Beijing Design Week 2017
Beijing Design Week (September 23 to October 7) has become a cultural highlight for China’s bustling capital city since launching in 2009. This year’s theme was Design+, with designers and tech companies collaborating to investigate the future of urban planning, transport and public activity.
- Evoking the Natural World: Designers embraced the natural world’s association with ancient Chinese mythology, drawing on solar spectacles and natural phenomenon to create works with an embedded sense of wonder.
The eclipse has been recorded by Chinese astrologers for more than 4,000 years, with ancient folklore describing a dragon eating the sun/moon. The astronomical event is celebrated in a rug collection by Dutch Beijing-based Studio Henny van Nistelrooy for Chinese manufacturer Tan.
The rugs feature tessellating shapes in varying tonal shades, giving the impression of two different pieces of material layered on top of one another, mimicking the interaction of shadow and light in a solar and lunar eclipse.
- New Thinking with Traditional Materials: The use of traditional and typically Chinese materials exuded a strong sense of national identity, with designers paying homage to local resources and techniques.
Chinese designer Jeff Dayu Shi, founder of Dragonfly studio, presented his Yin Xian collection of bamboo timber furniture. It references traditional archetypes, with throne-like emperor seats realised in vertical and horizontal slats. This construction method creates interesting shadow play as a modern interpretation of the traditional Chinese screen.
- Space-Saving Technology: The renovation of Hutongs – narrow alleyways of traditional Chinese courtyard homes – was a persistent theme. Designers used these historic dwellings as a platform to vividly contrast between old and contemporary China.
Chinese studio Dot Architects was inspired by this theme, revealing the Baitasi House of the Future developed for Chinese tech company Whaley. The concept home integrates Internet of Things technology in movable wall and furniture modules that are controlled via a smart television, allowing for the interior to be reconfigured in multiple ways.
Similarly, international creative project consultancy About Asia hosted one-day workshop The Best 50m2. Designers, artists and performers led a group of eight participants to transform a 50 sq m plot into a useful public space – resulting in a bamboo structure and children’s maze erected on-site.
- Mapping Out an Urban Future: Designers harnessed advanced 3D printing technology to create realistic models and better anticipate the needs of growing urban centres.
Chinese firm Mars Architects and Dutch-Chinese research institute the Dynamic City Foundation collaborated on The Node//Multimodal City – a detailed, 3D-printed model of a futuristic metropolitan landscape. The project helps visitors to visualise a hyper-dense urban environment and proposes a vertical infrastructure, whereby the city is segmented into varying strata layers for maximum public mobility.
- Accessing Escapism: Concern for social and mental wellbeing in the face of large-scale urban development was manifested in projects that offered a rejuvenating mental and physical escape.
Aranya is a coastal development in northern China, and a popular destination for the country’s politicians and social elite. Beijing architectural firm ReMix Studio designed BaitaSea as a spatial installation, employing morning-like mist, ambient wave audio, purple lighting (mapping the gradient of the shifting sky) and sand transported directly from Aranya’s beaches to create a soothing escape from the city.
Read Apac Mentality for more on how consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are returning to home-grown brands. For more on the changing values and perspectives of China’s emerging consumer tribes, see China’s Youth: Challenger Consumers.