For many, it is a life lived divided between cities, places, and experiences - what can be defined as "in the transculture", the space across and between different global cultures. The rapid development of the city, urban fabric and land, which we negotiate on a daily basis, raises questions as to how we try and accept its changing presence, how we are placed within it and its future impact. China is growing at an unprecedented speed in line with the president, Xi Jinping's catchphrase of achieving "The Chinese Dream". As cities become centres for manufacture and production, and urban neighbourhoods are restructured, buildings seem to suddenly disappear, whilst new ones, already in progress, become visible on the skyline.

Mass media relays many images and statistics relating to China's economic growth, now the second largest in the world specifically for luxury goods, and in relation to its cultural boom largely of contemporary art, architecture, fashion and graphic arts. Since 2001, every month has seen an urban growth in the nation equivalent to the size of the city of Chicago. Having lived in Shanghai and other parts of China for two-and-a-half years, regularly re-visiting for research and work, I witness first-hand this urban development, where Shanghai is now the world's sixth largest "mega-city", with a population of 23 million (Sterbenz 2014) to rise by 13 million by 2030 (Miles 2014). Its population density is high with over 16,200 people per square mile compared with over 4,000 in New York. Here, you can see how sprawling the Shanghai metro has become in the last twenty years, now with fourteen lines to accommodate the city's growing population. By 2020, it aims to be the twice the size of the London tube network, building on its current 337 station, 548 km network shown here. The rapid construction of largely Western 'modernist' buildings, together with my knowledge of China's "ghost cities", left empty in the wake of over-zealous construction like here the city of Ordos, has caused me to reflect on what I call China's "architectures of change".

More recently, China has recognised the importance of cultural innovation, acknowledging that value cannot just come from manufacturing and production, re-envisioning their national mission 'from Made in China to Created/Designed in China'. (Keane 2013:149) Seeing it as an opportunity to build civic identity through cultural growth, it has triggered what they are calling 'the "museumification" of China' (Johnson and Florence 2013) and the start of a Chinese 'museographic practice' (Ha Thuc 2014:46). They say China wants to meet the cultural infrastructure of its global competitors, building over 100 museums annually where they currently have over 3,400 museums in total, equivalent to about one museum for every 380,000 people. Apparently, in 2011, 386 museums were built in China, with inaugurations nearly everyday. Only the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are comparable to other global developed cities, which have, or are in the process of building, one museum for every 100,000 to 200,000 people, with dedicated "museum zones". In a recent article, Guo Xiaoling, director of The Capital Museum in Beijing, stated that 'China would need to create at least 43,000 museums in the future to catch up with the world standard, more than double the amount that currently exists in the US.' (Johnson and Florence 2013).

With a short history of only fifteen years, the contemporary art museum makes up only 2% of museums in China. Most are designed by renowned "starchitects", Chinese and international, with first-tier cities wanting to attract designers who can present utopian visions (Keane 2013:154), such as the recent Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing by Steven Holl, the Yuz Museum in Shanghai by Sou Fujimoto, OTC Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT) in Xi'an that is part of Xian's concept of being a "Museum City", and the forthcoming M+ in the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong by Herzog and de Meuron. They aim to promote notoriety and cachet (Johnson and Florence 2013), cutting-edge design and civic pride often mimicking international influences, sometimes to the point of parody (Keane 2013:154). Many of these projects are politically motivated as much as they are "vanity" projects and a case of "happen-stance" - a case of why not and who-knows-who - largely funded by private initiatives, private collectors, business owners and philanthropists rather than being stateowned. 'The question seems to be more 'how many museums can we build and at what pace?' rather than 'what content will be shown?'' (Ha Thuc 2014:46)

