A look back at the International Design Biennial Saint-Étienne 2019 featuring China as guest of honour
Organized by Saint-Étienne, a UNESCO Creative City of Design in France, from 21 March to 22 April 2019, the 11th International Design Biennial featured China as the red thread of this edition.
Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan, the four UNESCO Creative Cities of Design from China, were the guests of honour of the event. 115 delegates from 14 Chinese cities participated in the Biennale, and highlighted the common grounds between China and the international design stage.
For a month, the Biennale’s visitors had the opportunity to discover the vitality of Chinese design, a blooming creative field, through multiple proposals:
- A central exhibition EQUI-LIBRE on the main site a Manufacture- Cité du design
Curated by FAN Zhe, director of the Sino-French Contemporary Art Center in Chambon-sur Lignon. This exhibition was the result of an important cooperation between the curator and the major design awards organizers, architects, artists, companies, main design academies and universities in China. For the very first time in Europe, it presented a panorama of Chinese design through history and cities: Design in the Past: the Road to Chinese Design; Design in the Present: a blooming Chinese design; Design for the Future: Shenzhen-ness, Shanghai Future Lifestyle, city, citizens, creators, transportation design in Wuhan, smart city in Beijing.
- Exhibitions in Parc International Cévenol, Chambon-sur-Lignon
Ceramics, contemporary artists, architectures, design windows for the Chow Tai Fook jewellery brand, the Sino-French Contemporary Art Center presented and overview of the Chinese contemporary creation and cooperation with French creators. A première of the programme developed by this centre, designed as an “utopy in the wood” to foster intercultural exchanges.
- Common works of Chinese and French Art & Design Schools in the exhibition Stefania
Together with the projects developed between Saint-Étienne Higher School of Art and Design and its partner schools from Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan, 25 French and Chinese schools displayed their common works.
- Conferences by Chinese design experts
Some 15 professionals from cultural institutions, designers, and architects discussed the impact of creative industries in their cities during the Forum UNESCO’s Cities of Design. Chairmen of Red Star Awards and Design Intelligence Award, designers working between France and China, deans of Design Colleges, sinologists, also participated in the event. A dozen of speakers shared with the audience their experience of design in China and its relation with society, the economy and education.
- A “Chinese Night”
Gathering the international guests of the UNESCO’s Cities of Design Forum, companies and institutions from Saint-Étienne, as well as more than 100 delegates coming from China for the Biennial, this event marked by intercultural exchanges, allowed participants to discover notably the creations of the jewellery group Chow Tai Fook and textile group HKS, partners of the exhibition during a fashion show.
Themed around “Cooperation and Impact”, the UNESCO’s Cities of Design Forum, organized by the Cité du Design, gathered on 21 and 22 March, representative of UNESCO Creative Cities of Design, policy makers and designers to reflect on how design can serve as a strategic lever to build common grounds for cooperation, and economic and cultural exchange.
Roundtables proposed to reflect on the impact of the designation as a UNESCO Creative City, between Asian and European models. Elected officials and representatives of design centres from Saint-Étienne, Graz, Detroit, Seoul, and Shenzhen highlighted how the designation pushed them to integrate design in developing public policies, in public space, economy, and education. They shared how they are developing indicators to show the value of creative disciplines.
Design professionals from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou demonstrated how design is experiencing an exponential growth in China, how it becomes a crucial element for the industry, lifestyle, and cities development. Design is also a lever for global positioning and international relations through trade and cooperation. Denise Bax in charge of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network concluded on the necessity to measure and demonstrate the environmental, economic and social value of design to tackle societal issues, and implement the Sustainable Development Goals.
A workshop on 22 March took place in the Sino-French Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCASF) of Chambon-sur-Lignon, a new space for international cultural cooperation nearby Saint-Étienne. Participants were introduced by Laetitia Wolff to the SMART methodology to better identify goals and set indicators of impact in creative projects.
French-Chinese and international cooperation were finally strengthened through a China-France business forum on 21 March in Saint-Étienne City Hall. A MoU was signed by the Cité du design and the CCASF at this occasion, a key step towards new joint projects between China and France.