Visual Natures – the research and UX design

This post refers to the reserach project and exhibition “Visual Natures – The Politics and Culture of Environmentalism in the XX and XXI Centuries” of which you can learn more a this other link. Here I delve into the contents and their presentation, as well as the unique tool that was developed to both aid the reserach process and its fruition by users. 

Content organisation and thematic clusters

DEEP ECOLOGIES 1950s – 1980s [read the introduction here]

Earthworks: Expanded Fields

New Communalism

Technology and Environmental Consciousness

THE PLANETARY COMPLEX 1990s – 2000s [read the introduction here]

Ecovention: Environmental Reparations

Post-Human Politics and Aesthetics

The Anthropocene, Climate Justice and Political Ecology

MULTINATURALISM 2010s – present day [read the introduction here]

Augmented Nature and Terraforming

Speculative Ecologies and Post-Globalisation

Subjects of analysis and categories

Arts and Culture: Movements, People and Events / Works / Exhibitions / Critical Writing (books, catalogues)

Climate Science and Technology: People / Scientific Facts and Climate Events / Technological Inventions and Discoveries / Documentation (papers, books and publications)

Social Movements: Civic Demonstrations, Public Events, Non-Governmental Organisations

Global Governance: Governmental Organisations / Official Acts and Deliberations by Governmental Organisations / Documentation

Intersections among the selected contents are contextualised through the three thematic clusters and subclusters and move from the anthropocentric foundations of modern environmental thought, built on the exploitative legacy of western colonialism and the thought-regime of Cartesian man/nature dualism, towards the more-than-human ecologies informed by theoretical positions founded on non-binary cultural traditions of eco-centrism and multi-perspectivism of recent years.

The presentation allows to individuate historical and causal connections among facts, people and events concerning: the achievements of scientific progress in building climate knowledge and awareness of negative anthropogenic impact, as much as its opposing denialism by industrial interest groups; social and political mobilisations that support reparatory and equitable policies, as well as the recurring failures of intergovernmental cooperation; the artistic practices devoted to ecological interventionism and critical experimentalism around novel concepts of social mutuality, multi-species coexistence and biocentrism, as well as the enduring injustice and forms of industrial exploitation that still threaten the survival of indigenous and disenfranchised people, deplete natural resources and destroy biosystems. 

How to navigate the Visual Natures’ interface

The research is presented in a custom digital interface designed and developed by the studio dotdotdot. You can browse the multimedia contents – images, videos, texts and audios – following the three main thematic chapters chronologically distributed across the 42-seat assembly designed by Carla Juaçaba, each provided with a touchscreen.

Up and down: by scrolling vertically you can compare findings across the four subjects of analysis (i.e., Arts and Culture – Climate Science and Technology – Social Movements – Global Governance) and their sub-typologies (for example: notable figures, scientific findings and facts, cultural events, artworks, social movements, books, etc.).

Left and right: by swiping horizontally you move through time.


maat – Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology 2019 – 2022


Executive Director – maat museum from 2019 to 2021 (programme active through 2022).

Throughout my tenure at maat and confronted with the unfolding of a global pandemic, we have endeavoured to embrace its challenges with courage and optimism, dedicating our efforts to the establishment of a future-driven institution of purpose and open-ended, creative inspiration. 

You can read more of all we did at maat website (which was fully restyled and reprogrammed since March 2020) and maat ext. (i.e. maat extended) which was luanched in September 2020 as a new permanent digital space and an expanded realm of action for the institution. A novel editorial practice dubbed maat Papers was also established in the form of serialized inprints  accompanying a variety of exhibitons, reserach projects and public programs. 

A relevant book collecting these years of prjects, reaserach endevaours and creative feats was published in December 2021.

Here follows my preface:

“2020/21 – The Meaning and Making of Cultural Agency”

It might be premature to assess how and to what degree the memories of the past two years will affect our long-term future thinking; to be sure though the spatio-temporal hiatus of the pandemic has thrusted in the foreground how vigorously we ‘can’ act as a community to safeguard the values we share, and that hold us together. The question is whether we will keep our senses alert and our intentions forceful with equal confidence once the logistical technicalities of epidemiological control will be normalized in our everyday life. My answer to this interrogative is ‘yes, we can’, on the condition that spheres of public agency where “the articulation of debate, the sharing of positions and the articulation of knowledge” can be preserved. We have upheld this credo for institutions of culture to become civic arenas performing as purpose-driven organizations all throughout times when they were at their most vulnerable, but also when the importance to renew their relevance in contemporary societal discourse was at its most critical. I am a believer in the role and responsibility of cultural institutions to empower inclusive forms of confrontation that can help us all discern, explore and engender equitable futures, planetary respect and mutual care. We have made ‘prototyping the museum’ a motto supporting our every action, co-designed with professional and general publics, stakeholders of various background and provenance, entities of research, education and practicing activism, to ultimately conjure a future-driven museum that transforms as we transform with it.