The notion of a state-owned, public museum, so embedded as part of UK gallery and museum culture, has not traditionally been part of China. Therefore, as a relatively new phenomenon it means that there are no complete public collections of contemporary art, said to resemble random displays of produce in a grocery store with no focus, consistency or management (Yang 2014:38). This is also one of the contributing factors to why a third of museums in China are closing down. This versus the rapid rate in which new ones are being built, indicates on-going problems from the moment the museums open their doors. Often, they are conceived too quickly with no institutional or cultural infrastructure, up against the constraints of censorship, are rife with scandal and growing debt, with no in-house collection or collector affiliation, institutional mission, curatorial objectives or established human resources, management and leadership. In turn, these power plays, limitations and lack of foresight have become a creative impetus in rethinking China's museum culture raising questions as to the implications for the cities within which the museums are designed for and built, their societies and people, an individual's identity, China's arts education and cultural infrastructure, and the museums sustainability. Ultimately, what value do they have and who are they for?

Inspired by China's rapid urbanisation and spatial production, China Megacities Lab [1] an experimental research laboratory and design studio at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, initiated in Spring 2008 the research group - 'Future of the Museum in China'. Through an interdisciplinary practice and global conversation aiming to propose design solutions, they ask three main questions:

    1. Are there trends that can be identified that might mark a paradigm shift in how the museum is defined?

    2. Are there new roles - socially, culturally, politically - that the museum is playing?

    3. What new architectural forms and spatial organisations are being invented to accommodate these new ambitions?

The quotations, facts and figures presented here build an initial foundation of China's "architectures of change" where in this paper, I will specifically examine China's emerging design generation and the rise of China's design museums, therefore China's "architecture of design". It is not just about China and its contemporary art museums. It is as much about how China is translated in non-Chinese contexts such as in Europe.

Built on the nation's long history of applied arts, craftsmanship, carpentry, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, poetry and more, design is now seen in a contemporary sense through industrial, graphic, fashion, interior and product design, decorative art, functional art and applied arts - some of which is showcased here at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Ahead of the Curve and seen to cross and bridge many of these design categories. Currently, Chinese design is seen as up-and-coming, having a wanted societal and cultural value, feeding the growing cultural hunger of the Chinese middle classes. Only in the last fifteen years has a middle class been acknowledged as the government realised that the economic stability of the nation rested on their investment. Thus, in line with the museum boom as just discussed, the development of a design culture of China has developed festivals including Beijing Design Week, Guangzhou Design Week, 100% design, Design Shanghai, INSIGHT Design, Global Design Forum, Shanghai Design Biennial and Beijing International Design Triennial; design awards such as China Design Awards, Successful Design Awards and Chinese Creative Product Design Awards; and design collectives and agencies including Y-Town and Yang Design, BUNDSHOP, Idea Design Lab, Strictly Designers United, Studiobox, Dutch Design Workspace, Pin Wu Studio, ARUP, Urbanus Research Bureau, Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Studio Tao and more.

In 2008, the V&A Museum presented China Design Now (2008), then the first exhibition in the UK to explore the recent explosion of new design in China, attempting to understand the impact of rapid economic development on architecture and design in China's major cities, specifically the first-tier cities of Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai. Called 'A snapshot of the development of design in today's China' (V&A 2008), the cities were used as a starting point to take audiences on a journey mapping design through over two hundred projects and four years of research. Curator Zhang Hongxing stated 'Design in China's cities has changed beyond all recognition in the last two decades. This is a moment when you can start talking about things being designed in China, not just made in China...the pioneers for future generations who will bring Chinese design to international audiences.' (V&A 2008)

One of the few ceramicists included as part of the show, was the Guangzhou artist and collector Lin Jing with her Qiqi and KeKe tea set (2001). Originally, Lin Jing was trained within the realm of painting, however when studying in Europe her practice turned towards ceramics. Her work is functional, characterised by a simple elegance, contours and silhouettes - a purity of design. The tableware items are an abstraction of everyday objects combining function and contemporary form. She states, her design work focuses mainly on materials and the geometrical and optical variation of lines and textures. 'Most of my products have a sculptural substance. It's fundamental how they feel when you touch them or how their shape or colour or grain varies as you change your point of view or the position of the object whether on a table or in a room. There are conceptual and visual relations among different designs I make no matter if they are porcelain tableware or pieces of furniture or large screens or cushions and bags. The forms must be as simple and natural as possible and the objects beautiful, creative, functional and user-friendly.' (Madame Mao's Dowry (2012)) After becoming renowned for her work through the China Design Now (2008) exhibition, Lin Jing established Fei Space in May 2009, a concept design space housed in an old red brick factory building in the 798 creative district of Beijing. An original and eclectic curation of fashion, furniture, installations and other design pieces all for sale, it is a place to find things not available in China, the 'polar opposite direction of China's obsession with big brands.' (Chen 2009)

