Beijing Design Week 2012 report

Five wire lights, loosely based on a Chinese lantern shape
Abstracted renditions of the Chinese lantern, from Micro Macro's CONtradition collection
(Image credit: TBC)

There is a good deal of pressure that inevitably accompanies a follow-up effort. With that in mind, we eagerly headed back east to the second annual Beijing Design Week (opens in new tab) to see what its creative scene had up its sleeve. Touting a schedule of events that promised to be bigger and better than the year before, Beijing Design Week was poised to pull in the crowds for a second time running.

One of this year's big hits was the launch of a new fringe area, Cao Chang Di (opens in new tab) (CCD) - a unique village of creative and artist studios, which counts Ai Wei Wei (opens in new tab) among its many tenants. Under the curatorship of Beatrice Leanza and product designer Li Naihan (opens in new tab), the area, which will continue to develop its design credo in years to come, delivered a strong debut, with an impressive selection of locally-based designers turning out new work especially for the event. Presentations took place within the compound's distinctive red brick buildings that are of Wei Wei's design, which are worthy of the journey to the outskirts of Beijing alone.

Among the memorable collections was the product design debut from Beijing-based architecture studio Micro Macro (opens in new tab), run by Fuksas (opens in new tab) alumni Sara Bernadi and Andrea D'Antrati. Beijingers since 2010, the pair took inspiration from five archetypal Chinese furniture pieces - the alter table, folding screen, hanging lantern, tea table and stool - to create a contemporary collection made from construction steel, glass and concrete. In contrast to the roughness of the materials, each piece possessed a delicate quality, thanks to a fine treatment. 

Another prominent collection came from Dutch transplant Henny van Nistelrooy (opens in new tab), a Royal College of Arts (opens in new tab) graduate, who continued his explorations with woven textiles to create new geometric designs. His manipulations of fabrics are executed without a single cut so that no material goes to waste. The designer also worked with local woodworkers to develop one-off furniture frames, including a bench and a screen, to complement his handcrafted work.

Across town, there was the return of Dashilar Alley, a cluster of pop-up shops and exhibitions in a hutong (opens in new tab) located on the fringe of Tiananmen Square (opens in new tab). Occupying a larger area in the neighbourhood than before, this area offered an eclectic mix of work, from a public pavilion created by the Campana Brothers (opens in new tab) to an exhibition showcasing the breadth of Chinese zine culture. A whimsical pop-up café by multidisciplinary studio Jellymon (opens in new tab) offered gourmet versions of classic Chinese condiments and the typical street treat, jian bing (savoury crepe).

The strongest point of Beijing Design Week, however, is undoubtedly its ability to take advantage of the varied architecture and landscape of its home, from the abandoned industrial buildings that dominate its main design hub, 751 D-Park, to the winding, more intimate alleys and factory structures of Dashilar. Beijing Design Week's union of creative past and present bodes well for its promising future.

Table made from glass, metal rods and a block of concrete

A modern take on the alter table, made from construction materials, by Micro Macro

(Image credit: TBC)

Four-panel transparent screen with geometric design

One of four screen designs by architecture studio Micro Macro

(Image credit: TBC)

Wooden daybed with red and orange zig-zag design textile, round orange pillow, and fringes

A daybed by Studio Henny van Nistelrooy, which features deconstructed fabrics from Bute

(Image credit: TBC)

Fabric three-panel screen in blue tones, with different fabric shapes

A fabric folding-screen from the same 'Shelter' collection from Studio HVN. Each piece is unique and boasts frames made locally by Chinese craftsmen

(Image credit: TBC)

Old water tank displaying banners for Beijing Design Week

The main hub of Beijing Design Week, the industrial 751 D-Park, featured a new exhibition area devoted to Italian design in an old water tank

(Image credit: TBC)

A wave of illuminated discarded yogurt pots

Aida studio's light installation 'Milky Wave' was created using discarded Chinese yogurt pots found within the hutong

(Image credit: TBC)

Octagonal bamboo table and chairs on a floor of black and white geometric tiles

A bamboo dining table and chair by Jeff Dayu Shi of Dragonfly Design Center, created especially for the Capital M restaurant

(Image credit: TBC)

Folding screen constructed of plaited bamboo

A folding screen also by Dragonfly Design Center made from plaited bamboo, which is more commonly used to make sieves for tea picking

(Image credit: TBC)

White building with a low, overgrown roof

An overgrown, ex-hostel turned exhibition space in Dashilar

(Image credit: TBC)

Red-lidded jars of condiments sit on a wooden table

A display of condiments at Jellymon's pop-up café, A Spoonful of Sugar, in Dashilar