We have endeavoured to make the present our home, as it is the most difficult to inhabit and yet the only temporal construct through which we can gauge both past and future, convinced that the new institutional paradigm is one where multiple temporalities, modes of creative engagement and encounter collide – where we practice coexistence not as an amalgam of individualities but an interwoven body of bonds and ideas as collective potential.

Lisbon, October 2021


Photo credits: maat and Central  – EDP Foundation Campus, photo by Fernando Guerra. 


B/Side Design | The Global School – ongoing

B/Side Design is an international organization engineering programs of urban and social impact, from the vantage point of China.

We set off the first steps in 2017 and we are now running projects in and out of China. My long time friend Sarah Orlando is the other half of it. She is a passionate and creative business leader, taking enlightened pragmatism and an administrative touch of discipline to my delirious ramblings.

B/Side is an inclusive partnership looking at establishing three core business units under: B/Side Reserach, B/Side Education and B/Side Things.

It spearhaded the establishment of The Global School, China’s first independent institute dedicated to design and creative research.

You can read more about the ongoings at

Thank you for following – and be in touch if any of what you see there inspires!



A Day in an Open City – Hong Kong 2019


Organized by The Palace Museum (Beijing) and Phoenix TVwith Bank of China (Hong Kong) as chief charity partner

Exhibition Curated by Beatrice Leanza | B/Side Design

July 26 – August 25, 2019 | Asian World Expo – Hall 3 | Hong Kong

“Springtime Along the River“ 清明上河图 is one of the most iconic works in world art history preserved in the collection of The Palace Museum in Beijing‘ s Forbidden City, a hand-scroll painting attributed to the artist Zhang Zeduan and completed around the beginning of the 11th century. A masterpiece of literary and visual depiction measuring 5.28m in length and 24.8cm in height, ”Springtime Along The River“ is a repository of situated historical knowledge around the cultural, economic and social ecologies of a large metropolis in the 11th century, i.e. Bianjing, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty that is today Kaifeng city.

Co-organized by The Palace Museum (Beijing) and Phoenix TV with Bank of China (HK) as chief charity partner, the project is hosted in a 4000sqm hall at the Asian World Expo, where the unprecedented exhibition A Day in An Open City together with a relevant Library section curated by Beatrice Leanza accompanies the monumental Hayday Scroll a 2.5 digital animation of the painting presented on a 5m high and 30m long ultra-high-definition projection previously shown in Beijing, and a 180-degree Dome Theatre that allows visitors to experience a virtual boat ride on the Bian river, both developed by Phoenix Digital Technology.

The space also hosts an events area that will feature programs on various topics relevant to the paintings and Song Dynasty, an area for kids dubbed Song Dynasty Park and a gift shop with newly designed items. 

About the Exhibition

In the painstaking minutiae of its details, “Springtime Along the River“ embodies progressive values of urban and civic nature: diversity is here celebrated both in the monumentality of its environmental scapes – natural, man-made, haphazard or ‘designed’ – as well as in the social and occupational multiplicity which characterized the unparalleled prosperity of the Chinese empire during medieval times.

This vision of sociability and accessibility is the timeless feature that from antiquity to contemporary times has never ceased to inspire the hopes and ambitions of great thinkers – it is the image of an “open city“.

Due to the specific form of consumption that characterizes hand-scroll painting (that is sequential reading), “Springtime Along River“ literally embodies a voyage in both time and space inside the day of a bustling urban centre. The temporal narrative begins at dawn in a tranquil rural scenario, and takes the observer through the city‘s suburbs among its markets and busy river banks, until revealing the frenzied life of the inner quarters of the walled city in the afternoon hours.

The main exhibition covering 1500sqm A Day in an Open City – A Journey Through Springtime Along the River and the accompanying library project with over 80 books and catalogues are curated by Beatrice Leanza, creative director of the Beijing-based B/Side Design and co-founder of The Global School.

The exhibition is composed of two main parts, the first dedicated to reveal the making of process of the 2d animation and an introduction to the painting’s background. The main body of the show instead is organized following the spatio-temporal narrative present in the scroll, letting visitors explore the phantasmagoria of its author’s imagination while delving into the historical and cultural facts that surrounded its creation.

Eight core scenes, sections of the scroll itself, function as key content frameworks each composed of newly produced exhibits, covering a breadth of research subjects contextualizing the political, economic, cultural and social history of Song times. Each subject takes inspiration from details that can be observed in the painting itself. These range from figures of historical importance including emperors, court painters and politicians, master builders and philosophers, to presentations diving into the design of the built environment, architecture, furniture, civil and naval engineering, the material culture of Song porcelain, fashion and the unique history of its commercial prosperity and global expansion.

A highlight of the show are the ten installations commissioned and newly produced especially for this exhibition by ten of the most talented designers working in China today. They are Atlas, BenWu Studio, FIELD, HVN Studio, LAVA Beijing, MAT Office, MAX Office, Pinwu Design Studio, Weestar Studio, Nod Young.

