sabre to print.

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To ensure the best quality of finish, we tested printing first onto vinyl stickers and also directly onto the tiles themselves. It was clear that the direct print gave the best finish, as well as enabling the user to feel the natural texture on the wood. These were then sent to Siteworx to spray so that they could withstand the British elements!


Once everything was ready to go, it was time to assemble the candle! The Corian cube was formed from 6 & 12mm Ice White Corian, oversized, then bonded together before being flush trimmed and heavily sanded to achieve the flush, ‘seamless’ aesthetic. The Brass numbers highlighting Hakwood’s 40th Birthday were then inlayed into two sides of the cube. Next, we inserted the perspex core containing the LED lights into the supportive powder-coated steel frame. Then, we bonded the mirrors onto the reverse face of each printed tile and flush trimmed them, then shaved and bevelled each of the edges for a high-quality finish, and lastly drilled through horizontal holes. Following this, we threaded the timber tiles onto 6mm aluminium bar, ensuring each went on in the correct order, and maintaining the 4mm gaps with nylon spacers. These were fixed at each end with non-moving mirrored, mitred corner pieces, and once combined, formed squares of 16 tiles, which were then threaded onto the top of the metal frame, slowly stacking upwards in layers.


Once on-site, we first had to find a suitably level area to place the installation. The paved and cobbled streets made this challenging, however we were fortunate to find a 600x600 paver that was relatively level and we had sufficient adjustment in the levelling feet in the base of the CDW signature pink box to make a sturdy platform for our candle. We then unloaded the main body of the candle and bolted it to the base, connected the LED lights to the battery housed in the base, then finally connected the bulb and placed the Corian cube atop the candle. Once night fell, the installed timer turned on the lights, creating a beacon that guided visitors around Clerkenwell.

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We were thrilled with the reception our installation received, and so enjoyed seeing members of the public play and interact with the candle. The location at St John’s Gate provided a beautiful backdrop for the installation, and was also a great spot for passersby to grab a drink in view of the candle.


 A few other key highlights that we saw at this year’s Clerkenwell design week include:

The Bottlehouse by small. and WSP, was an impactful installation highlighting our excessive global consumption of single use plastics. small. and WSP created a shelter from plastic bottles that was “thermally comfortable, structurally sound, unique form of shelter that can protect the occupants from both solar radiation and precipitation.”

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Image source: Design Insider


We loved wandering around Clerkenwell’s streets and discovering the rich history of the area via the “Once Upon a Time” installation. Excerpt from CDW website - “Once Upon A Time draws on the rich and sometimes dark historical tales of Clerkenwell, from wife sales to prison bombings. Working in collaboration with UAL Chelsea College of Arts, BA Graphic Design Communication students were tasked with presenting a series of graphical vinyl designs to bring the stories to life during CDW’s 10th edition.”

Once upon a time

The other candles from CDW’s decade candle collection, including that from Billi UK, Parkside, EBBA Architects and Russell Bamber.


Overall we had a fantastic week, and hope to return with another exciting contribution to next year’s Clerkenwell Design Week!

If you’ve found our design and fabrication process interesting, and you would like to get in contact to see how we could help you realise a project, please click the button below to fill out a form telling us a bit about your project, alternatively, give us a call on 020 7252 1560, or drop us a line at We look forward to hearing from you!

Want to get some expert advice on material specification? Check out our other journal entries, Choosing the right kitchen countertop, or Environmentally conscious choices for Architects and Designers.