Con­sumers push for cut­ting-edge de­sign at home, work

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WU YIYAO


In­creas­ing dis­pos­able in­come is push­ing de­mands by Chi­nese for cut­ting-edge de­sign, while mar­ket in­sid­ers say the fo­cus is more on com­fort and re­lax­ation and a sense of com­mu­nity amid fast ur­ban­iza­tion and in­creas­ingly com­pact liv­ing and work spa­ces.

At Ar­chi­tect@ Work, an ex­hi­bi­tion of high-end com­pa­nies’ cre­ative prod­ucts in Shang­hai in mid June, pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Wolf tells the story of an old chair he shot in China in 1990s.

Two bricks were used to re­place a lost leg; a cre­ative and func­tion­ing so­lu­tion de­spite the look, with the chair placed in an open space in the neigh­bor­hood.

For Qian Zige, an ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent, and a vis­i­tor to the event, the ab­sence of such a chair is a metaphor for what is hap­pen­ing to­day in China’s ur­ban land­scape.

“Ur­ban res­i­dents can af­ford a new chair if the old one is bro­ken and no one both­ers to find a so­lu­tion to make use of a bro­ken one. There is lit­tle pub­lic space for you to put a chair that ev­ery passer-by can see, and even there is, people are less likely to put a chair out­side their room amid dis­ap­pear­ing com­mu­ni­ties,” said Qian.

Com­pact liv­ing and work­ing space that di­vide Shang­hai in small parts have not short­ened people’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In­stead, the sit­u­a­tion pushes ev­ery­one into even smaller seg­ments, Wolf said.

Ur­ban­iza­tion and hous­ing in mega-cities like Shang­hai may face var­i­ous prob­lems, while high-den­sity high-rises may meet de­mands of hous­ing for large pop­u­la­tions. Res­i­dents may have to be dis­placed from fa­mil­iar neigh­bor­hoods and com­mute for longer time to work. Some es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties have dis­ap­peared, ac­cord­ing to Non Arkara­prasertkul, an ar­chi­tect, ur­ban plan­ner, and his­tory and an­thro­pol­ogy re­searcher in Shang­hai.

Com­mu­nity-ori­ented hous­ing that may bring to­gether pub­lic spa­ces and var­i­ous ur­ban func­tions may help to give so­lu­tions to the prob­lems, said Arkara­prasertkul.

Mar­ket in­sid­ers and ex­perts point out that Chi­nese are de­mand­ing more for their liv­ing and work en­vi­ron­ment com­fort, re­lax­ation and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, all of which cre­ate more busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

De­sign­ers and firms have come up with var­i­ous ideas and prod­ucts to make space more com­fort­able for dwellers, in­clud­ing smart light­ing, soft floor­ing that is good for health and na­ture, con­trol sys­tems that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just tem­per­a­tures and hu­mid­ity, fur­ni­ture fab­ric that is as soft as a baby’s skin, ex­te­rior de­sign that makes an of­fice build­ing feel like a park and air pu­rifi­ca­tion that cre­ates the feel­ing of liv­ing in a freshair bub­ble all the time.

At work, some fur­ni­ture may help to boost em­ployee’s well-be­ing, said Uli Gwin­ner, pres­i­dent of Asia Pa­cific at Steel­case. Gwin­ner pre­sented the lat­est Steel­case prod­uct, a chair called “buoy” that is in­spired by buoys float­ing at sea.

“We have ob­served that at the workplace people are of­ten en­gaged in in­for­mal talks. On these oc­ca­sions, a buoy chair gives com­fort­able seat­ing and a re­lax­ing at­mos­phere,” said Gwin­ner, who be­lieves that a re­lax­ing work­ing space shows that em­ployer val­ues people.

Shang­hai-based in­te­rior de­signer Lin Yuyan said clients’ de­mands have been chang­ing dras­ti­cally in the past decade.

We have ob­served that at the workplace people are of­ten en­gaged in in­for­mal talks. On these oc­ca­sions, a buoy chair gives com­fort­able seat­ing and a re­lax­ing at­mos­phere.” ULI GWIN­NER PRES­I­DENT OF ASIA PA­CIFIC AT STEEL­CASE

At first people wanted mod­ern, lux­ury, and for­eign stuff; the more ex­pen­sive the bet­ter, even if they do not fit in Chi­nese people’s lives. Some­times they wanted to copy a five-star ho­tel suite; then they want to re­turn to Chi­nese ways and hope ev­ery­thing is made of wood or bam­boo, and ev­ery­thing looks per­fectly peace­ful, like a Zen gar­den, said Lin.

“Now I think cus­tomers’ de­mands are be­com­ing di­ver­si­fied, and they know more about what they want and how to achieve these. They are more crit­i­cal think­ing,” said Lin.

“De­sign­ing is not about cul­tures; in­stead, it is about evolv­ing,” said Wang Kaifang, a Bei­jing- based de­signer and artist, point­ing out that de­sign­ers need to con­sider nat­u­ral el­e­ments as well as people when they dec­o­rate a house or do ur­ban plan­ning.

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