Product of months of research, each of these works focuses on a particular aspect of Song history and culture to offer audiences unique ways to experience more broadly the importance and relation of said subjects to contemporary urban life and visual culture.

The exhibition design is developed by reMIX Studio in a series of light weight structures where visual transparencies and materials juxtapositions highlight the three core spatial sections (Rural Scape – City Outskirts – Inner City) with the eight content chapters each bearing its own visual character, within a conceptual rendering of the overall exhibition as an entanglement of urban alleys.

The graphic design project is by Studio NA.EO of designer Liu Zhizhi, who has developed an iconized visual system referencing key details in the scroll with color coding determined by an analysis of those used in paintings and porcelain of Song times.


Organizers: The Palace Museum, Phoenix TV

Chief Charity Partner: Bank of China (Hong Kong)

Supported by: Home Affairs Bureau

Promotion Support: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Venue Support: Asia World Expo

Executive Organizer: Phoenix Digital Technology, The Forbidden City Publishing House

Co-organizer: Phoenix Exhibitions

Chief Curator: Beatrice Leanza – B/Side Design |

Space & Exhibition Design: Remix Studio |

VI Design: Studio NA.EO |

Special Installations:

Atlas, BenWu Studio, FIELD, HVN Studio, LAVA Beijing, MAX Office, MAT Office, Pinwu Design Studio, Weestar Studio, Nod Young

Tickets Info:


For press materials and to receive further details on the exhibition please send an email to:

Sarah Orlando | B/Side Design

For regular updates follow

Download Links:

Press Announcement Full Press Kit


Significant Others – Incomplete by Design | BIFT ’19

The program “Significant Others” is a one-year experiment developed at the School of Art & Design – BIFT (Beijing Institute for Fashion Technology) during the 2018/2019 academic year by The Global School. The final graduation show part of this one year research pilot opened on May 30, 2019.

The exhibition is divided in 6 main thematic areas which assemble 152 students’ projects around core explorative environments, wherein works are distributed not according to departmental classification but with relevance to affinities among the subjects and methodologies of research they employ.

Each area is subdivided in different sections that further unveil narrative webs relevant to the given topic, and thus disclose resonances among the various works and their connection to the exhibition overall theme.

Social Partners

As the theme of the 2019 Grad Show, Significant Others poses a quest to students to explore their life environment, their personal, familial and social contexts with the aim to find an inspirational cause to understand and empower. Students are prompted to delve into their own reality, the city, the universe that surrounds them and devise a project that brings positive impact to a community of their choice by supplying a function, service, activity of any nature – this could be based on an economic transaction, a volunteering job, an educational/commercial/academic/cultural offering provided it clearly targets an unattended common need, whose extent can vary from a small group of people to a neighborhood or an entire city district. With this in mind the project must reflect on this hypothetical perpetrator as a social partner, a significant other complement. 

The goal of the project is that of re-establishing a meaningful connection among people and groups, a simple premise that wishes to probe extant connections and systemic dependencies and reconfigure them into new value creation.

Curator:: Beatrice Leanza 

​Graphic Design:: Li Huang,  Day Yisha (BIFT)

Exhibition Design:: Zhao Liqun (FIELD) in collaboration with mono (Pablo Resa, Miguel Esteban Alonso)

All Images: mono, 2019.

Significant Others – Incomplete by Design investigates the shapeshifting nature of design as a feat of relentless mediation between the individual and the collective spheres.

Crafted at the intersection of multiple needs, interests and desires, incompleteness is here intended as a positive formula of open-endedness, co-action and a promise of mutual fulfilment. It looks at how the syntax and ambitions of design change when we embrace the idea that today’s minimum unit of social measure is no longer the averaged singularity of data-driven usership, but the vulnerable and dispositional plurality of a community.

Thematic Areas:

1. OUR FOOD – The Psychology and Systems of Everyday Consumption

2. A SENSE OF PLACE – From the ‘The Third City’’ to Novel Urban and Rural Paradigms

3. THE RESILIENT POWER OF LANGUAGE – Communication Across Cultural and Digital Divides

4. FUTURESCAPES: Social Narratives and Storytelling between Facts & Fiction

5. WE CARE: Health, Environment and the Making of Social Trust

6. THE ‘’PLACE’’ OF LEARNING – Redrawing Paths of Knowledge

Read more on The Global School website.



About the Exhibition Design: A Project for the Students Community 

Responding to the curatorial brief that organizes 152 students’ projects in 6 main thematic areas, the exhibition design developed by the architecture practice FIELD of Zhao Liqun in collaboration with mono office (Miguel Esteban Alonso and Pablo Alfonso Resa), is a flexible and modular system that accommodates ideas in an adaptive social space.

The modular surfaces, walls, tables, screens and cabinets, become environments for both display and social interaction, a re-configurable and reusable system that can be inhabited in various ways.

