This year's Design Shanghai was absolutely packed with visitors, to say the least, as the mixed international and local Chinese audience managed to fill the vast Shanghai Exhibition Centre. Compared to many other design fairs and exhibitions, Design Shanghai was extremely well advertised to the Shanghai public—the lines for general entrance and the Collectibles were astronomically long, but this was quite a welcome sight, showing the general public's growing interest in design and design culture.
Design Shanghai featured exhibits featuring over 40,000 designers. Because the event is planned by predominantly foreign organizers, there were unfortunately not as many homegrown designers, but there were a couple of gems we still managed to pick out.
In terms of emerging designers, the CIID Awards were the highlight, recognizing 120 interior designers with the "Outstanding Young Interior Designers of China" Award based on several criteria: performance during 2011 and 2012 in terms of impact, design programs, work experience and participation in competitions. The organization did a fantastic job of identifying and curating a diverse range of interior designers, from those who sparkle a room with traditional elements to designers with who create with entire futuristic ensembles.
Powerhouse design duo Neri&Hu and rebel designer Naihan Li both had fantastic exhibits with their latest products. Naihan prominently featured her Skyscraper Candles, which has expanded in the number of countries and cities. Neri&Hu collaborated with Jaguar, the exhibition's key sponsor, and Wallpaper Magazine to re-engineer the distinctively British picnic basket with a Chinese perspective and carbon fiber.
One of the great things about the Design Indaba Conference is that it not only sparks conversations but also puts them on center stage. In this short dialogue between Marian Bantjes and Jessica Hische, the two graphic designers cover everything from mentorship to being the "one designer friend," as well as the secret to design success. (Bantjes, who reveals that she is entirely self-taught, is the Jury Captain for the Visual Communication category of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards.)
Once again, Core77 is pleased to partner with Design Indaba for their annual design/creativity/innovation Conference and Expo in Cape Town, South Africa, which has quickly grown to a week-long celebration of all things creative. As the biggest design event in the country, continent and hemisphere where it takes place, Design Indaba has firmly established itself as a progressive platform for artists and designers of all persuasions, as diverse as its locale even as the event attracts a global audience.
So much more than a "how-to" conference, this is a forum fuelled by inspiration that breeds ideas, ingenuity and innovation. Creativity is our currency and a better future our agenda. The Conference is your opportunity to learn from and be inspired by the world's foremost creatives, thought leaders, entrepreneurs and trendsetters. It's the not-to-be-missed creative inspiration event of the year, the perfect way to kickstart 2014.
This year's speakers include: Jake Barton, Lauren Beukes, El Ultimo Grito, Naoto Fukasawa, Experimental Jetset, David Goldblatt, Thomas Heatherwick, David Higgs, Tom Hulme, Margot Janse, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Ije Nwokorie, Michel Rojkind, Dean Poole, Stefan Sagmeister, Scholten & Baijings, Marcello Serpa, DJ Stout and Clive Wilkinson.
Situated in the Messe Koeln along the bank of the Rhine, the IMM Cologne is the business hub for everything furniture and interior related. More than 1,100 companies show their work, from small brands to large scale international manufacturers. To bring you the highlights, we have strolled the southern parts of the vast venue, where the focus is set on design and innovation. Our favorites include Scandinavian interior design, unique materials, and exciting applications for new manufacturing processes.
IMM Cologne nominates a different designer each year to envision their ideal future home, Das Haus. This year, the guest of honor is danish-english furniture and interior designer Louise Campbell. She turned the 240 square meter stage into an open-plan house made out of two timber-framed halves that are visually separated by different color schemes. Amongst the highlights inside were a massive wall in the kitchen featuring 573 tools (at top) and a 16 meter long bed/lounger that was well enjoyed by tired fairgoers.
The Stage hosted lectures and panel discussions with a broad variety of topics ranging from the psychology of color and Bauhaus furniture to leather production and organic hotel interiors.
The German Design Council organized the 11th edition of the annual D3 Contest at IMM, and showed the works of design students and young designers. We liked Jin Il Park's Drawing Chair, which made us feel like we had stepped into a sketch on a napkin. He achieved the scribble effect by hammering, irregularly bending and then welding thin wires.