(Image credit: TBC)

Close-up of three jars of XO sauce

A contemporary take on a Chinese essential: XO sauce

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Drinks menu on a chalkboard on the wall

The tempting fusion menu on offer

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Two chefs at their street food stall, making breakfast crepes

Traditional Beijing street food gets a fancy facelift. Bray's chef, Max Levy, devised the elevated version of the savoury breakfast crepe, jian bing, complete with homemade sausages and condiments

(Image credit: TBC)

Abstract pavilion constructed of green rubber

'Brachina': an organic, rubber pavilion designed by the Campana Brothers, inspired by the Dashilar area

(Image credit: TBC)

A selection of Chinese magazines on a white table

'Paper Instinct', an exhibition of Chinese zines curated by Qing Qing Chen, Ronald Tau and Jiang Jian of design firm Joyn:Viscom (opens in new tab) provided a window on the nation's independent publishing scene

(Image credit: TBC)

Magazine pages cover the two open doors of a brick building

A door to the show covered with pages from zines

(Image credit: TBC)

Five white sheets with abstract patterns using dyes, hang in a large room

Images from 'Colour Space', a short film and installation by London-based Praline design studio and Wallpaper*-collaborator John Short, which represents different sound frequencies as varying coloured pigments.

(Image credit: TBC)

Bench with a smooth, white seat and slim wooden back and legs

Inspired by the proliferation of instructional videos on Youtube, Studio BET and Zara Arshad's 'How To…' group show invited designers to create new objects based on a video of a skill or craft being taught

(Image credit: TBC)

Square, smooth table with a small kettle and two cups, on a wooden plinth

This Ming Dynasty-style table and chair pairing by Xiao Tianyu were created in response to an instructional You Tube video on how to make a fishing lure by hand

(Image credit: TBC)

Wooden bench with with shelter. There is laundry draped over the roof.

Sayaka Yamamoto of BCXSY, who were amongst the invited designers who created a public park bench that reflects the needs of Dashilar locals

(Image credit: TBC)

Lots of photographs have been hung on the wall in a brick formation

Photographs documenting BCXSY's research for the project

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Wooden minimalist wardrobe with doors constructed from wooden spokes

Chinese minimalist chic at Beijing favourite, Lost and Found

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An unused architectural model

'Unmade in China' presented 12 unbuilt and abandoned architectural projects in the country and shone a light on the counterpoint to the Chinese construction boom. NADAAA's Tongxian Art Center was actually built but never put into use

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Semi-transparent model of a large building

A model of MVRDV's Long Tan Park housing project in Liuzhou

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Large structures within an industrial area

The dramatic 751 D-Park complex

(Image credit: TBC)

A wooden round-backed armchair with a square seat

We got the chance to visit the studio of established Chinese furniture designer Sun Tao

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An abstract chair formed of black and natural wood

A piece by iconic Chinese artist Liu Xiao Kang, also on display at Sun Tao's studio

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A glass-topped table sitting next to the same, deconstructed, model

Another traditional furniture archetype gets a contemporary makeover by Sa Ri Na

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Four traditional wooden chairs covered in denim fabric

More fusions of old and new: a series of traditional chairs rendered in denim fabric covers by Zhang Jie

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View between two low buildings with roofs overhanging with foliage, towards a larger brick building

The Fodder Factory, a café/restaurant located within Cao Chang Di

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A variety of old chairs and stools are attached to a wall behind a row of vintage cupboards

Vintage curiosities adorn a wall at The Fodder Factory

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A plate of cauliflower Chinese food on a wooden table

A plate of cauliflower served up at The Fodder Factory

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Looking down between red-brick buildings

Cao Chang Di's distinctive red brick buildings, designed by Ai Wei Wei

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Furniture constructed from wooden blocks covered in string

A collection of rehabilitated chairs by Shanghainese set designer Gu Yeli, who adds blocks wound with coloured string to create a woodgrain-like effect

(Image credit: TBC)

Seesaw with a grid-lined surface with a Chinese chessboard in the middle

A Chinese chessboard and seesaw all-in-one, conceived by Dotdotdot, pays tribute to the communal element of games in the public space

(Image credit: TBC)

Table tennis table on grass, with a green top and large solid white wheels

A communal table tennis table, also part of the Interactive Furniture collection, by Dotdotdot

(Image credit: TBC)

A sheet of wallpaper depicting a birds-eye view of the city in architectural-style drawing

'Instant Hutong' wallpaper by Marcella Campa and Stefano Avesani. The colours reflect the colour coding used in urban planning

(Image credit: TBC)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.