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Department of Cultural Affairs

Feature Story

World Design Capital Taipei 2016 Highlights Cultural Exchange for its Designers in Residence Program

Wendy Kuo

This year, Taipei has begun an urban evolution by hosting the 2016 World Design Capital (WDC), a biennial event that showcases global cities that use design to improve their economic, social, cultural, and environmental life. The core concept of 2016 WDC Taipei is “Adaptive City—Design in Motion”, promoting the exploration of design in the context of limited resources while continuing to pursue positive and sustainable changes in urban development and governance so as to create a better quality of life. WDC events have been organized to take place throughout the year, including exhibitions, conferences, expos, and forums, where the design community comes together to work toward engaging communities, pooling information, and revitalizing the city.

1.German designer Victoria Ledig presents her “Waste Craft” proposal for the 2016 World Design Capital at the Designer in Residence program press conference in Taipei on Wednesday, July 27.Photo Courtesy of DOCA contributor Wendy Kuo.

As Taipei enters the second half of the 2016 WDC, a total of eight designers, selected for this year’s Designer in Residence Taipei program, are being brought together for a cultural exchange and design experience. This is part of an ongoing collaboration Taipei has had since 2012 with Eindhoven, in the Netherlands: the International Designers in Residence Project, where European designers visit Taiwan and Taiwanese designers also have the opportunity to visit the Netherlands. The international designers who will complete their three-month design residencies in Taipei are Bennie Meek, Vincent Wittenberg, and Siem Nozza from the Netherlands; Charlie Evans from the UK; Victoria Ledig from Germany; and Viviana Narotzky from Spain. Meanwhile, two designers from Taiwan, Chen Szu-han and Ku Kuang-yi, will travel to Eindhoven for their residency program from August to October. The designers hope to be inspired by a different culture and environment, and to enhance their design expertise.

Young Design Minds of Taiwan

Chen and Ku, the Taiwanese designers selected to represent Taiwan in the residence program in Eindhoven, will also participate in events during “Dutch Design Week Eindhoven,” the largest annual design event in the Netherlands, from Oct. 22 to 30. The designers hope to put their Taiwan design experience to use while working with Dutch designers and to learn about the Eindhoven way of life through design.

2. Dutch designers Bennie Meek (right) and Vincent Wittenberg present their “Forest Bathing in Taipei” proposal for the 2016 World Design Capital at the Designer in Residence program press conference in Taipei on Wednesday, July 27.<br/>Photo Courtesy of DOCA contributor Wendy Kuo

Chen Szu-han has a background in industrial design and architecture art and recently graduated from the Institute of Architecture at Tainan National University. With her experience in designing objects for spatial art, Chen believes that an object as well as the space it inhabits should not be discussed separately but instead be treated as a single entity in its combined entirety.

“In my three years of graduate school, I completed many projects on environmental art creation,” said Chen. “One of my independent projects was called ‘Between Islands.’ In the creative process, I focused primarily on three aspects—the impact a small space has on the psychology of the viewer, how people interact with the environment they are immersed in, and the gestures and expressions of their interaction. I plan to use these same ideas to develop this thinking further during my residency in Eindhoven.”

Chen’s project for the design residency is titled “The Transformation of the Object in Common Experience” and explores how the viewer can experience a connection with an already familiar thing and how they interact with the object’s surroundings. Chen explained, “The source material for my project will be an item that is already very familiar to local people, and I hope that the new product made with this familiar object will elicit new interactions and responses from people.”

“In my opinion, urban regeneration and revitalization aren’t a battle between old and new, but rather using a new perspective to look at something old, or experiencing an old space in a new way, so that you develop a new balance,” she said.

The other designer selected for the Dutch residence program is Ku Kuang-yi, a practicing dentist, conceptual designer, and new media artist. Ku holds a Master’s degree in dentistry from National Yang-Ming University and another in communications design from Shih Chien University. On top of that, Ku also is the co-founder of TW BioArt, a Taiwanese BioArt community. Ku’s plan for his Dutch design residence is titled “Dolphin Eroticarium” and explores the possibilities of an alternative enclosure for dolphins.

