Regional/ News

Passion for design adding fuel to creative credentials

China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-26 12:09

As a designer who originally trained as a cultural historian, Ole Bouman knew the potential of art and architecture to provoke positive changes in his studies of the historical interaction between architecture and human aspiration.

The designer from the Netherlands has more than 35 years of experience in architecture and design. He has worked in a variety of roles such as an editor, writer, curator and lecturer. He was also formerly director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the creative director of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, also known as UABB.

Now, Bouman is the founding director of Design Society, a collaborative new cultural platform between China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings and the London-based Victoria and Albert Museum.

Located in the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in the Shekou area of Shenzhen's Nanshan district, Design Society is a cultural hub that runs a diverse public program with a mission to mobilize designs as social catalysts.

Conditions for the role of design are not always equally optimal. There can be frustration, cynicism or complacency, Bouman said.

"But not, in any of my experiences in Shenzhen. On the very contrary, as a city of newcomers, it is a place of new ideas almost by definition," he said.

In 2009, Bouman first came to Shenzhen to give a lecture. That trip inspired him to submit a proposal to engage in a collaborative project between Dutch and Chinese architects for affordable social housing in China in 2011.

Since then, the Dutch designer has established a connection with China. "Shenzhen became my focus in 2013, developing the UABB, and became my life a few years later.

"Every creative endeavor in Shenzhen provoked another one, giving me a feeling of a creative journey, supported and enhanced by the courage, talent and the determination of the people around me," Bouman said.

Cooperating with his colleagues, Bouman said they had transformed an old glass factory into a cultural venue and took part in a series of programs such as the Shenzhen Design Week and design festivals on the streets of Shekou over the past few years.

What makes Shenzhen such a unique place for design has to do with an influx of ambitious professionals and new small businesses basing themselves there, the designer noted.

Sometimes overtaking this special character is a maturing culture of design as a field, a scene and infrastructure. Design stands as a unique feature in Shenzhen, he added.

"We presented a giant map of creative Shenzhen, helping people to understand geographically the variety and scope of the creative ecology in the city," he said.

Designated as a City of Design by UNESCO in 2008, Shenzhen has witnessed fast growth of the creative industry from infrastructure and design to high technology.

More than 10 years since promoting design globally, Shenzhen is showing signs of being an international creative metropolis. It holds events such as the International Industrial Design Fair and the Maker Week and has become a base of famed design institutions and creators from around the world.

Having worked and lived in Shenzhen for eight years, Bouman said: "I know it's proverbial for Shenzhen, but my experience to 'become a Shenzhen resident' was mostly a matter of getting help from various Shenzhen residents and learning from them to be one."

From finding an apartment or a language school, navigating the subway, a medical emergency to discovering a new dish or being taught a new emoji, the designer said: "I came to believe that Shenzhen is a city that relies on the shared experiences of new arrivals."

By 2022, Shenzhen will complete the first batch of more than 15 international blocks in its districts including Nanshan, Luohu and Futian. These are part of efforts to attract more global talent and promote the city's international achievements in production, ecology and the cultural environment, according to the city plan.

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