2015-Present | Design SocietyShenzhen, China

When my work as Founding Director of Design Society began, the conditions were great: SOE China Merchants’ pioneering engagement with a new industry, design, had just taken off and the Victoria and Albert Museum was planning its innovative and collaborative flagship project for China. The architect Fumihiko Maki was using his vision to amplify the best qualities of the museum’s location in Shekou, by designing an urban landmark. Speaking for myself, there was the fresh experience of working as the 5th Shenzhen Urbanism/Architecture Biennale’s creative director, in one of the most vibrant cities I have ever worked for. Grateful for the opportunity, I began by mapping out the work that needed to be done to transform these conditions into an actual institution. The result was a founding document describing a vision and the actions needed to realize it.

Now, barely two and a half years later, most of these actions have been completed. We have coined the name Design Society to represent our spirit and drive for positive change. Together with Bruce Mau Design, we have co-created a brand to express it. We have identified our audiences. We have prepared a multi-faceted program of exhibitions, events, courses and other formats for these audiences. A team has been built to implement this program. We have conceived an entrepreneurial model to ensure sustainability. We have begun to establish numerous partnerships and develop our network. We have developed a long-term campaign focused on engaging the public with how to Design Society. It’s all there now, ready to be visited, experienced and enjoyed.

Whatever productivity, this is not to say there weren’t challenges along the way. Finding skilled and dedicated people that believe in this unique project and are willing to commit years to it is by no means easy. Embedding a cultural initiative in a state-owned company culture with no previous experience in the creative industries has been a learning curve in itself. Navigating, mediating and ultimately transcending eastern and western cultural practices into something relevant and urgent for international design, is an unfinished process. However, I believe we are on track and the imminent opening of the Design Society may celebrate that achievement. Let me express my deepest thanks to all the people who turned so many ideas into reality.

The question remains: what exactly are we opening? We are opening a place that embodies the spirit of design as much as it displays its forms. We are inviting the world to participate in Design Society as well as visit it. We are crafting an experience that mixes a variety of programs ranging from the studied concentration of a classic museum gallery to the buzz of a popular design café. We are launching an agenda for innovation with Shenzhen as its optimum. We are telling a story of pioneering rather than consolidation. And perhaps, at the beginning and at the end of any visit, we will literally open views to horizons: to the timeless values of the land, the bustling newness of the city, and the promise of fresh ideas from overseas.

For everyone waiting for a new design platform at the crossroads of China and the world, as well as inspiring for creative communities across the board. As our slogan goes: Design to inspire, Design Society.

Ole Bouman,

Director of Design Society

For more information, please see: Design Society.

For an introductory brochure, please see: Design Society.

Shenzhen, China

2013-2014 | Urbanism/Architecture Bi-City Biennale of Shenzhen/Hong Kong

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2012 | Dutch Architecture in 250 Highlights

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2009 | Architecture of Consequence

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