Chinese Creative Cities Economy map

A marathon of interventions, exhibitions, and dialogues was promoted by the Chinese Creative Cities to invigorate the dialogue among the Chinese, Italian, and international design communities.

In 2023, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Chinese presence returned in grand style to the Milan International Furniture Fair with a series of events sponsored by the Cultural Office of the Embassy and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Milan. The event and exhibition, curated by DONTSTOP at Piazza del Cannone, hosted the capitals of Chinese Design, including Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Hainan, and Wuxi, which showcased their prestigious Design Weeks and featured distinguished guests such as Master Zhu Xiaojie. Innovative projects, companies, excellent local products, and services established a fruitful dialogue with the vibrant Milanese design community, opening up new prospects for collaboration and friendship. The evening was masterfully concluded with an engaging DJ set by Marcobaleno and a buffet, providing a more informal moment to wrap up the event.

ArtiJanus/ArtiJanas is a cultural project born in Sardinia. It was created to stimulate local productive realities operating in the various sectors of craftsmanship to reinterpret their productions, hybridize them, and generally innovate. Following the presence of the products at Homo Faber 2022 in Venice, Dontstop curated the installation at Palazzo Litta of the work of Collezione Terre (Terrapintada + Zanellato/Bortolotto and Laboratorio Tessile M&Dusa and Serena Confalonieri). The installation is realized using a sinuous shape as a backdrop for the products, made from the typical yarn of Sardinian textiles, and echoing some of the typical stylistic features of vase work. The decision to use a material such as threads to create space is also a tribute to the Sardinian artist Maria Lai.

Hainan, thanks to its recent Free Port status, is becoming the bridge between South East Asia China, and the rest of the world, and has invited Italy as a Partner Country for its first Design Week. The ‘Window of Italy’ exhibition, curated by Michele Brunello, which DONTSTOP designed the set-up, explores the innovations taking place in the various fields of design, which can be traced back to ‘Made in Italy’ and the Italian territory. The general theme of Design Week is “Low Carbon and New Consumptions”, and a particular focus of the exhibition addressed the theme of the Mediterranean dimension, which creates a bridge with Hainan, an island with a climate and historical/geographical conditions similar to some Italian regions.
Italy, one of the laboratories of possible (and necessary) transitions for the future, is presented through the involvement of partners, designers, and enterprises, design, and business projects, divided into five thematic sections: Design, Fashion, Food, Cities, and Education.
These thematic sections will represent some case studies of realities that represent Italian quality in the various fields, and as is usually the case, the cultural content reinforces the entire system of business operations that accompany the event. The layout is conceived as a dynamic wave-shaped path, which the visitor passes through, delving into the various institutional presences, including the Marche Region and Milan Polytechnic, and industrial and commercial realities.

From Beijing, at the China-Europe (Italy) Creative Industry Digital Exhibition, a panel discussion was held on the theme “Heritage & Innovation”, with Michele Brunello speaking live via streaming at the table with Luca Fois, Zhang Yi, Fu Zhiyong and many other experts from the creative sector.

A new model of event and exhibition fair that gives great space to digital to create collaborations and synergies between the two countries.

The exhibition “How do you play” collected a selection of 12 objects inspired by the theme of the game, developed by the designers of the LABA Academy in Douala, the main urban centre of Cameroon. The exhibition was the final stage of a design training course led by Dontstop Architettura, as part of the “CAMon! Promoting art and culture: capacity building, social enterprise and education in Cameroon”, coordinated by the COE Association and supported by AICS – Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, aimed at cultural promotion through the creation of a HUB integrating tradition and technological innovation.

The exhibition explores the relationship between cities and their landscape systems linked to water: today we need a new architecture capable of recovering urban qualities starting from the relationship between cities and their water. The metaphor of “posture”, of how the body reacts to its surroundings, is placed in different environmental contexts. The exhibition combines the postures of the “men of water” (such as the gondolier of the Venetian boat or Suzhou) with contemporary reflections and projects on the relationship between space, people and water. The exhibition, through symbolic objects and metaphors, helps viewers to understand how urban environments, in dialogue with water, are the most important resource for a sustainable and good quality future development. In China we play along the blue infrastructure of the Grand Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back over 2000 years of history: 1700 kilometers of canals connecting the most important cities of China. Today, as in the past, the link between Venice and China passes through water.

In the prestigious location of Errotaja, in the centre of Helsinki, one of the main installations consisted of a survey of the most important transformations, people, communities and projects of Design in Beijing. The exhibition “Beijing: a harmonious and livable city of culture”, co-curated by Michele Brunello, Wenyi Wu, Tao Haiying, was set up by Dontstop Architettura and divided into five rooms: “City” tells the story of Beijing’s transformations up to 2030, “People” tells the story of the young protagonists of design and culture, “Community” describes the complex operations of urban regeneration and community building in the Hutongs, “Objects” shows the objects and arts&craft connected to the great monuments of the capital and finally “Rituals” tells the rituals and practices related to the Chinese calendar and the Moon Party, celebrated during the exhibition period.

In the central location of Beijing Design Week, the Agricultural Exposition Center in Sanlitun, the room dedicated to special projects hosted an installation by Dontstop Architettura on the theme launched by XPORT and Across Chinese Cities for the next Architecture Biennale: Waterscapes and Urban Design along the Chinese Grand Canal. A summary of the projects of the last 6 years and a mapping of the 36 cities overlooking the Grand Canal told visitors about the urban, social, landscape and environmental implications of the new interventions on the world’s largest and oldest blue infrastructure. The installation was accompanied by a seminar attended by professionals and major Chinese institutions dealing with the subject.

The Chinese metropolis are the places of development of new urban practices that use Design as a tool for urban regeneration and community building. In this context, the Chinese Design Weeks have developed themselves as big public events of urban experimentation, conceived as a testing ground for all forms of project, a very distant vision from the concept of design linked to the “product” or “services”. The event “A Journey in China Design Weeks” will involve the protagonists of the Chinese Design Weeks network in an innovative and engaging format.

The Xport exhibition addresses the issue of the complex relationship between tradition and innovation in Venice and investigates the relationships between urban space and design in the paradigmatic context of the city. A large conceptual video, divided into four sections, accompanies the viewer through the exhibition, where specularly to each section of the video four thematic areas are developed that host a symbolic object: the forcola, the murano glass, the lace and the mask.

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