Design Society, a new cultural hub featuring a V&A Gallery, will open to the public in Shekou, Shenzhen, in October 2017.
This collaboration is the first of its kind between a UK museum and a Chinese partner, namely London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and leading state-owned company China Merchants Shekou Holdings (CMSK).
The new cultural hub called Design Society will be located in the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shekou, Shenzhen, and is an open and collaborative platform connecting China to the world. Its mission is to “empower the inter-connectivity between design and society, design and everyday life, and design and industry”.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is one of the founding partners of the Design Society Foundation, and has led the development and design of a dedicated V&A Gallery devoted to 20th and 21st century international design. Additionally, V&A has provided professional advice and training to help its partner China Merchants Shekou Holdings (CMSK) to establish and develop a world class design institution. The partnership and project were revealed back in 2014, while the launch of Design Society was officially announced in March 2016. As Tim Reeve, Acting Director of the V&A says, the UK-China partnership for this cultural venture represents
a new way of engaging more deeply with China at a pivotal moment in its design history. It’s a pioneering collaboration that will come to life when both Design Society and our new, dedicated V&A Gallery opens in October 2017.
Design Society is located in Sea World Culture and Arts Center, within Sea World’s coastal city complex in Shekou, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, near Nu Wa Coastal Park. The centre has a footprint of 26,000 square metres with 71,000 square metres of floor space. The complex will feature four floors above ground and two underground with spaces for galleries, a 330-seat theatre for concerts, performances and screenings, restaurants and cafes, and retail spaces for contemporary design and urban lifestyle. The complex also features public areas such as a roof garden and a multi-purpose hall with a sea-view.
The building was designed by renowned Japanese architectural studio Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, and is the studio’s first in China. Maki’s design features three cantilevered volumes atop a deconstructed plinth, opening up horizons to the mountain, the sea and the city, where interconnected spaces enable cultural conversation and dialogue.
Design Society aims to show groundbreaking designs from the past, present and future, and will also expand into other creative disciplines, encouraging dialogue and collaboration to reveal how design can be a catalyst for social change.
Amongst its major exhibition spaces are a main hall dedicated to exploring the future of digital design, an area that is critical to China’s shift from a manufacturing centre to an innovation hub, as well as a new V&A Gallery that will illustrate the scope and diversity of modern and contemporary design around the world and its impact on our lives. The V&A Gallery will include a diverse selection of objects from the V&A’s major collections of fashion, photography, furniture, product and graphic design, theatre and performance. Design Society will also host two major V&A touring exhibitions in 2018 and 2019.
In September 2016, Design Society presented its first public programmes during Beijing Design Week and London Design Festival. In London, the V&A held an exhibition curated by Luisa E. Mengoni, Head of V&A Gallery in Shekou and Brendan Cormier, Lead Curator of 20th and 21st century design for Shekou from the V&A, which showed how design can take on unconventional forms in the Pearl River Delta. The show won the Bronze Dragon award at the 2015 Urbanism\Architecture Bi-City Biennale (UABB) in Shenzhen, where it was originally shown.
In Beijing, Design Society partnered with Design Trust to hold a panel event entitled “Envisioning New Institutions: Connecting HK, SZ, PRD and China”, which looked at the dynamics of organisations that are shaping design and architecture culture in China, with Director of Design Society Ole Bouman as a guest speaker. Quoted in the press release, Ole Bouman says of the Shenzhen project:
Shenzhen has been widely recognized as a hotbed of Chinese creativity. In the last 36 years it has allowed countless newcomers to apply their ingenuity to build a future; to literally design their life. By way of our pioneering collaboration with the V&A, this culture of aspiration now meets the richness of international design heritage and the curatorial intelligence of its current leadership. The forthcoming opening of Design Society in October 2017 will mean a fantastic showcase of the power of design today.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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