The Thursday night of Cologne's Interior Design Week traditionally sees everyone heading to Design Parcours Ehrenfeld, grabbing one of the many drinks on offer, and promenading the city's most diverse and creative neighborhood. Ehrenfeld is home to a variety of converted warehouses, owner-run shops, bars, clubs, and creative businesses—and, during this time of the year, draws in even more of the latter. True to its alternative vibe, a lot of the work on show blurs the lines between art, design and fashion; sustainable design and local manufacturing are also recurring themes.
Designers Fair at DQE is one of the busiest shows every year. Amongst the crowds, Vase & Leuchte by Miriam Aust caught our eye because of the clever integration of the plant as part of the design. The object is distributed by Dua Shop, who specialize in realizing small batch series together with designers and small factories.
Another lamp on show by Dua Shop was Like Paper, designed by Aust & Amelung. The delicate appearance juxtaposes the fact that these lamps are actually made from slewed concrete, which displays the properties of the paper cast it is made in.
A new venue has earned a place on the map of Passagen 2014, Cologne's annual Interior Design Week that runs concurrently with imm cologne with close to 200 exhibitions throughout the city. Set in a converted office tower, the t.a.t. new talents hosts two shows exhibiting works by the young and the restless: Designers Tower and Sensing The City/ Capturing Cologne. Designers Tower offers a platform for 15 selected studios and independent designers to show off their latest works. One of them is Markus Krauss with his rocking chair Sway (above), offering plenty of room for two people to lounge in sync, and featuring a patented telescopic mechanism that allows the chair to take on a number of positions.
We loved the graphic simplicity and purity of material of Prolog, by Daniel Rauch and Niklas Markloff. The two industrial design students of Folkwang University Essen developed the structure cast from pure tinted UHPC (ultra-high performance concrete) with their colleagues from the material sciences lab. It's one of the first applications of this material ever and elegantly shows off its amazing compressive strength.
Koelnmade is a label that takes pride in making products that are designed and produced in and around Cologne. Surfin Bird can be both a place for safely feeding your feathered friends in the winter, or a full-fledged birdhouse to provide a space for nesting and extending the family.
What comes around, goes around and this year's selection of vintage design pieces have aged gracefully. The star of this year's show, new or old, was Charlotte Perriand. The architect and designer was best known for her work for Le Corbusier—the creative directors at Louis Vuitton spearheaded a renewed interest in her life and work. Jewelry from designers and artists also had a prominent place on the Design Miami floor show including a special exhibition of Gijs Bakker's jewelry projects. Simple geometries and a focus on traditional craftsmanship are back in favor with fiber art and primitive shapes finding a new audience with today's collectors.
At top: Maria Pergay - Cord Structure, 1977 & Daybed, 1968 Demisch Danant, Design Miami
The works of these two important designers looks contemporary and fresh in the context of Demisch Danant's inviting exhibition space. The bold magenta ropes in Sheila Hicks' wall hanging are constructed with coil-wrapped yarn on a muslin backing. Maria Pergay's stainless steel daybed adds a sleek drama to any room. The 81-year-old Parisian designer's recent collaboration with Fendi was also profiled in our first Design Miami roundup.
La Maison au bord de l'eau, Louis Vuitton (1934) at The Raleigh Hotel
Of course, the star of the show was a Parisian architect and designer from a generation prior to Pergay. Louis Vuitton's research into Charlotte Perriand's life and work sparked a revival of interest in the influential designer's projects. Their La Maison au bord de l'eau installation at the Raleigh Hotel, a prefab beach cottage finally realized 80 years after the project was concepted, was furnished with reproductions of Perriand-designed furniture.
LC4 CP, Cassina (1928)
Cassina, the only authorized manufacturer of Perriand's furniture, re-issued a special LC4 chaise lounge with Louis Vuitton leather on the occasion of the designer's 110th birthday to coincide with the LV project. Perriand's research for Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret lead to the use of tubular steel in the iconic chair.
Une Maison a Montmartre (1959) at Galerie Downtown, Design Miami
And Paris' Galerie Downtown/Francois Lafanour showed furniture and interior features from a 1959 Perriand-designed house, Une Maison a Montmartre.
With over 70,000 people descending on Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach, its no wonder that the buzz surrounding the Design Miami sister show is getting louder with every year. This year's strong showing represented the increasingly international nature of the design business—the gallery list including Galerie BSL from Paris, Spazio Rossana Orlandi of Milan and Victor Hunt from Brussels alongside American favorites R20th Century and Cristina Grajales.