Since China Design Now (2008), the V&A Museum has continued to research and develop partnerships with China, clearly acknowledging the growing value of its contemporary design collection and China's museum boom. Currently, the V&A Museum is in the process of exporting its world-renowned museum brand to Shenzhen, a city known culturally for its cutting-edge graphic design. Through a partnership with the Shekou Museum, it will be China's first major museum of design showing major exhibitions and curated displays from the V&A collection promoting Chinese design to an international audience and the best in international design to China. The museum aims to encourage an awareness of design in its many forms, as well as recognition of its creators, also looking to work with design educators to challenge design concepts and learning methods. Luisa Mengoni, Senior Curator (China) from the V&A Museum, has been seconded to Shenzhen for three years in order to advise in the development of the Shekou Museum's collection whilst training museum staff.

Opening in late 2016, the museum will be designed by "starchitect" Fumihiko Maki, part of his Shenzhen Sea World Cultural Arts Center, a large-scale urban development of retail, commercial and residential buildings. Through the V&A blog, the public can keep up-to-date with all the latest news where Mengoni talks of her first-hand experiences including how, by coincidence, she spent her first day in Shenzhen with Zhang Hongxing, curator of the China Design Now (2008) exhibition, and how an important part of her time in China is spent on research trips meeting curators, architects, designers, academics and more in order 'to get a better understanding of the design scene in China, to share ideas and explore the current state of Chinese museums devoted to design and contemporary art' (Mengoni 2014).

More recently, the 2014 exhibition Beyond G(l)aze (2014), a Norwegian Crafts project in partnership with Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum and KODE Art Museum of Bergen, presented Norwegian and Chinese ceramics by sixteen artists through a four-way curatorial collaboration between Heidi Bjørgan, Feng Boyi, Wang Dong and Bjørn Inge Follevaag, shown here in this slide. Representing similarities and differences, and to start a dialogue and connection, between the two cultures, in one sense making clear parallels to the curatorial strategy of Ahead of the Curve (2014) here, this 'meeting of equals' (Norwegian Crafts 2014:15) includes artists that have engaged in different artistic experiments and expressions regarding the medium itself and its cultural legacy. Their works offer a direct reference to the developing ceramic culture, and challenge the perception of clay and ceramic culture as a historical relic through visual symbolism solidly grounded in international contemporary art. (Norwegian Crafts (web) 2014)

The title, Beyond G(l)aze, encompasses the terms "gaze" and "glaze" literally representing the layered thematics of the exhibition in addition to design "innovation". It was to make reference to how ceramics has been used to create new expressions and how this can change the public's experience of the aesthetics of ceramics and whether their works offer a new visual perception to the past and contemporary from a new angle. (Norwegian Crafts 2014:21)

The exhibition presented Feast (2008) by Guangzhou artist Feng Feng. His artistic practice, clearly marked by readymade experimentations with recognisable objects, creates reimaginings of the human body, through dissection and re-presentation, alongside functional, everyday objects. The installation is ordered and systematic, isolating organs and body parts through placement on the pedestal of simple household plates in order to reflect the fragmented world of today's China. 'The decadence and terror of each object, and the value and splendour of gold, are all so direct and nakedly presented, and this directness reflects and mocks the state of existence in China - the constant pursuit of desire. The silence of these specimens contains tragic tones, alluding to the subconscious distortions of humanity and the psyche wrought by China's period of social transformation. The tension of the visual stimulus produced by these readymade objects emerges precisely because of Feng Feng's sharp perception of this fluctuating social reality.' (Stiftelsen 3,14 2012:27) He notes the responsibility of the intellectual artist today, stating 'the term "body" conceals the truth of the thing, the body is merely the subject of observation, with the real question being how to recognize today's world.' (Stiftelsen 3,14 2012:27)

