The show is divided into three sections, each representing one of China's major cities: Shenzhen (population: 10 million; average age: 27), Shanghai and Beijing. Each of those sections loosely represents a particular area of design, so that the Shenzhen section mainly features graphic design, Shanghai is all about fashion, and Beijing gets busy with lots of new architecture (much of it by some familiar western names).
Given the staggeringly vast subject the show is covering, it can naturally only offer an itsy-bitsy little taster; but if you view it as just that, it does its job brilliantly.
The show runs until 13 July.
The new Brit Insurance Designs of the Year show started last week at the Design Museum, taking over from where the old Designer of the Year show left off in 2006. We went along on Saturday to take a look, and we'll tell you all about that in just a moment.
But first, a gentle rant.
The show is, as you can hardly have failed to notice, sponsored by Brit Insurance. They've stuck their name right in front of it. The awards that go with the show are sponsored by them too. They're called the Brit Insurance Design Awards. And frankly, that's just rubbish. Instead of being mutually beneficial, it's mutually detrimental. It makes the Design Museum look cheap, happy to bend over, grab its ankles and get its elegantly shaped butt branded by its corporate master; and it makes Brit Insurance look greedy and egomaniacal. Instead of making the event and awards the most important thing, they've made their sponsorship the important thing. And that doesn't make us like them much.
This is a grim trend that's been happening wherever sponsorship occurs (Carling Academy anyone?). Don't get us wrong, it's a very good thing that corporate sponsorship exists. It makes stuff happen, in bigger and better ways than would otherwise be possible. But, please, let's restore some sense of modesty, elegance and sophistication to the way it's done. Wouldn't the Designs of the Year show, as supported by Brit Insurance, sound far better? Patronage, not prostitution*.
The show itself is a great mix of work arranged by discipline: Architecture, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Interactive, Product and Transport. You might question some of the entries, but it's a really valuable opportunity to see what's being going on across the design spectrum in the past year. It's also great to be able to play with some of the entries, including the Nintendo Wii, Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori's TENORI-ON digital musical instrument, and Ross Phillips' Replenishing Body Kiosk (pictured above, being used by some kids in a much looser way than intended).
In the graphics section, we were particularly pleased to see the Butt Book nominated - it's a compendium of Butt Magazine (that link is not at all safe if you're at work), designed by Jop van Bennekom, and we've noticed it being the 'inspiration' for rather a lot of work recently.
Winners in each section, and one overall winner, will be announced in March.
* The fact that Peter Saville's "THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS" sticker is one of the graphics entries feels deeply ironic.
And damn, we're glad we did. It's a fantastic show.
Normally architecture exhibitions leave us a bit cold: you're just looking at little models of the buildings, rather than experiencing them for yourself. But this show takes place in one of Rogers' most famous creations, and it makes the whole thing come alive. Here's a bit from the exhibition guide:
Thanks to the three glass facades of the Galerie Sud, the exhibition is open to the city and visible from the street, respecting in this the basic principle of the builiding that Rogers designed with Renzo Piano. On the fourth side the only solid wall offers a comprehensive chronological presentation of 40 years of professional activity, taking in hundreds of projects and completed buildings. The 50 or so projects selected for the exhibition itself are presented on tables, abundant natural light being supplemented by that from the fittings designed by Rogers' practice.
The exhibits are grouped into key architectural themes, and there are a huge number of incredibly detailed models; including Lloyds of London, the Bordeaux Law Courts, the Leadenhall Building and Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas airport. One in particular stopped us in our tracks - a fantastic model of the (unrealised) masterplan for the development of the Lu Jia Zui district of Shanghai, which lit up to show huge amounts of information. That's a terrible description. Here's a picture instead:
In the middle of the exhibition there's a large (and very pink) soft seating area, where you can lounge about and read a selection of books about Rogers' work.
We left with a much better understanding of his buildings, and a real sense of respect for the practice as a whole.
If you get the chance, do make the trip. You won't be disappointed.
So, cheerio to 2007, and hey there 2008, how you doing?
With the predictable glut of articles and features about the year ahead currently littering every magazine and newspaper you pick up, kudos to The Guardian for deciding to run with a pre-emptive review of the noughties, and particularly so for designing the article (in the G2 section) so beautifully. We highly recommend you nip out and pick up a copy.
We wanted to link out to the whole feature from here, but interestingly the Guardian Unlimited website has chopped it up into separate segments, and has also somehow forgotten to provide a link to it from their homepage.
Which is odd.
But as such, it rather neatly demonstrates how print media can still do some stuff far better than online media. Don't get us wrong, we love the Guardian site; but it can't (yet) present an article with the same pace and elegance as the newspaper.
For those of you who can't get your hands on a copy, here are links to the elements of the feature:
The way we live now
The fertility panic
The big Melt
And here's hoping that the parts of the Guardian site still wearing their old clothes (as all the articles above are) soon switch into their shinier threads. (Compare and contrast: the soundtrack article above in old clothes and in new clothes.)