Beijing Design Week: The Future Is Here
Hong Kong may have Art Basel, Shanghai may just have gotten Christie’s (first auction house on the mainland); but Beijing is no slacker when it comes to culture creation. In fact, as this week’s Beijing Design Week shows, it’s in the smoggy, bustling Chinese capital where the innovation is really happening. Now in its third edition, this year the heavy focus is on design-related exhibitions, and the theme aims to explore built environments and habitable infrastructure, as well as the always relevant exploration of digital design. Of note, this go around is the country partner of the Netherlands, dubbed “Design Goes Dutch", where luminaries Marcel Wanders and Benthem Crouwel brought their expertise to the convention center for an exhibit of their iconic works. Also in attendance are solution-based designs from smaller studios, and the Dashilar Design Hop, wherein this tiny Hutong Quarter’s even tinier and windier streets becomes a slew of pop-up exhibitions that focus on urban ecology and other man-meets-nature concerns pressing us today. In addition, the Museum of Digital Art unveiled “Smart City,” where an exhibition of digital concepts aiming to improve urban living are rendered and made interactive.
But with an eye towards the future, below are five picks from the event that are getting us pumped about what’s to come.
The Milky Way
The crystals giant Swarovski
has of late spent time and resources looking at how the refractive properties of the mineral stone can be manipulated into digital technology. While this all sounds like a bit of hooey, in fact, an impressive rosters of instrumental designers like Ron Arad
, Maarten Baas
, and Phillip Mallouin
have tinkered with the gemstone to create lighting for this year’s exhibition at the First Workshop in 751 D Park
. But it’s Liu Feng
’s The Milky Way
that really captures the imagination: In the piece, Feng has created a crystal projector, wherein light bursts out from this floor-installed piece and swirls on the walls much like a disco ball. “My inspiration comes from memory,” says Feng of his second collaboration with the firm, who also notes “it’s not the case that art only belongs in the museum and that design is very detached from life.”
Dutch studio Knol
has been experimenting the last few years with the issue of vacant spaces and a transplantable approach to building. In turn, what lead design Jorien Kemerick
has devised is a product named Skin
that is an onomatopoeic building tool that looks, acts and feels exactly like its name. Flesh-toned and translucent, these latex-based walls are foldable, easily-erected, and are flexible, making them ideal for spaces in which permanent walls aren't possible, or to protect against nature in a pinch.
Below, you can you can watch a slightly unsettling demonstration of Skin:
Fresh out of the Beijing-based studio Interactive Beijing
, comes the Eco Air Bubble
. It's a concept prototype comprised of three separate operating systems all working towards the same goal: air purification. Alas it bears no resemblance to the ionic ones often seen on QVC at 4am, but rather it's shaped a bit like BioDome-meets-camping tent. There's a human powered system (aka your breath), green plants system (aka potted plants to release O2 to absorb your CO2) and then the digital data system that basically monitors and purifies everything else so that within this little bubble is a fresh air zone. Designers Fei Jun and Li Xinlu hope that this project will spark public participation in cleaning up air quality.
Design for Urban Emotion
College freshman beware, videochat sexting may soon be as antiquated as IRL flirting with the EMO smart toy from Tsinghua University Lab
designer Ji Yu. Billed Design for Urban Emotion
, this Pikachu-looking toy is slated to "help couples express emotion and maintain their relationship," in the privacy of an office or home. The toy lights up and moves when one partner yearns for their others touch or simply wants to say "I miss you." It's also being pitched as "low intensity, unannoying and private," and it's connected through the internet so there's a real time "emotion traffic map." So the next time you're in a fight about about who didn't hug the other today, a log tracks who is right and who is emotionally stingy.
Dirt and grime are usually things we try to wash off, but Dutch fabric designer Jetske Visser
discovered a method of treating silk where carbon molecules are supplanted within the fibres. Named Soot
, the textile is literally able to catch dirt, grime, and other gross particles floating in the air and filter them, in the process creating pretty grey marble-y patterns. Next time someone says "you're shirt is dirty," tell them it's supposed to be that way.
Top image courtesy of Alice Wang, all other images courtesy of Beijing Design Week.