“In China, we can witness not only an evolution of space, but an evolution of culture taking place simultaneously.”
2012 marked the Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious and fortunate year in the Chinese calendar, so it seemed apropos that ASID was invited by the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI) to travel to Guangzhou, China for the city’s Design Week this past December. The focus and energy dedicated to design as a cultural influencer and driver in China’s bustling economy signals great things to come for design on the international stage and it is our goal to be an active part of this dialogue as we increase the opportunities for our members to participate in the global evolution of design. There are many lessons we can learn from China. While the country’s cities are challenged with overcrowding, high pollution and the loss of cultural history to modernism, China is turning to design as a solution to address these issues. As I reflect on my trip, there are a few takeaways that I want to share with our members.
1. Design Is Value
In the United States and Europe, we often take for granted that communities as economic centers have developed over generations. But in cities like Guangzhou, where towns are transformed into cities within a decade, people are experiencing a real-time representation of the rapid growth and modernization that is taking place throughout China. Due to such fast development, urban planning, architecture and design play a critical role in creating a functioning society and economy because it touches everyone’s lives in a very tangible way. As our own cities continue to become more populous and our environments are adapted for modern use, we can take a cue from China — a place where we can witness not only an evolution of space, but also an evolution of culture taking place simultaneously.
2. Relationships Are Key
Because design plays such a critical role in China’s economic development, government and business leaders are deeply involved in the country’s design industry. In addition to gaining the requisite permits to conduct business in China, foreigners working in China need to partner with a local design agency to oversee the project and help coordinate the permitting process with local officials. While at first glance this system might seem a lot more structured than getting a project done in the U.S., it is more similar than not, particularly when you factor in the value and importance of building relationships — not just with clients (or the government in China’s case), but also with vendors, local permitting agencies and contractors. In time, we are seeing the value of relationships in businesses increase in the U.S. as well.
3. A Global Perspective
And perhaps the most important takeaway is the importance of a global perspective. In an increasingly connected, modern society, a well-rounded view of the world is the currency that holds together our work and relationships. As ASID moves forward, we will continue to increase our involvement with organizations such as IFI to bring our members the resources and opportunities to increase their involvement in the global marketplace. In fact, while in China, we signed an agreement to partner with IFI on a series of Cultural Innovation Design Dialogues that will take place across three U.S. cities this year. We will also partner with IFI on World Interiors Day in May to officially recognize the impact of design in our cities and communities. These are just some of the programs we have planned going forward and we are excited for the world of opportunity that awaits all of us.
Happy New Year!