At the end of September, members of the Oslo National Academy of Arts visited Beijing to explore current design trends emerging from China. After hearing about their trip from Sigurd Strøm, one of our Creators and professor at the Academy, TheCreator.ME created a plan to give them an immersive experience of Beijing design and manufacturing on the back-end of Beijing Design Week. The group consisted of four students, Professor Sigurd Strøm, and Dean of Faculty Stein Rokseth.
TheCreator.ME team organized an extensive schedule to explore the best of Beijing design, including opportunities to meet with some of the city’s main players. The 7 day schedule included a tour of the NO+CH Art Festival, private access to Beijing Design Week 2011 exhibits and the National Museum of China for “Design Landing,” a behind the scenes tour of the adaptable workspace manufacturer Haworth, a question-and-answer session with gallery owners in Beijing Fashion Design Square 751, including Henri Garbers of the high-end bamboo manufacturer Lasfera, a tour of the internationally renowned 798 Art District followed by an interactive workshop with David Kay, former “Piracy Czar” for Microsoft and current CEO of Yuanfen Flow art incubator, and exclusive access to Parkview Green, a recently finished property exemplifying the future of Beijing interior design.
“The exposure TheCreator.ME gave our students to what the world of design is like in a country that manufactures over 25% of the furniture in the world, was more than we could have asked for,” stated Sigurd Strøm. “To see what we teach in our lessons – not just design, but the business aspect of creating market viable pieces – you have to understand the manufacturing and logistics parts just as much as the entire fulfillment of a design; with the help of TheCreator.ME we exposed our students to just that.”
In addition to these, the group also bought stools in one of Beijing’s many hutongs (“alleyway” in Chinese) to redesign at TheCreator.ME offices. “The most interesting thing about these stools is the versatility of them,” said Eva De Moor, one of the students. “Situations are always changing in hutongs and these have been designed to move and adapt to small spaces.” Maria Bjørlykke, another student, added “It’s fun to play around with chairs so simple and straightforward, designed entirely independently of each other yet with their own unique flair.”
“The extreme contrast in these stools is a mirror of the extreme contrast present in Chinese design… it’s just too much,” begins to explain Dean of Faculty Stein Rokseth. “You can see it in their fashion right away; they are completely over decorated. Too many different design styles mashed together to create something unique without any sense of origin. In Norway we have minimalism; in China, they have the opposite: maximalism.”
“They almost have this forced creativity from a lack of access to materials,” added another student, Mads Pålsrud. “Sometimes when you are given too much, which seems to be happening right now in China, they don’t know how to use these creative materials selectively and thus force themselves to use everything they can find.”
The group really enjoyed exploring Beijing’s design scene to see not only the creativity among professionals emerging in the design landscape, but also similar trends they found at the Milan International Designer Fair earlier this year; it was a pleasure for us to give them this experience. “Learning about bamboo furniture from the masters at Lasfera was wonderful and it’s so fun to see one material used in so many different ways,” said Sigurd Strøm. “And the ‘What If?’ exhibit was a very cool example of mixing art and technology to create design.”
TheCreator.ME team loved to experience Chinese design through the eyes of Scandinavian furniture design students and professors. It’s always enjoyable to see the striking contrast between very design-centric cultures and how they interpret styles differently. The Oslo National Academy of Art’s next trip is to Maputo, Mozambique and we can’t wait to catch up with them after their visit.
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