Each of the 6 thematic areas is given a specific spatial character – enclosed, open, linear, broken, according to the contents it features, thus guiding the viewing experience while leaving room for students and visitors to appropriate the interstitial areas at their will. The show is hosted in two large rooms, the spacious lobby of the main building in the BIFT campus and in an adjacent exhibition hall, each featuring three of the overall six chapters.

The structures have been designed so that the entire scenography can be later recycled for various uses in the campus, in classrooms, laboratories as well as in the outdoors.


About the Graphic Design: An Adaptive Visual System 

Developed by designer and BIFT professor Li Huang, the visual identity of the graduation show is a motion graphic system that responds to the curatorial brief by deploying an element of constant ‘transformation’ as conceptually connected to the theme of social exchange and interaction at the heart of the show curated by Beatrice Leanza, creative director of Beijing based The Global School.

This constant transformation is applied in an integrated system used in site of the exhibition, in the dedicated website and on digital social platforms. A color-coded system marks the 6 different thematic areas that compose the exhibition which includes the projects of 152 students.

The main motion graphics features a constantly scrambling sequence of the title of the show Significant Others – Incomplete by Design (merging both Chinese characters and English words) gradually also revealing each of the titles of the six themes.

These have been then specifically redesigned as individual graphic items for the signage and guiding system in site of the exhibition and for use on social platforms.


Venice Architecture Biennale 2018

Across Chinese Cities – The Community (The Objects Spaces and Rituals of the Collective)

Collateral Event of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Following its two previous instalments at the Biennale Architettura 2014 and 2016, the third chapter of the Across Chinese Cities program is a continued exploration of the rapport between the built environment and socio-economic processes of change in the contemporary Chinese context. Promoted by Beijing Design Week in partnership with Suzhou Municipal Government, Across Chinese Cities – The Community explores approaches to planning linked to the development of ‘communities’ as mechanisms that create new systems of social, economic and spatial belonging. The project offers an unprecedented look at over 20 case studies that draw upon the ‘’emancipating potentialities of commoning’’ (Stavros Stavrides, ‘’The City as Commons’’) through integrated design strategies which embody new notions of collective identity and thus novel interrelated norms of co-dependence, participation and inclusivity.  By tackling localized predicaments generated by uneven economic distribution, environmental scarcity and demographic fragmentation, they shed light on a transitional framework of development where new subjectivities are emerging and so producing co-actualized protocols of governance on the micro-scale.

Nested through tiered urban contexts, from historic districts, second tier cities to urban villages, and rural areas across different Chinese regions, these projects are predicated on the edification of enlightened methodologies of contemporary coexistence, where spatial transformation becomes auxiliary to the consolidation of new alliances among economic actors, governmental stakeholders and civic constituencies in medicating the disruptive effects of forty years of China’s unabated urbanizing race.

The exhibition is organized in six thematic frameworks – Working Paradigms / The Domestic Sphere / The Consumer Revolution / Culture, Learning & Care / Leisure & Playtime / Mobility – each providing a narrative entry point to socio-cultural constructs where collective life is customarily consumed and reproduced. 

Once again showcased in the unique framework of Ca Tron palace, the ground floor plays host to the ACC 2018 Guest City – Suzhou chapter and features studies on community development centred around the Pingjiang Road Preservation and Regeneration Plan; collectively these explore the city’s unique context of preserved traditions found in its historic urban fabric, crafts heritage and abundant natural resources, to enrich its ecological, economic and social condition.

On the first floor 15 selected projects are accommodated in an installation devised by DONTSTOP Architettura  of Michele Brunello, co-curator of the exhibition, together with Omri Revesz Studio – here thematic contents are laid in an archipelago of curvilinear shapes where an assemblage of visual and textual materials renders explicit the symbolic and physical systems of objects, spaces and rituals embedded in their making, thus unearthing connections among past and present regimes of sharing.  

‘’Each of these propositions behaves in responsive capacity towards a reconciliation between policy-relevant and community-native forms of ordering based on mutual fulfilment, cultural empowerment and thus ‘collective inventiveness’ ‘’ states Beatrice Leanza, curator of the show.

The exhibition includes historical itineraries drawing connections between the present case studies and past governmentalities of architectural and social formations – the People’s Commune, the Danwei (working unit) and the Socialist Mansion, so to suggest understandings of publicness, resilience and civic participation that might differ from their Western equivalents. The project eventually aims at collating knowledge around economic and socio-spatial dynamics of modern development in China centred around enabling the ‘making of community’ as a ‘’project, rather than an accomplished state’’, which therefore inform novel discursive and planning practices of responsive governance and creative management for the contemporary city.


3andwich Design / He Wei Studio, 9town-studio, AA School of Architecture/AA Visiting School (China), Atlas Studio, Bishan Crafts Cooperative, B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio, CHIASMUS Partners, Common Design Studio, DATAOJO, Digua Community, Doffice, Elsewhere, Kwan-Yen Project / Ou Ning, MAT Office, META-Project, MDDM Studio, People’s Architecture Office, Southeast University School of Architecture, Stefano Boeri Architetti, Tianqiao E-life.


