Design festivals and conferences started to recover after the pandemic this autumn. With the fair season coming to an end for another year, here are the 10 most popular events of 2021 according to visitors to Dezeen Events Guide.
Dezeen Events Guide lists hundreds of international architecture and design exhibitions, talks, trade fairs and more. To enquire about getting your event listed, contact [email protected].
1. Milan design week
Cancelled last year and postponed from April to September this year, Milan reestablished itself as the world's design capital this year with a smaller offering than usual that attracted a surprisingly large and vibrant crowd.
The shift of dates for Milan's design week was led by the anchor event, Salone del Mobile (below), with fuorisalone events around the city following suit. Highlights this year included a student reinterpretation of the Korova Milk Bar from the movie A Clockwork Orange (pictured) at the Alcova show and a spectacular installation by luxury brand Hermès.
2. London Design Festival
London's annual festival had to compete with a packed September calendar this year with many events rescheduling in the hope of avoiding the ravages of the pandemic. Despite Brexit making travel to the UK more difficult than before, LDF's popularity among Dezeen Events Guide readers shows the enduring appeal of both the festival and the city.
Highlights this year included 18 rainbow-hued pedestrian crossings by Yinka Ilori and a virtual installation by Sou Fujimoto (pictured).
Salone del Mobile is part of the broader Milan design week (see above) but the furniture trade show was nonetheless the third-most-popular listing on Dezeen Events Guide this year.
After a bout of infighting that saw the fair's president resign and the event almost not take place for a second year in a row, architect Stefano Boeri stepped up to inject some vision and optimism into the world's most important furniture fair, which was renamed Supersalone.
Dezeen live-streamed a series of discussions called Open Talks that took place at the fair while highlights included a temporary forest of 200 trees (pictured) that will now be planted around the city.
4. Venice Architecture Biennale
The world's most important architecture festival was another event that was postponed from 2020, bravely sticking to its revised 2021 timetable and opening in May, just as Europe emerged from lockdown.
Curator Hashim Sarkis avoided the usual starchitects, instead selecting a refreshing line-up of contributors to respond to his theme of "How will we live together?" In a Dezeen feature rounding up responses from attendees, architects praised his curation as "interesting and courageous."
Highlights included this year's Danish Pavilion (pictured above and top), which explored the circularity of water, and Wooden Framing, an exhibition at the US Pavilion about the American timber industry.
5. Design Miami/Basel
The art world finally got its mojo back in September, with the vast Art Basel fair taking place in Switzerland after a hiatus in 2020. The attendant Design Miami/Basel collectors fair proved to be the fifth most popular event among our readers.
Projects this year included a series of 3D-printed vessels representing population data from 140 countries by designer Mathieu Lehanneur (pictured).
6. Madrid Design Festival
The Spanish capital has hosted this event each February since 2018. The 2021 event was a virtual affair but that didn't stop it from being one of the ten most popular listings this year.
In 2019, highlights included Extraperlo (pictured), an exhibition curated by designer Jorge Penadés in which he invited 14 international designers to create objects no larger than a shoebox.
7. Melbourne Design Week
Exhibitions at Australia's leading design week this year included a proposed $100 billion zero-carbon strategy for Melbourne "that would pay for itself in less than 10 years" (pictured) and a show exploring designers' side hustles.
New York City's flagship design event shifted from May to November this year due to the pandemic, meaning it hadn't even taken place when this article was published, yet still made it into our top ten.
In 2019, mixed-media artist Ty Williams illustrated a set of chairs by Fort Standard (pictured) with his trademark coastline-informed shapes.
9. 3 Days of Design
Copenhagen's mini design festival was one of the few to take place physically last year having moved to September last year from its regular slot in May. The event is seen by many as a blueprint for the future since it is small in scale, allows people to enjoy the city and is not anchored by a big trade show.
This year's festival once again offered the design crowd one of the first chances to network after the latest lockdowns. Highlights included the launch of Peter Saville's fabric collection for Kvadrat (pictured). Dezeen participated in the launch, streaming a live interview with the designer.
10. Stockholm Design Week
Scandinavia's biggest design celebration was a cut-down affair this year, with modest showroom events alongside digital initiatives including a virtual video studio designed by ASKA. British designer Tom Dixon got around Covid-related travel restrictions by appearing at the festival via a hologram (pictured).