words Aric Chen
top image Courtesy of Snøhetta
Aric Chen was creative director of the first Beijing Design Week and is an active curator and critic. He writes for the New York Times and China’s Modern Weekly.
Snøhetta’s Times Square redesign, New York (top image)
It was exciting to see Snøhetta’s recently selected plan to make permanent the temporary pedestrian plazas that two years ago replaced traffic lanes in Times Square. Up close, the design is poetic and pragmatic. But more than that, it literally concretises a once-unimaginable notion – closing Times Square to traffic – to mark another turning point in the relationship between automobile and city.
Madame Grès: Couture at Work, Musée Bourdelle, Paris
Mounted at the Musée Bourdelle, curator Olivier Saillard’s exhibition on the couturier Madame Grès was a true gem. Despite there being no direct link between Grès and Antoine Bourdelle, seeing the former’s clothes installed among the latter’s fin de siècle sculptures elevated one’s understanding of both.
image Pierre Antoine
Zhu Pei’s OCT Design Museum, Shenzhen
Architect Zhu Pei’s OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen is only just completed, and its future programming seems unclear. But the building itself is sublime, its reflective exterior yielding an open, floating interior that feels boundary-less and transcendent.
image Courtesy of Studio Zhu Pei
The Guggenheim’s architecture/urbanism programme, New York
Kudos to the Guggenheim for mounting some of the most engaging and innovative architecture programmes for a major museum. Alongside stillspotting nyc, a series of interventions and self-guided tours throughout various New York neighbourhoods, it launched the BMW Guggenheim Lab in the city with a temporary “mobile laboratory” by Atelier Bow-Wow. More iterations of both projects, in other cities, are on the way.
image Kristopher McKay
Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York
The Cooper-Hewitt museum’s Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, shown at the United Nations while the museum is under renovation, builds on an earlier effort by the museum to examine design’s role in tackling global issues. However, what’s especially noteworthy about this follow-up is how it appears to mark a shift from socially conscious design that’s often merely novel (though well meaning) towards designers engaging more collaboratively with those they are meant to serve.
Beijing Design Week
As its creative director, I have to give a shout out to everyone who helped to make the first Beijing Design Week, which launched at the end of September, a success. What happens in China will have a global impact, and the overwhelming response to the many exhibitions, installations, talks and workshops of this large-scale, city-wide event proved to me how serious about design China really is.
image China Design News