Primitive forms and the wonders of mother nature inspired designers to create objects of bizarre beauty. Nacho Carbonell's otherworldly works were as dramatic as Design Nucelo's monolithic metal tables that paid homage to the bronze age. Crystals and geodes continue to fascinate designers like Hella Jongerius and emerging-ceramicist Charlotte Cornaton with their spiritual properties and natural variations.
UUfie - Peacock L (at top) Spazio Rossana Orlandi, Design Miami
Canadian-based UUfie crafted the dramatic Peacock chair from a single sheet of Corian. The mesmerizing grid casts a lovely shadow and a theatrical profile for its debut at Design Miami.
Hella Jongerius - Gemstone Side Table Gallery Kreo, Design Miami
The iconic Dutch designer was inspired by the depths of color that occurs in natural stones like agate and malachite. Layers of translucent resin and plywood stack to form a revealing cross-section for this asymmetrical table.
Studio Job - Monkey Business Carpenter's Workshop Gallery, Design Miami
A Swarovski-studded monkey wearing a fez stands guard over a brass treasure chest. It's not a scene from an Indiana Jones movie; it's the latest conversation-starter from Belgian designers Studio Job. An embedded LED hints at what treasures might lie inside the chest.
Richard Phillips - The Playboy Charger Venus Over Manhattan Presents Piston Head, 1111 Lincoln Road
Ferrari's art car show in the Herzog & de Meuron-designed 1111 Lincoln Road explores how artists like Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Tom Sachs and Ron Arad have transformed the beloved automobile into sculptural works. The exhibition also included the first viewing of artist Richard Phillips' collaboration with Playboy, the "Playboy Charger."
Eindhoven may be a relatively small city (population 220,000) in a small country, but this year's Dutch Design Week was the largest ever, attended by over 200,000, establishing the week long event as one of the largest design fairs in Europe. Although the annual event has taken place for the last seven years, it is primarily a non-commercial, Dutch-focused fair, meant to stimulate cooperation between designers, industry and business. There is, however, plenty of international involvement stemming from Design Academy Eindhoven graduates and foreign design schools.
With over 2,000 participants exhibiting in 350 events spread throughout the city, there was a lot to see, taste and experience. The venues were loosely grouped in three zones: Area Strijp, a large industrial zone; Area East, a smaller industrial park; and Area Inner City. Due to the distance between the zones and the lack of a metro, a free taxi service composed of Mini-Coopers with objects fastened to their roofs cheerfully shuttled visitors from area to area.
Tessel backpack by Aaron Puglisi and Dan Shirley for Wasatch Design Collective. (Photo credit: Jeroen Aarts)
This was my second year attending the DDW, and even with insider knowledge and a tight plan, it was still difficult to see most of the events in two whole days. Following is a light report on a selection of events and designs that were interesting or noteworthy.
Temporary Art Center
In the city center, the Temporary Art Center contained many small group exhibits and projects of all types from Dutch and non-Dutch designers and student groups. Over a dozen various sized rooms snaked around an outdoor courtyard and colorful central eating area. The largest draw in the building was undoubtedly the group show Pepe Heykoop/Lex Pott/David Derkson/Paul Heinjan, who showed old and new projects in a common space.
For the first time during DDW, Vlisco exhibited its traditional and festive wax-resist cotton textiles, which until recently have been produced, marketed and sold exclusively for West and Central African markets. The large exhibit was one of the most popular ones of the week, due to the variety of excellent patterns and the company's remarkable history, which dates back to 1846.
The third annual Beijing Design Week kicked off four weeks ago to the day, and once again we took to the hutong to document what is arguably the largest design festival in the Eastern Hemisphere. It's certainly the major event for China's not insubstantial local design scene, and the fact that it attracts a fair share of international guests and exhibitors (mostly from Europe) is a testament to its relevance and scale in the global design circuit. According to a note from the press office that turned up in my inbox this morning, more than 1,000 designers presented their work to over 5 million visitors.