Beatrice Leanza – The Global School

Michele Brunello – DONTSTOP Architettura

Curator Guest City – Suzhou: Wu Wenyi – Nexus Institute for Community Research

Guest Curators –  Slow Village:  Chen Anhua, Ke Wei

Exhibition Design

DONTSTOP Architettura (Michele Brunello and Marco Brega) / Team: Caterina Fumagalli, Jacopo Nori

Omri Revesz Studio / Team: Giada Cossignani

HIS Design (Guest City Suzhou)

Visual and Graphic Design

LAVA Beijing

Across Chinese Cities Program Management

Initiator: Vittorio Sun Qun


2030 Journal / UNESCO Beijing

Moving Targets – The 2030 Journal Project 

The 2030 journal is an initiative launched by Beijing’s International Centre for Creativity and Sustainable Development (ICCSD) under the auspices of UNESCO, an editorial venture that takes as a point of departure the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 New Urban Agenda, ratified at the 2016 Habitat III Conference in Quito. Four SDGs of the total seventeen were selected to each provide a thematic blueprint for the four issues that compose the series – they are Sustainable Cities & Communities, Decent Work & Economic Growth, Affordable & Clean Energy, and Quality Education.  

Developed by B/Side Design – downlad the pilot issue at this link

This publication project explores the transformative affinities and productive contradictions of processes and ideas that bind localized protocols of economic, urban, and socio-cultural character to communal survival on a global expanse. The time capsule from which it takes its title, 2030, stands here as a symbolic buoy around which we at times gravitate closer and at times move the farthest apart – a metaphor for the peripatetic feat of theoretical and practical creativity that as humans we endeavour in tackling the phenomena that challenge, shape and hope for a more equitable and sustainable future. As a research venture, this journal aims at creating a new platform for knowledge, perspectives and cases generating from the Chinese experience to enter dialogue with concurrent international studies, and thus open new conduits for their mutual understanding.  

2030 is not about the latest or the newest. It is a collection of precise positions and punctual testimonies as told in different textual and visual contributions ranging from academic essay, to image gallery, journalistic report as well as personal notation which locate resonances of intellectual and practical agency across diverse fields of knowledge and their originating contexts. These juxtapositions of literary styles as forms of insight shelter discursive trajectories that, while assertive in their findings, offer readers open-ended avenues of further reflection around chosen topics that are pinpointed throughout by tags found on the margins of pages.

Each issue is structured in two main halves, their divide marked by a section titled Visualize Me – pages dedicated to unique works of data visualization and info graphics pertinent to each theme.

With this visual crevasse at its heart, the journal’s first part comprises three chapters – The Big Picture, The Small Picture, China Logs – which constitute the core discursive receptacles staging dialogue between world-views and localized insights, by than introducing Chinese perspectives of relevance for their responsive capacity to shared global challenges and ambitions. The following sections – Serial Innovators, The Future of Things, Global Classroom – introduce concrete initiatives and individual works of poignancy that celebrate a perpetual drive towards innovation originating from the private and educational sectors, and strive to generate real-world impact from the bottom-up of start-up offices, school labs or design studios.    

This first issue which takes the 11th SDG as its subject – Sustainable Cities & Communities –  delves into thinking practices around the anchoring concept of ‘resilience’, a moniker of social, economic and urban constructs predicated on remedial ecologies of reciprocation and co-actualization. A dedicated column dubbed The Point, which will recur in every issue, offers an in-depth look at its hard-to-grasp contours. We have featured propositions of enlightened pragmatism and intellectual capacity that respond to what is urgent and risk-inducing for the perpetuation of our spatial and social environs, with the ethically minded intent of creative strategies that foster new relations of proximity, not based on strategic interest but trustful affinity.   

2030 is yesterday, it is today and it is tomorrow – a perpetually moving target whose distance is measured at the crossroads of disciplinary convergences and the multiplicity of further horizons we create for ourselves towards the goal of even global growth. 

Beatrice Leanza

Creative Director 2030 journal

Beijing, June 2017


[115] IDEAS IN ACTION – The Book

ACROSS CHINESE CITIES: (115) IDEAS IN ACTION – Critical Design Practice in China

Book launched at the WORLD DESIGN CAPITAL TAIPEI 2016 

13 – 30 October, 2016

Songshan Cultural and Creative Park – Taipei, Taiwan

The book project Across Chinese Cities – Ideas in Action was featured as part of the International City Pavilion – Unfold Cities at the International Design House Exhibition/ World Design Capital Taipei representing the city of Beijing, where in all 13 participating international cities, countries and organizations had been invited.

