How China’s Newest Cultural Hub Is Turning Heads in the Design Industry

The 26,000 square-metre Design Society is set to change the face of Shenzhen and add to China’s ever-growing presence as a key player in the international design circuit.

Courtesy of Design Society

In recent years China has upped its game in the design stakes, hosting huge international events including Design Shanghai, plus this year it dominated the World Interior of the Year 2017 awards, with no less than a third of shortlisted entrants being Chinese.

Now the new Design Society, designed by Japanese practice Maki and Associates, will open on December 2 in Shekou as part of the wider Sea World Culture and Arts Center project. This will include a new gallery curated by the V&A, which is the first ever collaboration between a UK museum and Chinese partner.

Courtesy of Design Society

Lead curator of the V&A‘s inaugural exhibition Values of Design Brendan Cormier commented in a blog post on China’s desire to become a global leader in the design industry: ‘There is perhaps no country banking more on design than China. In 2004, in his state address, Premier Hu Jintao spoke about growing the Chinese economy specifically through design and innovation. The idea was as simple as it was powerful: while China operated as the factory of the world, most of the profit from the things it made was flowing back to those countries where the products were designed. If China could start designing competitive products itself, it would be a major boon to the economy.

‘This ambition — encapsulated in the slogan “From Made in China to Created in China” — has had a wide-ranging impact across the country… Thousands of museums have been built in China over the last decade, in what has been the largest museum-building spree the world has ever seen. In 2014 alone, 415 new museums opened, bringing the total number in the country to 4,510, the majority of which are less than a decade old. The government is hoping that this cocktail of business parks, cultural infrastructure and design education will prompt the kind of design innovation necessary to elevate China’s creative economy.’

Courtesy of Maki & Associates

Three exhibitions will launch at Design Society, including the V&A’s Values of Design, Minding the Digital and Nurturing Dreams in Recent Work: Fumihiko Maki + Maki and Associates, plus there will be a two-day launch programme of talks on cultural industry, tours of the buildings and exhibits, outdoor performances and a series of workshops, all of which will be open to the public.

As part of Design Society, Shenzhen will see the opening of the Shenzhen Guanfu Museum, which will be China’s first private museum to showcase ancient Chinese craftsmanship and artworks. Also opening in December is the Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening, which will tell the story of Shekou’s cultural past and its rapid development into a thriving economic area.

Shenzhen has already received the accolade of UNESCO City of Design back in 2008, but this new cultural hub will cement its position as a progressive city and enhance its connection with the rest of the design industry.

A version of this article originally appeared in Culture Trip.