As an American-born Chinese who has been visiting Beijing for over two decades (I spent a few extra days with my family this time around) I felt compelled, for better or worse, to put the burgeoning art and design scene in perspective as a kind of parallel heritage. Thus, I concluded my coverage of BJDW2013 with a hybrid thought piece / photo essay that eschewed specific objects in an admittedly overambitious attempt to identify the meaning of the whole damn thing. But in the interest of presenting empirical examples of what, exactly, is going on in Beijing today, here is a visual survey of some of our favorite projects from 751 D.Park, Caochangdi artist's village, and, of course, Dashilar, the singular neighborhood where I embarked on the weeklong journey through the Beijing design scene and where I ultimately returned on the October 1 holiday, the day before I left.
Still, if I had to choose a single best project from Beijing Design Week 2013, I must say it was one that I got to bring home: Drawing Architecture Studio's A Little Bit of Beijing is not only a felicitous souvenir but also a little bit of incentive to brush on my Chinese for next year.
In today's overflowing world of design, with so many individuals clamoring to be discovered, the most successful method for emerging artists and craftspeople may be to join forces with similarly minded partners. Independent yet connected. Working alone but showing in groups, utilizing the age-old strategy of strength in numbers.
During my first day exploring Dutch Design Week 2013, I chose to focus on small collectives, groups of designers and collaborators who share specific attributes. Firstly, they have all graduated within five years, are currently working in the Netherlands, and they are doing well, so to speak, choosing to remain independent instead of working for large companies or more corporate-minded design studios. The majority of their work is self-funded, self-produced and self-promoted. They're not opposed to working with companies (many of them already are in various capacities—but perhaps they remain independent because they are driven by a desire for freedom of expression, or doing things one's own way.
Here are highlights frome three excellent exhibits from international collectives based in the Netherlands. Workmates, 010-020 and Objects to Play are all on view at this year's Dutch Design Week, Eindhoven, October 19-27.
Comprised of Atelier Rick Tegelaar, Studio Casper Tolhuisen and Joris de Groot, Workmates featured recent works developed with self-made machines and distinctive processes. The three designers met during their overlapping studies at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem and formed an open collective based on their shared interest in a hands-on approach to materials and production.
Rick Tagelaar showed a series of new lights expanding on his experiments with molded wire mesh, as well as a table and bench composed of laminated blocks of waste plywood. Rick collaborated with a woodworking factory, and developed a custom clamping table for laminating herringbone-like sheets en-masse.
Casper Tolhuisen showed his alternative cooking tools, including a distillery, smoking and barbecue pots, made in ceramic, stainless steel and glass. Due to the prohibition of selling tools for self-producing liquor, the lid cleverly clamps to a standard cooking pot which the user must supply themselves.
I was a bit surprised to discover, at some point between my second and third excursions to the neighborhood of Dashilar, that the press kit for Beijing Design Week included a few photos documenting not the myriad pop-up exhibitions or experimental renovation projects on view but rather glimpses of everyday life in the hutong, shorthand for Beijing as a whole. Unimpressed with the exhibitions we visited on a jetlagged first day in Beijing, I had it mind to seek the "real" Dashilar—whatever that might mean—during our second foray, hoping to highlight the non- or un-designed 99.9% of the neighborhood in the interest of making some kind of statement by capturing the beauty of the mundane.1
So I was a bit dismayed to learn that the press office at Beijing Design Week had beaten me to the punch, and I couldn't shake the uncanny feeling that my unorthodox reporting had somehow been preemptively subverted into another instrument of propaganda. Indeed, the 'official' description of Dashilar, per Beijing Design Week, is "a special zone within Beijing's old city," "showcasing the regional characteristics that are the charm of the increasingly international Beijing." Mythologized as a nexus of past, present and future—authentic Beijing condensed into a square kilometer—Dashilar has been cast as an instance of learning from past mistakes, which makes this kind of reporting is squarely aligned with the government (qua developers) agenda. Not that it's really worth further speculation: Beijing Design Week is, by definition, an exercise in soft power (the softest, my friend joked), a vehicle for China to assert itself as a global destination for culture... which, of course, it is and always has been.
While it would be optimistic to extrapolate from Dashilar as anything more than a testing ground at this point, it's certainly worth exploring the impressively thorough documentation at Dashilar.org. Although most of the website is Chinese-language only, navigating to the first menu item on the second of the three 'sheets' will take you to a page with several tiled links (in Chinese), each of which links to a bilingual PDF presentation. I recognized them as poster presentations from the hub in Dashilar, covering everything from the Historic Situation [PDF] to the Strategy Overview [PDF], as well as an overview of the PILOT program [PDF].
