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Interview with Ole Bouman,the Director of Design Society

Ole Bouman
Ole Bouman, former Creative Director of the Urbanism/Architecture Bi-City Biennale Shenzhen (2013-14), is now the director of Design Society, Shenzhen. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of architecture magazine Volume. His publications include The Invisible in Architecture (1994) and Architecture of Consequence (2009). Between 2006-2013, Ole Bouman was the director of Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi). He was co-curator of Manifesta 3 (2000), and was responsible for many entries to the architecture Biennales of Shenzhen, São Paulo and Venice. Ole Bouman taught architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ole Bouman (left) and WAD Committee Laura

Time: 20 OCT 2017
(Q represents the reporter as below)

Q: What promoted you come to China?
Ole Bouman: I came to China first time in 2003, so I have already interested in China for a long time. The reason why is that I am originally an historian so that I am very much interested in long term developments in culture, economy and society, and already back then and I was very aware of the major transformations in Chinese society  so I was very curious to see how that actually went and how it did  affect cities and people’s life and culture so I came for field trip and ever since I came back many times for lecturing, journeys, workshops and teaching, since 2011 I came here for curating exhibitions several times, so I am interested in China because it’s global phenomenon and I have never felt any regrets of putting so much interests because China keep surprising me every day.
Q: Which field of design are you in? How could you describe the Chinese design market?
Ole Bouman: I myself am in many fields of design, so for me, the design concept is a very broad concept, I am not just considering design as a very specific field of the arts, I think design is something that can happen or can be applied into many fields, my own background is mainly architecture, but architecture has been seen as the mother of all arts for a long time and including design, so many architects are also designers.For me architecture is the perfect school to think about design and role design can play in society. So my background is very broad, my interest in design is very broad, so that’s the answer of the question.

Q: Please introduce one project you recently finished in China.
Ole Bouman: My latest major project in China has been the transformation of a big factory in Shenkou, Shenzhen, so the transformation of the glass factory actually was the curatorial contribution to the UABB, Shezhen Architecture Organization Biennale in 2013. That project I finished with a very good feeling about what is possible here in Shenzhen. I worked together with fantastic people on behalf of the UABB organization. I worked with incredible architects and fantastic organizations to develop that factory and to prove events in that factory during the biennale .
So that was an unbelievable adventure for me and I was very proud to finish it in a way that now still people can go there and it’s a permanent achievement so people can still see what we did at that factory. Now I am really looking forward to next big project competition which is Design Society that opens in 6 weeks from now and the last 2 half years I have been very much engaged in developing  venue, design institution, design platform for Shenzhen and China,so I hope that in 2 years from now I can again give an answer to a question like this saying that it was an successful thing , but right now I don’t know yet ,we have to wait until it open, until people will enjoy it hopefully and make their statement or judgment on it.
Q: As a foreign designer, what impresses you the most during your work or within your life? If you can get assist, on which part would you like them to be?
Ole Bouman: I can say that just one thing impressed me very much is the determination of designers to contribute to society and to improve life, to try to be more than only beauty files, to just create nice objects for conception or for consumer industry, but to make a statement or to make a contribution to society in a more productive way, so I think design in China that impressed me is more than only about consuming and buying and having, I also think increasingly that design in China is about being and having a better life, being more related to others, being more careful to our nature and our environment.So I think what impressive is curiosity and also this drive to be innovative to make design very beneficial. Another great thing is the drive to make things happen completely not only talk about it, so to realize things, and not to delay, so there is a kind of pursuit that focus on achieving something for real. There is a degree of reality in design that sometimes it’s like in another country, very often it can be something like very great pilot or great concept but the end never really lands or never really enters the real world. So here in China, I think that realism is something also to be impressed that nothing is ready or completed unless it’s landing in real life. So that’s also a good thing, and the speed that things happen is also impressive. All the project that I did in China so far were very very collaborative, there were strong clients, relying on strong designers, with also strong designers open enough to listen to clients and to the needs of society. So listening and sharing and collaborating is also interesting feature of design culture in China.
Q: What do you expect on this upcoming WAD 2017 World Youth Designer Conference?
Ole Bounman: I can’t say must because it’ll be the first time I show up there. But I do believe an opportunity like this, is really important because Shenzhen increasingly comes to terms with its design ambitions. The design world, the global design world is not like Shanghai, or London, or Milan, it’s really different. So I think Shenzhen is a distinct story to share, but also the symposia to share with international design world, to explore these specific unique assets of Shenzhen as a maker city, and as a city that is in the eye of storm. There is so much going on around Shenzhen, across Shenzhen, with the transitions between HongKong and Shenzhen. There is the repositioning of this whole area, the Pearl River Delta area in terms of the geopolitical situation. There is the clear emergence of middle class, with alternative lifestyles. So there is different culture needed and also the legacy of the production landscape of design, for decades. So there is a lot of proactivity in Shenzhen that is very much alive. And how this moves into next era, that’s also a big question. So there are big questions, there are interesting tensions, and for design I think it’s a wonderful moment to contribute to that dynamics. And I hope that the guests that you are going to invite will benefit a lot from that.

Design Society


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