Following the latest instantiation of the Across Chinese Cities program at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, Across Chinese Cities – Ideas in Action (Critical Design Practice in China) is the first publication in both Chinese and English language to offer insight in the specific outputs, contexts of action as well as strands of intellectual perambulation that inform the state of design in China today. Styled in form of an almanac, this 320-page book is arranged in alphabetical order by presenting 115 projects developed by a variety of local and international practitioners in the PRC. These cover a breadth of disciplinary encounters, ranging from urban planning, architecture and temporary interventions, to examples of design initiatives and organizations, publishing ventures, open-source and digital fabrication, to just name a few.

‘’What draws shared significance to these assembly of creative visions is their dynamic positioning within generative networks of co-doing and combining of knowledge, their detouring within the remedial scale of actions that can rekindle broken or obsolete relations of production, inheritance and place into novel processes of mutuality and co-dependency. These practices advocate for design actions that are generated by a locally shaped resourcefulness of humanistic and social engagement, yet can be taken as blueprints and propositions of relevance on a global expanse.’’ (from my preface in the book)

They have been selected according to four analytical categories that portray distinct yet interwoven scales of operation and systems of knowledge, to the end of rendering their implicit dependences manifest. They are: Re-Thinking Systems, Spatial Divides, Social Making, Visuality&Objecthood.

If you are interested to buy or distribute the book be in touch via the contact page or write to media[at]bjdw[dot]org.

The book is also presented at Operae Design Festival (3-6 November) with a public talk Urban Perspectives with Carlo Ratti and me, moderated by Cino Zucchi.


(Critical Design Practice in China)

A project presented by: Across Chinese Cities

Organizer: Beijing Gehua-Rizzoli Design & Communication Co Ltd.

Institutional Support: Beijing Design Week

Publication Curator: Beatrice Leanza

Project Management: Evelyn Chen Yi Chenhao

Graphic Design: D-T-Z-W Studio (Li Xibin)

Editors: Qin Lei,Wang Qing,and others

Translation: Zhou Xuan, Lin Yan


Baitasi Remade 2016/2015

(all photos in gallery by Nicola Longobardi for Baitasi Remade project)

First launched with the 2015 edition of Beijing Design Week in the context of Baitasi historic hutong district, Baitasi Remade is a program of urban renewal tasked to integrate communal engagement, architectural and infrastructural upgrading by way of soft-strategies of development taking design thinking, cultural making and educational empowerment at their heart.
The Baitasi Remade project aims at emplacing unprecedented modes of collectively rethinking the sustainability of life in the city as products of networked systems for knowledge making-and-sharing inspired by the human-scaled dimension of traditional settlements like Beijing’s hutong areas, to eventually shape new urban communities.

The 2016&2015 BTS Remade project were under the creative direction of Beatrice Leanza, who positioned the area as 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.  The program presented at BJDW offered insight into potential post-event activities fostering dialogue between perspective and existing communities, as a prelude to a generative process of interactions among various professional stakeholders – from economic and institutional actors to creative players in the fields of design at large – and local residents. Under the thematic agenda of Urban Learning & The Future of Sharing, the program dives into an articulated strand of site-oriented initiatives that labour around ‘the future of design education and sharing culture’ intended as key fora for the discursive and pragmatic exploration of methodologies of redevelopment specific to the Baitasi area that could be further employed as blueprints for similarly challenged social and built environments in and out of China.

Urban Learning – For a new distributed sense of place and global belonging

By taking Baitasi’ unique urban and social formation as its prime area of investigation, BTS Remade looks at creating strategies of productive re-positioning for similarly shaped living environs within the larger ecosystem of the city and its global expanse. Transformations in the structural and demographic outlook of large metropolises like Beijing, present challenges as much as opportunities for such historically stratified neighbourhoods and their constitutive values of communal reciprocity and social co-dependency to accommodate a distributed sense of place and belonging as fostered across the evermore dematerializing spatial confines we inhabit and traverse in our daily endeavours. How can past and present forms of spatial thinking and social making together inform novel living standards and knowledge systems for contemporary urban residents? Is there a place for thereof ensuing modalities of life to partake in the larger urban economy of global expanse? How can we mend the disruptions of urban conglomerations by way of rewiring connections among the desires, needs and expectations of fragmented social groups and interests?

The Future of Sharing – The Future of Urban Making

The Baitasi Remade project takes an investigative approach of participatory observation into the constitutive nature of today’s processes of transformation that motivate individuals’, institutions’, corporate and governmental co-participation in the grand narrative of urban-making. It does so by addressing potential outcomes for today’s network-based, digitally-shaped economies of sharing to escalate collaboration and engagement to extant urban problems and their otherwise atomizing social effects. The project strives to configure new process of dialogue among clusters of knowledge and expertise – urban, social, anthropological, scientific, economic, etc. – to generate new ideas for start-ups, social entrepreneurship and creative initiatives to be integrated in the area.