One of our favorite stops during Europe's design festival season is Vienna Design Week, a beautiful city with a seemingly endless amount of abandoned shops, spaces and nooks (even pharmacies) to exhibit in. With an impressive line-up of new work on show this year, Passionwege, a platform for emerging designers stole show with the "Experimental Sweet Factory" for Lobmeyr by design duo Bertille & Mathieu. Check out our full gallery for highlights and don't miss the bong-like vessel for vaporizing wine, definitely one of the more obscure concepts in recent memory.
I'd regretted breezing through the NY Art Book Fair this year—I braved the crowds on Saturday afternoon, and the hour I'd allotted myself was not nearly enough time to filter the sheer visual (and yes, tactile) onslaught of printed matter. But a souvenir from Beijing Design Week more than made up for it, and for all the limited editions, handmade zines and other rarities available at MoMA PS1, nary a booth would have had a copy of A Little Bit of Beijing. In fact, I haven't been able to find any information about Li Han and Hu Yan's three-volume graphic novel anywhere online: The book is published by the Luminous City imprint of Tongji University Press—luminous-city.com was offline as of press time—while the website of Drawing Architecture Studio (Li and Hu's practice) is currently "Under Construction."
So it was a happy coincidence to discover A Little Bit of Beijing at 751 D.Park, in an appropriately charming venue to boot: Luminous City had set up shop in a passenger train that had been converted into a gallery. (To further compound the confusion, the expository text also credits architects Li Xiangning and Atelier Bow-Wow's Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, who are behind Made in Shanghai and its progenitor Made in Tokyo respectively.) Along with framed prints along the walls, translucent reproductions of the artwork had been set in the windows of the train to striking effect; even magnified several times over, it's quite clear that the vibrant line drawings are painstakingly detailed.
Chris Ware's signature style is the obvious reference point, and indeed the artists acknowledge a debt to Ware, as well as Jean-Jacques Sempé, as source of inspiration. I gleaned as much from the introductory text to A Little Bit of Beijing, but I'm not too proud to admit that my reading ability is far too limited to attempt proper perusal of the book. (Limited though my vocabulary may be, I do know that the third character of the title, 儿 [er], is an untranslatable reference to Beijing's local dialect.) Thankfully, the illustrations effectively speak for themselves, and their richness transcends language, even in the case of the conventional comic-book panels that depict short vignettes.
As far as I can tell, the captions are descriptions of the scenes
Popping up in a small, leafy square in central Vienna this design week, the 'Construisine' community kitchen and workshop creates a space for local residents to cook food from regional produce and build furniture from recycled wood, whilst drawing important parallels between the two in an attempt to encourage the Viennese public to embrace making.
With a whole host of fun food making tools, the creators Johanna Dehio [previously] and Dominik Hehl also offer revellers 'recipes' for furniture making, the installation thus growing in size the more it is used.
My earliest memories of hutong come from my first visits to China as a child: Pedicab drivers offering tours of Beijing's arcane labyrinth of largely unmarked alleyways that once demarcated the space between the city's traditional courtyard houses. Aside from the principle that upper class residences were closer to the city center, the actual construction of the homes—and the incidental passageways between them—was an ad hoc approach to urban planning at best, and subsequent divisions of the houses and land has resulted in a dense network of narrow alleys criss-crossing the enduring swaths of Old Beijing that have not been razed and redeveloped... yet. (Fun fact: Since courtyard houses, or siheyuan, traditionally face south for better natural light, the majority of hutong run from east to west.)
With hundreds of years of history embedded in their crumbling walls, many of these neighborhoods remain jam-packed with longtime residents; despite the fact that the original courtyard houses have been either been modified or left to decay beyond recognition, there is a tendency to romanticize the hutongs as a kind of cultural artifact, authentic both for their historic significance and their current conditions. But how do you preserve a dynamic relic—one that is defined by the fact that it is lived-in? One that, like an organism, is subject to both an internal logic and external factors? As Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian (a fellow member of the media tour for Beijing Design Week) reports:
... in numerous pockets of the old city over the last 10 years, neighbourhoods have been demolished and rebuilt in the name of heritage preservation... areas designated for historic conservation have been transformed into zombie recreations of themselves. Elsewhere, crumbling courtyard houses have been wrapped in neat jackets but their squalid innards left unchanged, adding a flimsy tourist-friendly veneer to give a picturesque backdrop for lucrative hutong tours.
