Shanghai Style

Some of the world’s most influential designers are gearing up to participate in the annual forum in Shanghai.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  March 2, 2006

Some of the world’s most influential designers are gearing up to participate in the annual forum in Shanghai. The event has become so successful over the past few years that it is now back for the fourth year running as a six-day event with a new name — Design Week 2006. Hosted by VNU Exhibitions Asia, the event will take place this month from March 29th - April 2nd. Many local and international interior designers are expected to take part in a series of design forums, workshops and other networking activities. The focus at this year’s exhibition will be on hospitality design and energy savings. A major highlight at the conference will be the opportunity for designers to hear lectures by leading industry figures. Keynote addresses include American architect Benjamin Wood who is responsible for the design of Xintiandi — China’s historical re-development project for which he received a 2003 Award of Excellence from the Urban Land Institute. He transformed an area of crumbling tenement buildings into Shanghai’s hottest cultural entertainment district full of boutiques, clubs and restaurants. Building designs in the area are unique and eclectic, and Shanghai’s designers have sought to outdo each other in creating innovative and stylish interiors. One restaurant, ‘TMSK’ has been attracting attention for its walls, bar and stools made of handspun exotic glass. Wood himself has opened a bar there — the ultra minimalist DR, an acronym for ‘Design Resource’. A favourite hang out for Shanghai’s burgeoning design community, the interior is almost entirely black with huge slabs of polished inkstone and a bar topped with woven strands of silver. The success of the Xintiandi redevelopment project has had a huge impact on the cultural scene of Shanghai, and there are plans to replicate the idea not just across China but the rest of Asia too. French architect Paul Andreu will also be appearing at the exhibition. He has made his mark on Shanghai style with his landmark design for the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre. Designed in the shape of a butterfly orchid, the building has a shimmering, glass metal effect and at night has a rainbow of lights that glow according to the music being played inside. Architecturally the design is striking and innovative and the centre has done much to increase the city’s artistic reputation. Completed in December 2004, it was one of the biggest and most talked about projects in Asia. Shanghai appears to be setting a benchmark for style that is fast being replicated not just around China but the rest of Asia as well. Wood comments, “It’s like Paris in the 1930’s. There is so much artistic freedom. Things happen fast here.”

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