Already home to a thriving art scene and many a starchitect's creation, Beijing upped its cultural ante last month by holding its inaugural design week. In true Chinese style, the ambitious 9-day event was spread over numerous locations around the mammoth city, and shone a light (despite the persistently hazy skies) on its eclectic fusion of past and present.
The main hub of the event was 751 D-Park - a striking cluster of disused boiler towers, railroad tracks and chimneys, which once served as a gas power plant, and has become the go-to location for creative events. Located just north of the famous 798 Art District, the park housed exhibitions from a slew of participating countries, most notably The Netherlands' Dutch Design Generator, and offered some insight to the state of Chinese design. Local design heavyweights, like Harrison Liu and Song Tao presented unique adaptations on traditional motifs in their pieces.
Across town, Beijing Design Week also orchestrated a series of pop-up shops and exhibitions in Dashilar Alley - one of the city's many hutongs, emphasising the value of these heritage areas to locals and visitors alike. The result was a charming hybrid of the city's most influential design and lifestyle businesses, such as Wu Hao, Lost and Found and even Ab Rogers' fictional 'Ernesto Bones' exhibition, all situated in modest courtyard houses located next to existing residences, neighbourhood eateries and shops, dating back to another time.
The week also saw the opening of Beijing's first design centre, known as the Liang Dian (which translates as 'Spotlight'.) Located in an ex-computer assembly factory, the renovated 8-storey building provides studio office space and a gallery for a community of architects, lighting designers and young talent. The inaugural exhibition was of 'Chinese Stuff', which translates the idea of 'super normal' into the Chinese lexicon and celebrates both its wackiness and beauty.