But in Dashilar, things seem to be going in a different direction... the "nodal" Dashilar pilot strategy, developed by local architect Liang Jingyu from 2011, [facilitates] several model projects in strategic locations across the area—and show existing owners how investing in their properties and businesses could help turn a profit and improve the area.
Thus, although Dashilar has been among the major design districts during previous Beijing Design Weeks, the dense neighborhood saw more exhibitions than ever, including a pilot program that showcased works-in-progress from architects and designers examining the neighborhood itself. Here are a few of our favorites:
Hidden behind a faux-ramshackle façade on the Dashilar's main drag, standardArchitecture's "microHutong" was definitely a crowdpleaser, not so much for its ambitious scope but the fact that it was open for exploration. (The highly regarded Beijing-based practice was founded by Zhang Ke in 2001; although it hasn't been updated since December 2012, the News Feed on their site provides a nice survey of the studio's recent work.)
The installation itself was something like an inside-out treehouse: human-sized plywood boxes arrayed at varying heights and angles around a kind of micro-courtyard. Compelling? Certainly—children took to it as a veritable playground. Inhabitable? Sure—a studio assistant mentioned that some of his fellow architects (visiting for Beijing Design Week) had indeed spent the night in the cubic chambers when their lodging arrangements fell through. Scalable? Not so much—the team demolished an extant edifice in order to build the structure in situ at the rear of the space and essentially rebuilt an ad hoc façade / gallery afterward (credit where due to the tradesmen who made it happen in a week or so).
It so happens that I upgraded to the iPhone 5s just before I took off for Beijing Design Week, and once I'd acclimated to iOS7—arguably a more significant new development than the improved hardware—and a bout of jet lag, I found myself playing around with some of the other new features of the device. I'd assumed that the Slo-Mo video feature would be gimmicky at best (and maybe it is), but I must say it was surprisingly fun to explore a cinematographic trope with a smartphone camera.
The media tour of Beijing Design Week was, in fact, a perfect opportunity to play around with the Slo-Mo camera: Since the venues are spread out throughout Beijing, we spent a not insubstantial proportion of the time simply getting shuttled around town by a hapless Shifu. Several of major building projects—namely the Rem Koolhaas' CCTV Building and Zaha Hadid's Galaxy Soho—happen to be adjacent to major north-south routes in the Chaoyang District, which extends from 798/751 down to the historic city center (i.e. Tiananmen Square and Dashilar), so our time in transit doubled as an incidental architecture tour.
In other words, I had a lot of time to kill on the bus, and Slo-Mo video almost justified the horrendous traffic of Beijing... almost.
Another example of the intriguing collaborations between young, emerging designers and Austrian industry supported by Vienna Design Week, German designer Sebastian Herkner has developed an ingenious new technique for historic Viennese textile and embrodery merchants Zur Schwäbischen Jungfrau.
A contemporary twist on the family-run company's age-old monograph napkin embroidery, Sebastian has devised a much more fleeting and flexible way of embellishing the table linen—embossing lettering with a custom-made letterpress set and iron. The crisp yet subtle effect created lingers only until the fabric is washed, leaving room for all sorts of creative communication at your next dinner party.
Whereas the Museum of Bicycle Parts materialized (or popped-up, as they say) in a quirky storefront space in Dashilar's labyrinthine hutong, the Factory No.8 space a couple alleys down served as a more traditional venue for about a dozen Beijing Design Week exhibitions as it has in past years. Both the main two-story building and several project rooms—organized around a communal courtyard, as in the surrounding abodes—had been converted into galleries for a week, featuring a mix of temporary installations and new work from Chinese and European designers.
A standout amongst the exhibitions was a joint project from the Moscow Design Museum, curators Evgenia Novgorodova and Peipai Han, and a handful of supporting agencies. Spanning two large rooms (and an interstitial corridor) on the ground floor of the Factory, Common Objects: Soviet and Chinese Design 1950–1980's is the "first retrospective of its kind, bringing together daily objects designed in Russia and China in the second half of the 20th Century."
