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Unidentified Acts of Design

As part of the collaboration between the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and China Merchants Shekou (CMSK) for the establishment of a new creative platform focusing on design, now named Design Society, the V&A team has conducted research on the contemporary manufacturing scene of Shenzhen with the aim of identifying key moments and players in its most recent history. This research has resulted into the exhibition ‘Unidentified Acts of Design’ at the Urbanism\Architecture Bi-city Biennale (UABB) in December 2015 and in eight short films featuring interviews to engineers, inventors, manufacturers, web developers, and hobbyists active in the city.

The eight case studies include Seeed, a micro-controller company that offers a platform for makers, inventors and engineers to develop and prototype ideas; the DIY robot making company Makeblock; the drone manufacturing company DJI; the sophisticated and multifunctional digital platform WeChat (Weixin); the manufacturing environment where ‘shanzhai’ are being produced; data coding of knitting machines at the Rose Knitting factory; reproduction techniques at Dafen Village and manufacturing workshops in Shenzhen urban villages.

The case studies intend to highlight some key features and players in the most recent urban and manufacturing history of Shenzhen, a city that was made ‘special economic zone’ (SEZ) in 1979 and since then experienced a growth of an unprecedented scale, becoming a key global manufacturing center for the following three decades and gaining the name of ‘factory of the world’. The extensive, fast-moving and integrated network of specialized factories, suppliers, agents and distributors of Shenzhen’s manufacturing system, and the easy availability of hardware and key components for making electronic products have opened new opportunities for local and international companies, as well as for individuals and start-ups interested in fast-prototyping and scaling-up to production.

The city has changed rapidly in the last few years, trying to foster innovation and creative practices and its ambition of becoming a global design centre. Nominated UNESCO City of Design in 2008, Shenzhen can now be considered the place where to test on the ground China’s government policy encouraging the transition from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created by China’.

The eight films ‘Unidentified Acts of Design’, all filmed in the fall of 2015, capture a specific moment in the city’s most recent history and are an essential tool to redefine Shenzhen’s manufacturing and design history, and start reflecting on the opportunities and challenges laying in the years ahead.

These are the Link so the Vimeo videos:

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