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Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

Dezeen launched five years ago this week and we're celebrating our birthday by looking back at our favourite stories, parties and projects over the last five years. We've travelled all over since launching in 2006 and here we've compiled the most memorable design weeks and festivals we've attended.

Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

One: Design Miami, December 2006

This was the first design event I attended after starting Dezeen (writes Marcus Fairs). I booked a cheap hotel, got on a plane and ended up at the second Design Miami collectors' fair. Then I lost my passport. And had to move hotel. But it was still a fantastically exciting event - the whole "design art" thing was just starting up and rich people were beating down the doors to get into the fair and spend dollars (they actually were beating down the doors - it was surreal).

Designers used to wintering in cold Europe suddenly discovered they could instead flock to a December event with sunshine and an attendant art fair (Art Basel Miami Beach) to provide the necessary glamour complete with pool parties, limousines and penthouse cocktail soirees.

Design Miami set the benchmark that other fairs have struggled to compete with ever since and even though the fizz has largely gone out of the collectors' market, it's still about the most fun you can have at a design event.

Two: International Design Forum, May 2007 

These were still the boom years and when Dubai decided to throw a design event, it did it in typical Dubai fashion. We were all put up at the lavish Madinat Jumeirah - an Arabian Nights fantasy of a hotel with electric chauffeur-driven abras (traditional Arab boats) running on a network of artificial canals to whisk us to our rooms.

The International Design Forum was a conference rather than a fair, pulling in celebrity speakers including Rem Koolhaas, Marcel Wanders, Michael Young, Karim Rashid and many more to discuss how the Middle East could start to develop a design identity and economy of its own. The weirdness was enhanced by the conference venue: a fake Arab-style fortress with a fake galleon moored outside. Most bizarre of all was the alcohol-free VIP party, which featured possibly the worst DJ set I've ever experienced courtssy of DJ Kreemy (AKA Karim Rashid).

At night we sat on (artificial) palm logs on the (artificial) beach and watched the construction lights out at sea as workers built Dubai's (artificial) offshore resorts including The Palm and The World. The conference was exhilarating, the discussions fascinating, but within a just over a year the crash brought the Dubai party to an end.

Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

Three: Milan, April 2007

This was the penultimate Milan before the crash and the design world, buoyed by the influx of money from the art world, was full of confidence. "Limited edition" was the buzz-word and everything was getting enormous: a super-sized silver tea service by Studio Job, a gigantic Pinocchio figure covered in mosaic tiles by Jaime Hayon and great big mushrooms, eggs and nests at Dilmos. Established & Sons - who taught the Italians that there was more to an opening than warm white wine and a bit of Parmesan - were at the height of their party-throwing period.

It was great fun but it couldn't last - by Milan 2008, things had got out of hand (example: Jaime Hayon presented a mosaic-clad aeroplane) and the excess became grotesque. In many ways the crash that followed came as a relief.

Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

Four: Vienna Design Week, October 2010

Vienna Design Week is such a lovely festival that we keep going back (writes Rose Etherington), but last year's fair was one of our favourites. We interviewed rock-and-roll designer Stefan Sagmeister in a deserted cinema, where he told us all about his diary. The week kicked off with a party at the impossibly grand Lietchenstein Museum, where Studio Makkink & Bey took so long to pipe their research project about sugar in icing all over the floor that one of them got locked inside.

The festival was compact and carefully curated, with thoughtful collaborations between traditional Viennese companies and young designers like Mischer’Traxler, Philippe Malouin and Mark Braun taking centre stage.

Dezeen is five: most memorable festivals

Above photo is by Patrik Engström

Five: Stockholm Design Week, February 2011

Stockholm Design Week is a Dezeen favourite due to its manageable scale, sense of community and hospitality, but the most delightful discovery of this year's event had already been there for over 100 years. Emma Marga Blanche, Fredrik Färg, Hanna Nova Beatrice and eighteen of their designer friends had stalked among dried grasses and stuffed animals to install their work in the 360 degree diorama of the Biologiska on the city's museum island. Guests at the opening party wandered the creaking staircases wide-eyed, spotting clocks, chairs and lamps nestled next to wolves, sea birds and an enormous walrus looming out of the undergrowth.

We spent the next day trudging through driving snow then caught the last plane back to London before the runway sweepers gave up.