A shared dream of equality and prosperity was one of the motivators for an active exchange of goods, which lead to a common social experience for Chinese and Soviet consumers. The primary function for design and branding of day-to-day-Soviet and Chinese items in 1950–1980 was to satisfy basic human needs. At the same time, designers—or 'artistic engineers,' as they were called in the USSR—were responsible for creating a new, unifying aesthetic, guided by the principles of functionality, sustainability and durability, while coming up with a design fit for mass production.
The Chinese and Soviet industrial and graphic design objects selected feature significant moments in the design histories and the similarities in material culture of the two nations.
Packaging for confectionary goods
Bidon with logo of Youth and Students Festival 1985
Middle class aspirations—of car ownership, of course—notwithstanding, the humble bicycle endures as a touchstone of everyday life in Beijing. Although usage is unlikely to come anywhere near the 2/3-of-trips-by-bicycle mark set in the mid-80's, the 2012 launch of the city's bikeshare program and ever-increasing congestion are key factors in bringing pedal power back into fashion in the capital city... and at somewhere between 16–20% usage as of the current decade, they're easily an order of magnitude beyond, say, NYC. The iconic Flying Pigeon may be a veritable endangered species among the mix of domestically-produced bikes on streets and sidewalks throughout the city, but the bicycle commuter, as a breed, certainly is unlikely to go extinct any time soon.
So too is the curbside repair shop a common sight, at least along the more heavily trafficked bicycle routes in the city center. In the interest of elevating the mundane mechanic, a team of students from CAFA's Visual Communication program saw fit to elevate the ultralocal repair shop in the heart of Dashilar into a "Museum of Bicycle Parts," repurposing bits and pieces of hardware into jewelry and toys.
Although there is nothing particularly precious about the upcycled parts—mostly chainlinks, plus nuts and bolts that remain recognizable as such—many of the native Chinese visitors were delighted by the winsome works, and I personally thought that the trinkets and tchotchkes made for more charming souvenirs than the gift items available at Beijing Design Week's new retail store.
The Passionwege format returns for this year's Vienna Design Week linking emerging international design talent with what's left of the city's historic industries. Among the designers are Franco-Swiss duo Bertille & Mathieu, who have combined forces with crystal glass and chandelier manufacturer Lobmeyr to make the ultra-high end brand that little bit more accesible.
Having sought inspiration with a visit to the brand's age-old factory, the two designer drew interesting parralels between the process of crystal manufacturer and candy making—both involving the melting and boiling of powders (sand in the case of crystal, sugar in confectionary) and the subsequent depositing, shaping and setting of the molten sustenance into a clear solid.
Isabelle Pascal has supported Beijing Design Week since its inaugural year through her curated design shop Wuhao, which she founded one year prior, in 2010, after relocating from her native France. Located on a quiet alley off the heavily-touristed strip of Nanluoguxiang, the traditional courtyard house is arranged thematically based on the seasons and elements, featuring collections of furniture, jewelry, fashion and other design objects by a mix of local and imported designers.
An art and media manager by trade, Pascal has an excellent eye for young and emerging designers, and her savvy is especially useful in a country with an as-yet-inchoate design scene. We were impressed by the work of CAFA grad Mian Wu, whose debut collection we saw at Wuhao during last Beijing Design Week, and Pascal was pleased to present several new pieces from the young designer. Wu expands upon the theme of jewelry meta-production with rings bedecked with clusters of 'defective' rings, which have been cast and painted bone white yet retain their original details.
Of course, Pascal's main focus for this year's Beijing Design Week is one of her new finds: the Fabrick Lab, a.k.a. Elaine Ng Yanling, a Chinese-British designer who splits her time between Beijing, London and Hong Kong and whose past experience includes stints at Nokia and Nissan. And although she's been dubbed the "Techno Fairy" by Elle Decor, her pithy nickname belies the rigor and research behind her craft: she was recently a TED Fellow for smart materials, which take the form of biomimetic textiles.
Photography by Sam Dunne & Anki Delfmann for Core77
Now in its 11th year, London's annual design festival has expanded from its focus on furniture and design objects to include a strong a fashion, graphic and (most notably) digital component.
Not represented in our photo gallery of highlights—but worth mentioning—was the really interesting line-up of talks and seminars offered at this year's festival.
