Beijing Design Week remakes Baitasi

Highlights of some key projects at the annual event's newest core area

Beijing Design Week (BJDW), the annual programme bringing together architects, designers, urban planners and financiers, returns this month for its sixth edition. A few projects under the BJDW banner will materialise in Baitasi, a hutong neighbourhood near the West Second Ring named after its oldest landmark, a Yuan Dynasty Buddhist temple.

Baitasi is also home to other cultural treasures, such as the the Lu Xun Museum, built on the site of the famous writer's home. These heritage sites have earned the hutong area – surrounded by Xicheng's financial district and several sprawling shopping malls – the official designation of 'cultural and historical preservation zone'.

Baitasi maybe

BJDW officially named Baitasi a new 'core area' last year, hosting a handful of projects there. Billing it as 'Beijing's new design neighbourhood', BJDW has now announced plans to begin a long-term urban renewal programme in Baitasi next year, which will conclude in 2020. In typically inflated jargon, BJDW describes the goal of this project – BTS Remade – as creating a 'living incubator for a networked community of design professionals and entrepreneurs to take home in the area and partake to the rejuvenation of its cultural and social ecosystem'.

Their approach has garnered some criticism. Italian artist and curator Alessandro Rolandi, an active member of Beijing's hutong art scene, said in a recent article for Ran Dian that projects like BTS Remade represent the early stages of 'rapacious economic models of gentrification', benefitting real estate investors more than local residents. 'In general, when the creative industry is brought in, we see an early period of pleasant bohemian diversity and trendy multicultural integration, which carries the germs of what is going to happen next'.

That said, Rolandi admits that BTS Remade's early steps have been 'more thoughtful and less aggressive' than BJDW projects in other core areas, and a few events happening in Baitasi this year seek to engage the local residential community in meaningful, hopefully sustainable ways.

Lawaai Magazine


Lava edit

For one, Amsterdam- and Beijing-based design studio Lava will produce a limited-run magazine called Lawaai. Their workspace, set up in a renovated courtyard behind the Lu Xun Museum, will hold designers, a wall of sticky-notes with ideas for new issues, an A3 printer, staples – everything one needs for a quick and dirty print run. Content like issue themes, interviews, photos and drawings will be solicited from passersby, locals and BJDW visitors. ‘We hope to collect issues from the area in this way, and to visualise and vocalise them,’ says Lava’s Céline Lamée.

The magazine’s title is a Dutch word for loud noise, paired on the inside cover with the Chinese characters for foreigner (老外, laowai) and noise (噪音, zaoyin). This works as both a play on words and a shot of self-awareness. Lava plans to print as many issues of Lawaai as it can from September 23-30, and to make the resulting stacks of folded A3 zines available as an open collection after BJDW closes.

Tria, Bits and Books


Iproject Presentation

The team behind the I: Project Space residency will hold two projects for BTS Remade, including the launch of a small-run book publisher, Tria. This grew out of a collaboration between I: Project Space founders Antonie Angerer and Anna-Viktoria Eschbach, and Zurich-based graphic designer Sonja Zagermann, who held an artist-book-making workshop last year. An exhibit of their first five publications – monographs by local artists and past residents – will be on display for the duration of BJDW at Baitasi's new Print Club, which Eschbach describes as 'a gathering point for everything around printed matter, with places for workshops, exhibitions, and lectures'. The Print Club is the brainchild of Beatrice Leanza, creative director of BJDW.

From Tuesday 27 through Friday 30, the trio behind Tria will also hold Bits and Books, a virtual reality workshop during which Zagermann will create a VR-enhanced print book based on the work of local artist Lin Ke. There will be a few technical experts on hand, but the workshop is 'designed with play in mind', aiming to capture the interest of creative professionals or anyone 'wanting to explore an alternative way to link VR with printed matter'.

More Iproject

I: Project Space plans to open a new residency in Baitasi later this year, dropping a rotating cast of international artists into the neighbourhood. 'We were very interested when we heard that Baitasi had invited cultural institutions and residency programmes to become part of a new residency hub,' says Eschbach. 'Working with the development team that is responsible for the restructuring of Baitasi also made us optimistic that their approach for the neighbourhood would create something dynamic and long-lasting.'

BJDW has developed its gentrification-as-preservation model in Dashilar for several years now, and while the full scope of BTS Remade won’t come into focus until 2017, this year Baitasi will host a few projects experimenting with ways to connect with the local community, whether as content or creators.

BTS Remade at Beijing Design Week Baitasi. Sun 25-Oct 9. Free. Find the full program and a map at www.btsremade.org

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