Since 1993, Pearl Lam Galleries, a growing commercial gallery network in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, has been dedicated to the promotion of Chinese contemporary art, and design [2] as an art form. Working with established and emerging designers who push boundaries of traditional Chinese art and craft techniques, they facilitate an artist-in-residence programme for the creation of new works, a reflection of artists' experiences in China. Set in comparison to the artists on show in Ahead of the Curve (2014), is the young female designer Danful Yang, currently on show at Pearl Lam Shanghai.

Born in 1980, she is not formally trained in design, developing her craft and traditional Chinese art techniques from shadowing internationally renowned designers. Her artistic practice references her cross-cultural experiences of being home and abroad, incorporating known objects and symbolism in playful ways such as here in 'Devil or Angel' (2012), a porcelain wall installation of broken and disfigured infant figures. Made by porcelain craftsmen of Dehua in Fujian Province, the figures are balanced precariously in PVC tubes that are intended to represent the 'busy environments of this world, reminding us that the future is in our hands' (Blouin Artinfo 2012). Yang states 'normally babies are native and pure... when we see the horrible and disfigured, people ask what's happened, why? Because of the profits, recourses or politics, the selfish human beings start to have wars, fights, and pollution, if we keep on doing those bad things, our future, which is our babies will suffer in the end. So we need to think about what is the correct thing to do. We can choose to be a devil or to be an angel for the future.' Although the piece can be functional used as shelving, the piece is also to be seen as art, as Yang prefers to work in narratives where form does not necessarily follow function.

Danful Yang states "China has no design history. We only have craftsmen - the word 'designer' didn't emerge until the 1970s when Western design influenced China. In the West, art is arranged over decorative art and design in a hierarchy, but in China, we don't discriminate between art and design - it's about creativity and the idea behind the object." Therefore, the emerging design generation in China can be seen to look at a design problem in a holistic, non-dualistic way,'one that evokes experiential elements informed by culture and language': 'In contrast to Western habits of describing clearly what something is, Chinese ways of speaking and seeing tend to show or suggest what something could be' (Herr 2010). This is interpreted further through the translation of the Chinese notion of xushí - literally meaning the mutual relationship between abstract (xu) and concrete or real (shí) (Keane 2013:154). As part of this, there is always concern of 'ideological pollution' (Keane 2013: 155) from the West that subverts the true nature of Chinese design, clearly prevalent within the work of "starchitects" as mentioned, and whether the recent museum and design boom is just a phase of China's "Great Leap Forward" as part of achieving "The Chinese Dream".

The examples stated in this paper clearly highlight a critical consciousness of the developments within Chinese traditional and contemporary craft, design and art, and its recent significance in the rise of China's new museums - China's new "architecture of design". As cited in this paper, projects such as China Design Now (2008), Beyond G(l)aze (2014) and Ahead of the Curve (2014), alongside the programming of Pearl Lam Design and research of China Megacities Lab are fundamental to this, and acknowledge a need to build a cultural legacy for its sustainable future. However, in order for it to be sustainable, China must recognise that it is part of an on-going, global cultural process, exchange and dialogue, a constant bridging of cultures, as I stated in the introduction "in the transculture". Their new museums must be driven by a strong curatorial think-tank and offer cutting-edge curators and artists to escape mainstream conceptions and to search for their own path. (Ha Thuc 2014:47). Therefore, is it beyond a new "architecture of design" towards a constant "architecture of redesign" as part of our changing global cultural ecology? Let's see what happens in the next year of China's new museums…



[2] www.pearllam/com/design/


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