The 2016 BTS Remade curatorial framework encapsulated under the agenda of ‘Urban Learning & The Future of Sharing’ is articulated around two core knowledge-making hubs connected to a set of initiatives and participatory projects involving the local context&residents as a prelude to post-BJDW activities. These are to be found around selected spaces in the area and are organized with long-term partners and collaborators involved in post-event planning as ad hoc public programs and newly created projects rethinking how design can enter productive dialogue with the social and infrastructural givens of this historical urban enclave.

The program is thus divided in three core sections including: two knowledge-making hubs which are The Global School and the Baitasi Print Club, and a number of initiatives scattered around the area under the umbrella of Baitasi Projects.

See details on the dedicated website – we will update on the next steps soon.


Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Ca’ Tron, Santa Croce 1957 – 30135 Venezia

May 26 – September 23, 2016

Open daily 8:30 – 19:45 // June: open every day // July- September: Closed Saturday and Sunday // Closed: August 1 – 22, 2016

For the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, we are presenting the second installment of Across Chinese Cities, an international program ‘promoted by Beijing Design Week (BJDW) since its launch at the 2014 International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia with Across Chinese Cities – Beijing.

The 2016 exhibition Across Chinese Cities – China House Vision, an official collateral event, curated by Beatrice Leanza (BJDW) and Michele Brunello (DONTSTOP Architettura), stems from the House Vision project, a Pan-Asian platform of multidisciplinary research and development started by designer Kenya Hara and Sadao Tsuchiya for Japan in 2013. House Vision is an exploration in ‘applied futurity’ in the realm of domestic habitation exercised by match-made teams of architecture practices and industry-leading companies from various sectors for the actualization of visionary conceptions of ‘home’ responding to extant urban challenges, lifestyle transformations and human needs.

Across Chinese Cities – House Vision features for the first time the body of research so far produced with a team of China-based architects and experts from various innovation-driven industries. It addresses the wider cultural and historic implications affecting the role and habitat of architecture practice in today China as increasingly impacted by environmental factors, shape-shifting demographics and generational segmentation.

The show renders manifest the contextual phenomena – economic, urban, social – that inform the research trajectories, motives and conditions behind 12 architectural proposals by reflecting on the implications of rethinking ‘habitation’ beyond the strict confines of the ‘private’.

Participating architects (in alphabetical order): Approach Architecture Studio, Atelier Deshaus, Atelier FCJZ, Atelier Fronti, AZL Architects, Beijing Centre for the Arts (In collaboration with Kengo Kuma, Winy Maas and Au Yeung Ying Chai), B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio, Crossboundaries Architects, MAD Architects, NEXT Architects, Trace Architecture Office, URBANUS, ZAO/standardarchitecture.

Promoter: Beijing Design Week

Organizer: China RedStar Design Award, CHINA HOUSE VISION Committee

Curators: Beatrice Leanza, Creative Director Beijing Design Week & Michele Brunello, architect DONTSTOP Architettura

Across Chinese Cities 2016 Guest City – Chengdu // Guest City Curator: Weng Ling

Exhibition DesignDONTSTOP Architettura (Michele Brunello & Marco Brega) & Omri Ravesz Studio (Team: Giorgio Donà, Caterina Fumagalli)

Visual and Graphic DesignSANS Practice

Exhibition Sponsors: Lenovo Group, SunShine 100, I-Space, CITIC BookStores

Institutional Support: Unesco ICCSD, Sino-Eu Innovation Center, Beijing Centre for the Arts

Technical Provider (Furniture): QM Furniture

More info soon here and at the ‘under construction’ as of mid May!

See you in Venice soon.


Shanghai Art&Design Biennale 2016


January 10 – March 15, 2016

West Bund Art Centre, Shanghai 

Curator: Beatrice Leanza

Exhibition Design: reMIX Studio

Participants: 2×4 / Alexander Åhnebrink / Alvaro Catalan de Ozon / Anaide Gregory Studio / Atlas Studio / 白塔寺再生计划Baitasi Remade Project / 中央美术学院 -工业设计系Central Academy of Fine Arts – Industrial Design Department / 曹璞Cao Pu / 大木设计事务所DAMU Design / Studio Eva de Laat / From余杭融设计图书馆 & Pinwu 设计工作室From Yuhang – Rong Design Library & Pinwu /郝振瀚Hao Zhenhan / 黄明健Huang Mingjian / Instant Hutong-Studio Ramoprimo / LAVA Design Agency / 樂建筑 Le Architecture / LCD – Laboratory for Creative Design) / OPENDOT / 众建筑People’s Architecture Office / 临界工作室reMIX Studio / Studio S.W.I.N.E. & Andrew Friend / 清华大学 – 工业设计系Tsinghua University – Industrial Design Department / YEAH! Archkids

IDEAS in ACTION is one of four core thematic exhibitions constitutive of the 2016 Shanghai Art&Design biennale, hosted in the 8000 sqm space of the West Bund Art Centre (a reclaimed hangar once used as an airplane repair shop).

