ACROSS CHINESE CITIES – IDEAS IN ACTION (CRITICAL DESIGN PRACTICE IN CHINA) BY BEATRICE LEANZA, PROVIDES INSIGHT INTO THE CURRENT DESIGN TIDES WITHIN CHINA THROUGH ITS 320 PAGES BRINGING TOGETHER SOME 115 PROJECTS BY BOTH LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL CREATIVES CURRENTLY WORKING IN THE PRC.
“The development of the design field over the past decade has been fast-paced and industrious, governmentally approved, as much as uneven in the quality and variety of its outputs across the large expanse of practices the discipline subsumes,” describes author and creative director of Beijing Design Week, Beatrice Leanza. “It is although evident that with growing demand for higher living and environmental standards, from home, workplace to public spaces and infrastructure, the stakes for design to perform a critical role in the thinking and making of China’s urban economy are ever grander. Generational and social transformations are likewise motivating the emergence of different value systems, habits and modes of everyday living.”
The text itself complements the greater Across Chinese Cities project, a collaborative platform realizing exhibitions and public programs outlining the urban condition of contemporary China and maps the current gestures of various design disciplines ranging from urban planning, architecture and temporary interventions to publishing ventures, open-source projects and digital fabrication. Selected through the framework of four analytical categories: Re-Thinking Systems, Spatial Divides, Social Making, Visuality & Objecthood, what these works have in common, describes Leanza, is “their dynamic positioning within generative networks of co-doing and combining of knowledge. These practices advocate for design actions that are generated by a locally shaped resourcefulness of humanistic and social engagement, yet can be taken as blueprints and propositions of relevance on a global expanse.”
A few examples included within its content that paused our flip of the page were the ‘Hutong Materials Catalog’ by RAMOPRIMO and Instant Hutong that collects and catalogs local materials found in courtyard houses of Beijing which are then reassembled into unexpected combinations as means of bringing about a catalogue of inspiration and suggested combinations for future construction purposes in the neighborhood, ‘Blue.tmp’ by BaO Architects that provides a “temporary infrastructure,” (in this case a 50-meter-long “public table”) aimed at “inciting informal gatherings, grassroots street occupation, appropriation and activation,” ‘El Nino’ by designer Xinyu Weng, a set of robot pairs that, synched through the Internet, are designed to transmit emotions over long distances and allow for long-distance lovers to witness the emotional states of one another or ‘Humble Hostel’ by Cao Pu that features a moveable wall separating its interior from the crowded Hutong courtyard behind which can be adjusted in order to provide hostel-stayers with more private space when occupied while also allowing for the space to be “given back” to the courtyard and public when not needed or in use.
“In such a complex and fragmented context, a notable trait among numbers of younger professionals is a deepening interest for a cultural appropriation of their role as stakeholders in the definition of what design in China means,” furthered Leanza, “and, what design can do both for today as well as tomorrow.”