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'China Design Now' Offers Cultural Overview

In the lead up to and under the pretext of this summer's Beijing Olympic Games, China-themed events are proliferating around the globe.

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It also provided the base for figures like Yue-Sai Kan, who introduced the beauty business to China, and fashion and lifestyle publisher Chen Yifei. She added, however, that Shanghai designer Yiyang has now shifted his sales focus to Beijing.

Parker and Zhang did their most in-depth research about the early emergence of a graphic design scene in Shenzhen, which hit its stride in 1992 with a first exhibition to introduce the concept to China. "It had a big influence, and in the early Nineties Shenzhen served as a conduit from Hong Kong," Parker explained. "The Shenzhen Graphic Design Association held the first of a series of poster exhibitions, and that led to the new generation of designers, mostly in Shanghai and Beijing. A lot of designers moved there for work in logo and packaging design. That is no longer the case in the digital age, and most designers would rather live elsewhere. The city has gone through a bit of an identity crisis, but the original pioneers are still there: It wobbled, but is recovering."

While trailblazers like Wang Shu and Di Shifeng remain and continue to hold the Graphic Design Biennale at the Guan Shan Yue Museum, much of the young generation has moved to or emerged from Beijing.

The architectural story begins in 2001, the year China ascended to the World Trade Organization and won its Olympic bid, Parker explained, and both connected to "the linking concept of 'China's hopes and dreams.' Architecture started with the entrepreneurial aspect, which led into the social aspirations, and then to the national aspirations, to see themselves as part of a global community. The Olympics provided a starting place for this. The strands include local, independent architecture, using local materials and reimagining vernacular traditions. There is also ongoing urban research, asking big questions about sustainability, transportation and livability. We include Urban China, and eco city projects like Dongtan.

"We're showing a variety of Architecture with a capital 'A,' and also urban interventions and ideas of presentation and transformation," she added. "The catalogue includes essays, especially looking at Beijing and how it is changing, and smaller projects like a photo essay on Beijing by theater designer Zheng Li. We also look at housing, how people are living, the shift from work unit-provided to their own, purchased homes."
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