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Posted 04.11.14

Making Futures at Beijing Design Week: Q&A with Malcolm Ferris

Beijing Design Week is now in its fourth year and was set up to increase public awareness, discourse and infrastructure for design in the Chinese capital. Last year more than 1,800 designers and design institutes from all over the world descended on Dashilar, one of Beijing’s oldest Hutong districts, for the event. 

In a change from its traditional location at Mount Edgcumbe in the UK, the Making Futures team and specially selected guests headed to Beijing Design Week 2014 for a pop up conference.

Making Futures Curator Malcolm Ferris talks us through his experience at Beijing Design Week and the role of Making Futures at this huge transnational event.

“Making Futures has become an international brand now. The college is now being invited to lead on quite a few prestigious international events.The Making Futures Beijing event was part of Beijing Design Week and we were the centerpiece for the Dashilar programme.”

What does Making Futures’ presence in Beijing represent to the college?

That Making Futures will be invited to lead on prestige events like Beijing Design Week is no mean achievement, it’s extremely worthwhile. I think it’s important because it shows the international impact that Making Futures is having. For us it shows that we can cut it at this level, that our research is at this status, that we can platform on an international stage, which I think says a lot for a small specialist institution.

What kind of topics were covered?

We had two days of discussion around practice-based projects and theoretical perspectives on practice-based activities. And we divided those two days into four sessions. The first was a general introduction to the notion of the return of craft and what that return means in both a western context and in a chinese context. The second session was on craft and traditional craft and looking at ‘design to make’ and craft in the context of sustainability agendas. 

Andrew Brewerton (Principal at Plymouth College of Art) introduced the impact of the college’s free school. The school curriculum is very much designed around a hands on, making set of ideas and philosophies and we discussed the impact that might have on that sector of the community. The final session was on the relationship between traditional making skillsets and crafts and more advanced digital fabrication.

How was the reception?

The reception was excellent. We had good audiences, we had an international cast of speakers with a predominantly Chinese audience. The feedback has been great, everyone said that these kinds of discussions do not happen very often in a Chinese context. We really brought something. We opened up a debate which the Chinese need to have in relation to their own making practices, their own craft, and where they sit at the moment. We were initiating the debate.

What’s next for Making Futures?

Our most immediate thing is our next home-grown version of Making Futures, which is in September 2015. We’re also talking about perhaps a larger China version of Making Futures. Beijing Design Week in a way was a pilot, it was us testing the waters, so we might go back and attempt something a little larger, even more ambitious.
There might also be possibilities to take this to other developing countries to get some comparative analysis with what’s going on, maybe India or Brazil. Those are not concrete but they are possibilities, things that might be in development.

So has the experience soaked in or is it straight onto the next thing?

Well, it’s onto the next thing really. We are thinking about producing a publication about our experience there, develop some of the presentations into fuller essays and produce a bilingual academic publication.

For more information on Making Futures click here