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Taipei enters a new stage as World Design Capital

By Leo Maliksi

Taipei’s bold ambition to be a design capital entered a new stage when it was chosen as World Design Capital (WDC). The decision by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) is a starting point to change the face of this city and ultimately to contribute to global efforts to change the face of the Earth.

Awarded by Icsid every two years, the World Design Capital recognizes a city’s innovative use of design for economic, social, and cultural development. The award also showcases effective design-led urban revitalization strategies and projects from which other cities can benefit.

Twenty design leaders, professionals, and scholars came to the International Design Policy Conference and Design Week Forum to present their ideas on the future role of design.

More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, and governments across the globe now face the daunting challenge of making those cities more competitive, attractive, livable, and efficient.

1.Pei-ni Beatrice Hsieh, Commissioner of the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs says that comprehensive urban design strategies will be at the core of policy-making to enhance city governance.

City governments are awakening to the fact that a city’s lifeblood runs through its construction projects, roads, and public events. In policy-making and governance, those entrusted with city management can no longer cleave to a purely functional construction planning but need to embed design into city governance.

Overall urban design strategies must take into account the fact that an aging population means that residential areas need to be more accessible. Design experts are also utilizing technological advances to create more livable homes.

Jung-Ya Hsieh is a winner of Taiwan’s Presidential Innovation Award. In the past twenty years, he has won over a hundred global design awards, including iF and Red dot in Germany, Idea in the US, and G-Mark in Japan.

Hsieh recently formed a partnership with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., a Taiwanese multinational electronics manufacturer. This partnership led to the creation of “Wall Economics”, the idea of building homes with walls and floors that incorporate Internet-enabled devices that control lighting, de-humidification, sound equipment and other appliances. In other words, an Internet of Things (IoT) system.

This is just one example of the topics discussed during the International Design Policy Conference.

Adaptive City–Design in Motion

When Taipei applied to host the World Design Capital 2016, it cited “Adaptive City – Design in Motion” as its theme. How can an innovative “design thinking” be used to overcome the constraints that limit a city’s development? How could urban renewal and governance create happiness in the lives of citizens and give them a better quality of life within a forward-looking city with design vision?

When it was chosen, Taipei became the first World Design Capital in the Chinese-speaking world and the host of the first international design policy conference in Asia. This city now has a part to play in shaping the world with design.

Under the theme of “Adaptive City—Design in Motion,” meaning continuous improvement in all aspects, Taipei will demonstrate its capacity to adapt to its citizens’ needs while preserving its culture and nature. “We will continue to convey our design concepts to the people over the course of this program, with public policy by design carried out by both bottom-up and top-down efforts,” said Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin during the press conference.

Six Design-Integrated Demonstration Projects are planned to highlight innovation and development as catalysts for a sustainable, quality city landscape. The projects include the Taipei City Museum, Minglun Creative Learning Center, Taipei Green Boulevard Design Project, Urban Regeneration Station, the establishment of design industrial parks, and the New Urban Service. According to DOCA Commissioner Liou Wei-gong, the Taipei City government will work closely with various organizations over the next two years in order to fulfill the visions of the program.


One example of Taipei’s commitment to embedding urban spaces with design is “Seeing the Unseen.” Initiated by Taipei City Government’s Department of Culture, this program seeks to use public art to enhance the landscape of Taipei. Walk around the city and you will see artistic creations at some famous public spaces.

Foreign designers have been invited to showcase their creations and thus instill a greater appreciation for artistic design in the people of this city. Eclipse of Rainbow by Greek artist Eugenia Antoniou is a dance of colorful lights at Taipei’s Freedom Park. Head in the Clouds by French artists Mickael Martins Afonso and Caroline Escaffre-Faure seeks to provide Taipei citizens with an escape to let their imaginations fly. You will find the clouds at the mini-park outside Exit 4 of the Zhongshan MRT station. Urban Clippings by Jimenez Lai sits in the middle of the Guangneng Neighborhood Park. It seeks to depict the development of one of Taipei’s earliest districts – Tatung District.

Communities, Connecting Information and Revitalizing a City

Designers know that design aims at perfection. Sometimes perfection is elusive and consists rather in constantly improving on imperfection.

This is why the choice of Taipei as the World Design Capital for 2016 marks the beginning of a new stage of improvements for this city. By looking to the present and future, Taipei City Government aims to identify the city’s problems and direct efforts at solving them towards “Communities”, “Connecting Information”, and “Revitalizing a City.”

The city government wants to integrate design into urban life, thereby allowing everyone to become a designer of city life.

Many awards recognize individual accomplishment in design, but being chosen as the World Design Capital (WDC) is unique as it highlights a city’s efforts to give design an impact on urban spaces, economies, and citizens. The award is an opportunity for cities to showcase their accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design and highlight their successes in urban renewal strategies.

The World Design Capital is an Icsid initiative. Founded in 1957, Icsid is an international not-for-profit organization committed to the advancement of industrial design. Icsid promotes professional industrial design and its ability to generate better products, systems, services, and experiences, better business and industry, and ultimately a better environment and society. From 12 founding professional design associations in 1957, Icsid has grown to include over 140 member organizations from 40 nations, engaging them in collaborative efforts and providing them with the opportunity to be heard internationally.

Breakthrough by curator Wei-Lang Lee (co-founder of Afterain Design Studio) represents a power that seems small but is inexhaustible-the outcome of outward breakthrough and inner penetration, representing the persistence and efforts of Taiwanese design.

The WDC designation is awarded biennially. Taipei was chosen as the World Design Capital for 2016. The previous World Design Capitals were Turin in Italy (2008), Seoul in South Korea (2010), Helsinki in Finland (2012), and Cape Town in South Africa (2014). Mexico City has been named WDC 2018.

At the last general assembly, in October 2015, Icsid members approved a motion to renew the organization’s vision and mission and to change the name of the organization to the World Design Organization (WDO). A new visual identity will be unveiled on 29 June for World Industrial Design Day 2016, and the new name will take effect on 1 January 2017 as we launch our 60th anniversary celebrations.

Icsid has United Nations Special Consultative Status.