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Poltrona Frau

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Opinion / Grace Charlton

Eastern promise

Eastern promise

With the industry calendar so packed over the coming months, you might feel that design festivals and fairs are at risk of blending into each other or losing meaning, especially when big furniture firms are continually competing to release new chairs or tables to serve bottom lines. It’s a situation that is often at odds with a company’s sustainability efforts and calls to scale back production. Thankfully, it’s something that visitors gathering in the small Polish city of Łódź earlier this month didn’t encounter. Here, at the 17th edition of Łódź Design Festival, which wrapped up at the weekend, designers from central and eastern Europe presented their ideas for how to future-proof our cities and solve societal issues now (rather than later).Working to the theme of “Future Perfect”, contributions included conceptual housing solutions for families displaced by wars, a competition for up-and-coming designers in the city’s Art Factory (see below) and a showcase of furniture and wares from more established Polish names, curated by national institutions such as the Silesian Museum in Katowice. One standout project, in an exhibition of work by students from the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design in Wrocław, was Aleksandra Sitek’s table for schoolchildren, which has a drawer for phones that can be locked by teachers to prevent distractions throughout the day. Elsewhere, the uses of hemp as a building material were explored, collectors’ vases and communist-era memorabilia were proudly displayed and a show called Futuropolis asked visitors to vote on what their ideal city would sound and smell like (“calm music heard from a nearby café through an open door in the summer” and “fresh bread from a bakery”, if you were wondering).Ultimately, the appeal of Łódź Design Festival lies in its distinctively eastern European identity. The designers and institutions root themselves in the region’s sense of place as war rages in Ukraine and use design as a tool to respond to real-world issues. Poland, it seems, is shaping up to be a regional design hub for eastern Europe.Grace Charlton is a writer at Monocle and a regular contributor to ‘Monocle on Design’. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

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