3. Pei-ni Beatrice Hsieh, commissioner of the municipal Department of Cultural Affairs, speaks at the 2016 World Design Capital press conference in Taipei on Wednesday, July 27. Photo Courtesy of WDC 2016 Taipei.

International Designers Seek Inspiration in Taiwan
The international designers doing their residencies in Taiwan have each submitted a proposal which reflects the four WDC urban development principles—“Life Quality and Health,” “Ecological Sustainability,” “Urban Regeneration,” and “Smart Living.” The proposals outline the research and design work they will explore during their time in Taipei.

The work of Dutch design duo Vincent Wittenberg and Bennie Meek focuses on trying to make public and urban spaces “greener.” Wittenberg is a socially engaged public space designer and researcher, and Meek is a social designer who explores contemporary ways for people to relate to nature. Their joint Taipei residency project is entitled “Forest Bathing in Taipei,” where the term forest bathing refers to being under a thick forest-like canopy of trees.

“In Taiwan, we found out about a very interesting phenomenon called ‘forest bathing.’ We became particularly interested in trees and how they interact with the building environment,” said Wittenberg.

“Taipei is surrounded by mountains and it has an amazing 833 parks, ranging from large parks such as Daan Forest Park to small neighborhood parks and pocket parks,” said Meeks. “We saw many possibilities for new encounters with nature in Taipei. What matters is the quality of the encounter with nature. We wanted to add to the existing green network an extra layer of what we call ‘pinpoint parks’.”

Meeks and Wittenberg explained that they want to introduce forest bathing into the city by creating new park typologies, such as the aforementioned “pinpoint parks,” which will act as small temples for people living and working in the city. The idea is to create specific and special interactions with nature in which key natural elements such as autonomy and time play a crucial role.

By contrast, German designer Victoria Ledig sees a part of the city that is usually hidden away or disposed of—its treatment of waste. A tactile designer with a focus on material development, sustainable fashion, and textiles, Ledig aims to transform our perceptions of waste so that we can see the great value in waste material. Her WDC 2016 proposal “Waste Craft” will bring local materials, design, and the citizens of Taipei together. Having visited factories in Taiwan and observed the waste and recycling system in Taipei, Ledig aims to transform pre-consumer waste materials from the local manufacturing industry into tangible solutions for a more sustainable community.

“In Taipei I want to use waste as a material. I started looking into the recycling management systems for household waste here in Taipei, and it’s already very, very advanced,” said Ledig. “So I’m going to skip the household waste—that’s not going to be my material—my material is going to be industrial waste. It’s kind of very remarkable that household waste recycling is so good, but at the same time in the manufacturing industry it really isn’t.”

I want to use industrial—that means pre-consumer—waste and work together with manufacturers, which means getting the materials from them because they are the biggest waste material producers,” she said.

4. This year’s World Design Capital foreign designers in residence (from left to right) Siem Nozza, Victoria Ledig, and Vincent Wittenberg present the objects found in Taipei that impressed them the most at the press conference on Wednesday, July 27. Ledig holds a bundle of yarn found in a factory in Taipei. Photo Courtesy of WDC 2016 Taipei.

More for WDC Taipei 2016

Taipei still has almost half a year of events for WDC 2016, including the 2016 Taipei Cultural Passport activities held by the municipal Department of Cultural Affairs to promote cultural knowledge, running from now to September. Upcoming WDC events include the Network of Cities Meeting (Oct. 13 and 14), the International Design House Exhibition (Oct. 13–30), the 2016 Taiwan Design Expo (Oct. 13–30), the International Design Policy Conference (Oct. 15 and 16), and the International Design Week Forum (Oct. 17 and 18). WDC Taipei will draw to a close with the WDC Convocation Ceremony on Dec. 9, when Taipei will hand over the WDC title to Mexico City, the 2018 WDC host. For more information on World Design Taipei 2015, please visit the official website at http://wdc2016.taipei/.

5. Participants pose for a photograph for the Designer in Residence press conference in Taipei on Wednesday, July 27. (Front row, from second left to right: Chen Szu-han, Charlie Evans, Siem Nozza, Commissioner Pei-ni Beatrice Hsieh, Victoria Ledig, Vincent Wittenberg, and Bennie Meek.)<br/>Photo Courtesy of DOCA contributor Wendy Kuo.