The Soft Touch, Pearls of the Orient for Time Magazine Supplement, Spring 2005, © Wing Shya-La-La-Production.

China's Explosive Economy Reflected in Booming Design Ethic

National Stadium, The Main Stadium for the 2008, Olympic Games Beijing, © Herzog & de Meuron.

Preference, front cover artwork for Vision Magazine, February 2004, © Chen Man.

Chagang Summer Collection, Blue, 2005, © Wang Yiyang.


Victoria & Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
+44 (0)20 7942 2000
China Design Now
March 15-July 13, 2008

China Design Now explores the recent explosion of new design in China and attempt to understand the impact of rapid economic development on architecture and design in China’s major cities. From the 2008 Olympic stadium, and other significant architectural projects, to the latest in fashion and graphics, China Design Now captures a dynamic phase as China opens up to global influences and responds to the hopes and dreams of its new urban middle class.

The exhibition focuses on three rapidly expanding cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It will display the work of Chinese and international designers, focusing on architecture, fashion and graphic design as well as film, photography, product and furniture design, youth culture and digital media. Around 100 designers are featured, more than 95 percent of whom are Chinese.

Exhibition highlights include:
• China’s major Olympic architectural projects — designs include the National Stadium in Beijing (the ‘birds nest’) by Herzog & de Meuron as well as Digital Beijing, the information centre by Chinese architect Zhu Pei;
• The China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren (OMA);
• Foster + Partners’ design for the new Capital Airport extension in Beijing;
• Projects by China’s leading young architects — including Ma Yansong, Wang Hui, Atelier Deshaus and standardarchitecture;
• Graphic design from the last 20 years showing China’s post-Mao design pioneers and new generations of designers experimenting with the latest technologies and global design trends;
• Products aimed at China’s design conscious youth — album covers, skateboards, designer toys, mobile phones, t-shirts and trainers;
• Fashion by some of China’s leading designers such as Han Feng, Lu Kun, Ma Ke, Wang Yiyang and Zhang Da — from designs evoking 1930s Shanghai chic to avant-garde style;
• Commune by the Great Wall, a boutique spa hotel on the Great Wall of China comprising 12 pavilions designed by Asian architects;
• The recent wave of creative consumer and lifestyle magazines;
• Private and government housing projects for affluent middle classes such as "Thames Town" outside Shanghai, a recreation of a small English town;
• Photography, furniture and fashion inspired by the revival of 1930s Shanghai glamour;
• Photographs from the Great Family Aspirations series by Weng Fen and the Shanghai Living series by Hu Yang, documenting the living rooms of Shanghai residents from the newly wealthy to migrants to the city.

The exhibition is in three sections and is structured around the idea of a journey from south to north along China’s east coast through Shenzhen (China’s manufacturing capital with a population whose average age is younger than 30) to Shanghai and Beijing. Each city is a starting point for the exploration of different design fields — graphic design and visual culture in Shenzhen (where China’s contemporary graphic design movement started), fashion and lifestyle in Shanghai, and architecture and the city in Beijing.

The displays examine China’s hopes and dreams — from the entrepreneurial spirit of individual designers, to society’s aspirations at a moment of tremendous change, to the global ambitions of a nation. China Design Now places exhibits in the context of China’s social, cultural and economic reforms over the last 25 years, providing both a critical survey and a narrative that enables visitors to see how China’s new design and consumer culture has developed, what its driving forces are and where it is going.

China Design Now includes case studies of influential individuals, companies and organisations that have played an important role in shaping aspirations in today’s China. They include Yue-Sai Kan who launched one of the first cosmetics companies in China; Wong Kar Wai, the director of the film In the Mood for Love that inspired renewed nostalgia in China for the glamour, romance and fashions of Shanghai of the 1930s; Chen Yifei, one of China’s most commercially successful artists as well as influential entrepreneur; and SOHO China, a leading private land development company.

The exhibition is curated by Zhang Hongxing and Lauren Parker of the V&A after four years of research involving close collaboration with institutions and individuals in China.

The exhibition is designed by Tonkin Liu, an award-winning architecture firm based in London.

Poster for Graphic Design in China Exhibition, 1992, © Chen Shaohua.

Hi Panda, © Ji Ji, 2006 detail, 2007.