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World-class designers meet Chinese college students
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The OCT-LOFT and OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), both located in the eastern part of Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) in Nanshan District, Shenzhen City, were the focus of a grand opening for a creative festival.

World-renowned designers Kenya Hara and Nanto Fukasawa from Japan and John Denton and Gary Emery from Australia were invited to attend the opening ceremony at the weekend.

Major events during the festival included a seminar on "Visible Utopia," two lectures by Hara and Fukasawa on Saturday and lectures by Emery and Denton on Sunday.

If you missed the opening ceremony and the lectures, there are still three theme exhibitions showing.

The exhibition, "React: OCT Properties Quality Life Space," is a showcase of a series of architectural design samples selected from OCT Properties apartments and villas.

The exhibition, "Creative Renovation," aims to illustrate not only the success story of OCT-LOFT's transformation of a collection of abandoned industrial buildings in the eastern part of OCT into a modern art gallery with surrounding workshops for artists and designers, but also its grand plan for the future.

The third exhibition, "Re Do Show," is an interesting and provocative exhibition because it shows not only works by Hara, Fukasawa, Denton and Emery, but also works by students from China's four art schools, including the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Beijing University, Hunan University, and Ningbo City College of Vocational Technology in Zhejiang Province, based on topics chosen by the four internationally acclaimed designers.

The topic by Japanese designer Hara dealt with creativity using every day items: A secondary function for white duct tape or a white paper cup.

A team of 13 students from the Ningbo City College of Vocational Technology, with the help of their instructor, Pan Qin, spent 12 days finishing their individual designs according to their understanding of Hara's topic.

"Through the topic, I wished Chinese students to be able to consider the potential functions of an object as well as its relationship with humans," Hara said.

Hara said the designs of Chinese students on display demonstrated that they had understood and grasped the point of his topic.

Liu Jun, 21, named his design "The Storage Cup." In his design, Liu attached 25 paper cups with pins through the centers of the bottoms to a wall to form a rectangle. Then he put into the cups small things, such as socks and underwear, articles of clothing that can mess up our bedrooms.

Fukasawa presented a topic to seven students from the School of Design in Hunan University: Take photos of things they do every day without being aware, and develop projects.

In response, the seven students finished eight designs collectively or individually, which are all on display at the "Re Do Show."

One collective work is called "The Curtain Cord." The seven students noticed that when people try to adjust a curtain, it is often hard to tell which cord was to raise or lower the curtain. So they used raindrop-like beads attached to the cord to indicate the directions. Just like a raindrop on the tip of a leaf, the big bead head indicates "down" and the small bead head, "up."

"A good design usually starts with a designer's discovery of people's unconscious behavior or habits," said Fukasawa.

"The purpose of my topic is to enable participating students to discover people's unconscious behavior or habits in everyday life as much as possible, but some students' designs may be so obvious and simple that visitors can easily figure out their design ideas," he said.

The topic Garry Emery gave to 15 students from the School of Design in the Central Academy of Fine Arts was quite abstract: In an age of universalizing digital media, how do you express an authentic sense of place?

The 15 students chose to use texts and graphics, rather than graphic designs, to present their understanding of the given topic.

Their instructors, Jiang Hua and Li Shaopo, arranged a 10-day workshop for students to incorporate the study of an "exhibition site" as an example.

Emery believes the purpose of design is "to meet not only commercial needs, but also to satisfy the cultural needs of people."

"When I come to China, what I'm really interested in is not its high-speed economic development, but its long history and traditional culture as well as how to combine modern elements with the old culture," said Emery, who was on his third trip to China.

The topic Denton gave to nine students at the research center of Beijing University was probably the most challenging: The home of the future in China.

The nine students imagined themselves as China's future architects to address the problems of the country's future architecture for improved lifestyle and living space.

Su Hang named his work "Auto Babel," believing that if people want to choose a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, they must abandon automobiles which are causing many problems today.

(Shenzhen Daily November 13, 2007)

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