London's annual design festival, which wrapped up a nine-day run on Sunday, included over 300 events, exhibitions and installations held across the capital. Here, we present some highlights from around the city, including special shows at the Victoria and Albert Museum and new product designs from the 100% Design, designjunction, Tent London, and Super Brands London exhibitions.
This jumprope by student Shi Weilu collects kinetic energy from use to power a flashlight
Ben Hughes has scarcely looked back since he made the transition from Central St. Martins to CAFA about three years ago; rather, he's looking to the future and what it might possibly hold. What better place to do so than in Beijing, where he's set up shop in the Caogchangdi artist village and works part time as a Visiting Professor at the prestigious China Academy of Fine Arts?
Yet in China, Hughes notes, "design is almost exclusively linked to lifestyle and luxury consumption. It is seen as something to aspire to rather than something accessible by all." In the interest of initiating a sea change, he's working on dn Design for the Real China, a design competition that addresses the "imbalance in the understanding of 'design' in China—amongst students, amongst consumers, amongst designers."
With dn - Design for the Real China, I was anxious that we didn't simply reproduce familiar modes of design competition. Many of these (you know who you are) appear to place image, styling and presentation over content and do not insist on development, prototyping or testing. Many also seem to favour slick exterior computer visuals and don't require any level of depth. Some (again, you know who you are) seem to exist solely as commercial entities to extract money out of students and young designers, first for entering, then for publishing, then for attending awards ceremonies, then for receiving an award.
Design for the Real China is unique on several levels:
Emphasizing the explanation of the problem being addressed. Competitions that provide briefs are often so limited and so full of assumptions that we wanted to remove that element. Therefore there is no brief, but participants are asked to explain the problem they are tackling. The problem is often as interesting as the solution...
Removing the influence of judges. They often have their own agenda, so the judging is by popular online vote.
Creating a new kind of incentive structure. The categories are not linked to traditional divisions of design activity—graphic design, product design, textiles, fashion, furniture, etc.—but are decided according to the number of people affected by the design.
This is potentially the most confusing part. Since we ask that all entries are prototyped and tested in some way, the category is linked to the number of people who have been affected so far. Therefore, a product that is on the market and has sold well may have affected 10,000 or more people. A prototype that you have shared with your classmates and friends might have affected 50 people. Something that you made for a relative to solve a particular problem might have affected just one person. The prize money is allocated in inverse proportion to this category. i.e. if the design has affected many people, the prize money is low.
Given 3D printing's meteoric rise over the past year, it's no surprise that crowds were swarming around the iMakr booth at 100% Design. Inside the skeletal frame of a 100 square meter "house," the UK-based online retailer (and owner of the world's largest 3D printing store) brought its "Factory at Home" concept to the show floor, displaying various 3D printing models and 3D printed objects ranging from lighting, furniture and architectural models to cutlery, jewelry and sculptures.
iMakr staff gave live demonstrations using some of the industry's best desktop 3D printers from companies like MakerBot, Ultimaker and FlashForge.
100% Design was also the occasion for iMakr to launch its new Print on Demand service called My Mini Factory, allowing designers to upload their own models or download free 3D printable files from the company's in-house team of designers.
Combining the latest in 360-degree scanning and 3D printing technologies (along with a healthy dose of narcissism), iMakr gave people the chance to walk away with a full body, full color replica of themselves—a service the company plans to offer in London's department store, Selfridges, this winter.
Once again, the Caochangdi Artist's Village is hosting several BJDW ongoings, and the Red Bricks cluster of studio/gallery spaces is home to several installations, events and initiatives in conjunction with the weeklong festival. Naihan Li, best known for her CRATES series from 2011, led us on an informal tour of her neighborhood—indeed, the ever-charismatic architect/designer-turned-curator/producer has duly assumed the role of village ambassador since she established her studio there several years ago. For Beijing Design Week, she offered her sizable live/work space for a handful of local and international exhibitors. In addition to work by Dutch photographers, a German fashion designer and techno-fabric designer Elaine Ng (more on her later) on the first floor, Li's home is also the venue for furniture and photos by the newly-formed Studio LL. Co-founder Fai Lau explained that the "Du Pin"—literally "unique products," but also a homonym for "drugs"—are an extension of his work as a vintage furniture purveyor and interior designer. The simple concept allows for unpretentious execution of reclaimed and repurposed pieces.