When people talk about design in China, it is rarely mentioned with craft and innovation in the same breath. As we saw in the presentations in Milan, young designers in China are now sifting through the long history of specialty production and craft culture and staking a claim to change the conversation.
PINWU Studio was founded in 2008 by Domus Academy graduate ZhangLei to create products that marry traditional Chinese craft culture with a contemporary design aesthetic in what he terms, "Future Tradition." Upon meeting Christoph John (German-born and a fellow Domus graduate) and Jovana Bogdanovic (Serbian-born product designer) three years ago in Milan, the three found a kinship in their perspective on design and soon John and Bogdanovic moved to China to join Zhang at PINWU Studio.
This year's presentation From Yuhang, is the fruit of a two year dialogue and research intensive project; the three young designers traveled across the ancient Chinese district of Yuhang (located in Zhejiang Province not far outside Hangzhou) to explore local materials and seek out knowledgable craftspeople. "483 days, 17 traditional materials, 12 ancient villages, 10 designs, 8 craftsmen, 1 design team," explains the designers. From Yuhang includes 10 designs that exemplify their experiments with local materials including Yuhang Bamboo, Water Silk Floss, Porcelein and Bamboo Paper.
Bamboo Paper Umbrella craftsmen in Yuhang
One of the most striking objects is the "Tíe" paper chair inspired by Paper Umbrella crafting processes. The entire shell of the armchair is created from layered rice paper sheets and lacks a traditional frame. The shape of the chair is inspired by the classical Chinese horseshoe-back armchair.
Similarly, the "Shan" (Mountain) lamp takes its manufacturing inspiration from the ancient Chinese process of handmade paper. Craftsmen sweep a large wooden frame through a liquid pulp to create flat sheets. PINWU worked with bamboo paper pulp on dimensional frames to create the terrain of the "Shan" lamp.
The "Lù" tables were created by joining porcelein surfaces to beech wood frames. Traditionally employed in pottery and tableware, the porcelein table surfaces maintain their lustre while the material embues a sense of warmth in any space.
PINWU Studio was winner of this year's design report award at the SaloneSatellite. Check the exclusive video of ZhangLei, Christoph John and Jovana Bogdanovic sharing more about their collection (including the "Chuan" lamp made out of 0.5 mm bamboo strips) and their process below.