Perhaps the most interesting exhibition I came across at the Interior Lifestyle China show was tucked in a quiet wing of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, opposite the Talents section. Where all of the dozen designers in the latter section manned their booths for most of the show, "Shine Shanghai" was acutely underdocumented: when I asked a hapless staff member for information about the special exhibition, he dryly noted that "there is no explanation."
Thankfully, the exhibition guide was slightly more helpful, denoting that this was the fourth time around for "Shine Shanghai," featuring well-known Shanghai designers who were invited to persent new work for the theme "built to last." Based on the designers' "independent research," the majority of the projects incorporated stainless steel, "this year's material," reflecting—often quite literally—the theme of enduring quality. Hou Zhengguang Hou and Ding Wei, credited as producers (curators?), are among the 18 designers who participated in the (presumably) annual group show.
Yet the cursory background information only goes so far: I still have no idea why each piece is accompanied by a childhood portrait of the designer—with details about where he/she attended elementary school—alongside the designer bios, which greatly varied in length. Only a few included passable English translations of the Chinese wall text, which was often a bit poetic for my rudimentary language skills (and Google translate as well).
L: Zhang Zhoujie; R: Ding Lu
Even so, the work was strong enough to make an impression sans exegesis, and "Shine Shanghai" was an unexpected highlight from the predominantly commercial tradeshow. All in all, the special exhibit was a remarkably consistent showing from the rising and established stars of the Shanghai design scene.
NB: In the interest of comprehensiveness, I've included images of every piece in the show, though I've only included as much additional information as I can reliably offer.
Hou Zhengguang - "Beautiful Mountains"
Hou Zhengguang completed his Masters in Furniture Design in the UK before returning to Shanghai, where he's currently a designer at Moreless (he's behind the "Three Walkers" stool, which we saw in Milan this spring, among other designs). While the "Beautiful Mountains" turn up in some of his other designs for Moreless, the "Collective of Individuals" is actually an array of 81 IKEA ashtrays.
Hou Zhengguang - "Collective of Individuals" Carl Liu - "Eames"Carl Liu - "Eames" Zhang ZhoujieZhang Zhoujie
Along with Carl Liu (whose East-meets-West Eames chair is pictured above), Zhang Zhoujie is contributing his work to BUNDSHOP's collection in anticipation of their launch in a couple weeks. His multifaceted seating, which was exhibited in London last year and Milan this year, is a perfect fit for the exhibition.
Zhang Zhoujie Ding Lu - "Once Upon a Time, There Was a Mountain" Lin Tsung-Jen - "Immortal Nimbus"
Lin Tsung-Jen completed his Master of Urban Management and City Design at Milan's Domus Academy, and his "Immortal Nimbus" has an appropriately European aesthetic. "Ever morphing, the raining nimbus cloud rolls in... a shapeless essence from purified steel." Lin, an interior/exhibition architect and urban planner by trade (he's currently Director of Crox International), designed the showerhead for Taiwanese bathroom fixture company Justime.
Lin Tsung-Jen - "Immortal Nimbus" Mo Jiao - "Planet Shanghai"
Mo Jiao, Design Director of Mosmode (Mo's Mode) and Partner of Moment Decor, is also a Lecturer in Industrial Design at Shanghai's Tongji University. The description of Mo's "Planet Shanghai" simply suggests "watching the Pearl Tower from somewhere in the universe"; the accompanying copper scale replica of Kohn Pedersen Fox's Shanghai World Financial Center is uncredited, I assume that it is in fact a souvenir, a bar utensil per the skyscraper's nickname.
Wang Zhuoran's "Anticorrosive Noodles" were a personal favorite, as I've recently been on a ramen kick. The designer spent "a long time tangled on the theme of immortality," eventually deciding to take the notion of the 'immortal' "to ridicule the current social problems... [with a] focus on food safety issues." Thus, Wang's piece consists of iconic 'bricks' of instant noodles made from stainless steel wire, a commentary on the use of additives to extend the shelf life of popular foodstuffs.
Bill Yen - "Stainless Steel Bag"
Bill Yen completed his M.Arch at Harvard after studying Studio Art at Duke University; he's since founded MRT Design in Shanghai. For "Shine Shanghai," he created a series of stainless steel bags, "classic and changing both in the face of fashion whims or weather."Focusing on stainless steel as a material that can withstand harsh environmental conditions, we want to draw parallels with a design that is simple and classic enough that it also withstands the harsh and ever-changing taste of fashion. Stainless steel mesh is usually found in filtering applications in food and aerospace industries. But its fabric-like quality lends itself to being 'misused' in the making of bags and other fashion-related things.
By combining traditional metalworking, leather and fabric sewing techniques, the result is something at once familiar and alien: a bag that stands the test of time literally and metaphorically.
Bill Yen - "Stainless Steel Bag" Ding Wei
Ding Wei is currently Design Director at Shanghai's Moma, a well-known consultancy, and a self-described design veteran.
Ding Wei Firo Wang - "Two Poles" Firo Wang - "Two Poles" Yang Jidong
Of his "Undying · Beauty / Tao · Way," Yang Jidong writes, "Tao is not just universal laws of physics and natural transformation but also the track that things follow, the essence and source of everything. 'Way' lies in forms of specific patterns and lines of substances. It is the order of objects and values to tell the difference." He proposes that Design is a rule, in the deep sense, such that a designer can "generate diversity ad produce undying beauty in all forms" by obeying the Rule. "Therefore we are on the way of exploring a criteria or a universal value to develop and improve the Rule."
Yang Jidong - "Eight Principles of Yong"
The "Eight Principles of Yong" is inspired by calligraphic tradition of the same name:Many masters of calligraphy gained the Rule and the Way through practice, which happened to be a required training method to learn calligraphy, and later, they provide the world with their own style art. As a medium to inherit the tradition and culture, calligraphy influenced more than art itself but personality."
Yang Jidong - "Eight Principles of Yong" Hu Wenkit - "Good Brothers" Jethro Chan - "Book Arms"
Jethro Chan has lived in Shanghai since he completed his degree in Hong Kong, working as an art director and product designer. He's been involved with Interior Lifestyle since back in ’08.
Jethro Chan - "To Be or Not to Be" Liu Zhili - "Another Pair of Chopsticks"
Liu Zhili's "Another Pair" is a hypothetical on multiple levels: the designer simply could not recall having ever encountered a pair of octagonal chopsticks or double-ended ones. Thus, Liu wanted to "celebrate those things and moments in life that feels extremely familiar in a glimpse, but never actually seen before."
Tim Tang - "Reflection" Jolin Shen
Jolin Shen, an independent furniture and soft goods designer, asks, "What can really last forever?" For Shen, "real eternity resides in dynamic coordination and transformation." Stainless steel captures the duality of softness and strength: it is malleable at high temperatures yet enduring when solid.
Jolin Shen Hou Zhengguang - "Beautiful Mountains" Hou Zhengguang - "Beautiful Mountains" Wang Shanxiang - "Eternal"
More from Interior Lifestyle China 2012:
» Li Zhiqian's Bamboo Lampshades
» So Fresh, Sothing by Xiangfei Ran
» Kai Linke Brings Frankfurt to Shanghai
» 'Shine Shanghai' Presents the City's Best and Brightest Designers