Ideas in Action brings together multidisciplinary projects linking conceptual and practical strategies of design enactment that mobilize extant relations of production, inheritance and place into new conformations. The exhibition aims at offering a critical look at forms of integrated thinking found, inspired by or echoing across contemporary scenarios of change in China that span from object-to-city making by way of rerouting connections across the social, cultural and spatial givens of uneven or unattended frameworks of development. While their specificity of investigation is expansive in covering from urban and rural renewal to augmented methodologies of making, engaging craft-thinking and-digital knowledge or grassroots intelligence, a common denominator of positive value-making, co-actualization and a light-weight awareness of ethical like-mindedness, drives their action. The implicit premise to this assembly of positions is the recognition that design performs today as a ‘meta-project’ across disciplinary and systemic structures of both intangible and material nature, which must labour at the interplay of processes grounded in practical know-hows as much as empower culturally dispositional faculties of locational character. What draws shared significance to these projects is their dynamic positioning within generative networks of co-doing and combining of knowledge, their detouring within the remedial scale of actions that can rekindle broken or obsolete relations of production, inheritance and place into novel processes of mutuality and co-dependency. These practices advocate for design actions that are generated by a situationally shaped resourcefulness of humanistic and social engagement, while remaining committed to exploring the ideas and the technical boundaries that move the discipline towards new horizons.

The featured projects have been selected according to four analytical categories that portray distinct yet interwoven scales of operation. The categories are: Infrastructural Matrix, Growth Protocols, Infill, and Materiality & Objecthood. Although categorized according to these four subchapters, the selected projects are not so presented in site of the show, as the spatial narrative instead highlights their interconnections, as if extensions of a growing organism, laid along a ‘dynamic masterplan’ realized by Beijing-based reMIX Studio.


The works here featured here unpack the workings of systems of development traversing various spatial and material registers – from urban and domestic, to places and forms of production (from studio to factory; from digital prototyping to artisanal remake), and the communities that inhabit them, thus eliciting how designers are finding new ways of constitutive interaction against shrinking economies, socially divided contexts and degrading or disappearing cultural heritages.

These include: urban spaces, domestic spaces, spaces of production (from studio to factory), social spaces and communities, systems of production (from digital prototyping to artisanal remake).


As a dive into the first chapter, this section looks at specific projects that infiltrate orders of production (urban, industrial, social, architectural, etc.) by giving shape to novel solutions or simply poetic expressions emerging from within. These projects unveil what is unattended, invisible or underutilized by way of creative gestures turning those into new productive potential. Borrowed from architectural parlance, a strategic ‘infill’ is side-track thinking, it is a compounded approach that generates scalability out of extreme specificity.

These include: architectural projects, visual and graphic design, social design, industrial design.


This features programs that operate more specifically across the post-demographic scape of increasingly segmented user-and-consumer groups, devising new tools and systems to bring positive change to critical contexts, endangered or discarded constituencies.

These include: social design, digital and interaction design, product design.


The designers and creators selected for this section are more prominently working across material divides at the crossroads of new systems of ‘making’, rethinking traditional and artisanal forms and methodologies with the aid of contemporary technologies and skilling emerging as a result of changing systems of fabrication, distribution and ever more flexible and customizable possibilities of creation. Changing notion of aesthetic and material orders surface as a result.


Launched with a pilot effort in 2009, Beijing Design Week (BJDW) is co-hosted by the Beijing Municipal Government, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, to nurture a culture of design in the Chinese context. With seven key sections – Design Service, Design Award, Design Night, Design Trade, Guest City, Smart City,  and Design HOP – BJDW features hundreds of international exhibitions, public events and trading platforms as the leading design event in the PRC. While offering an expansive overview of China’s transforming design landscape, it serves as a laboratory for innovative perspectives that, from industry to academia, inspire and shape contemporary design discourse and practice.
Beatrice Leanza has acted as creative director of the event from the 2013 edition until 2016. 

”In its youthful four years it has grown into a city-wide showcase of hundreds of events covering 7 urban districts, totalling 362 projects with designers and organizations from over 30 countries in 2014. Taking up the creative direction of the event from 2012 offered both the thrill and challenge of shaping a positioning of relevance across the local and international design landscape. BJDW has ever since operated by establishing long-term cooperative frameworks with various stakeholders in the city’s development from governmental planners and educational institutions to companies and individual makers, offering a dialogical and physical arena for design solutions to be tested. A noted example, started in 2013, is the Pilot Program developed in collaboration with the historic district of Dashilar, which has contributed heavily in raising public and officials’ awareness to the contentious issues of urban renewal and preservation.

BJDW’s innervation in the built and social fabric of the city embodies an active engagement in nurturing while questioning the role and impact of design for the 21st century global city. Every year this contextual dialogue is rendered via thematic-driven explorations and calls for projects devised to test the boundaries of design knowledge within selected zones of the capital. This unique outlook has rendered BJDW a reference platform, investigating the widening economic and cultural implications of what ‘designing for China’ means today and tomorrow.”
Various features have appeared on international media outlets over the past two years, including The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Figaro, Liberation/NEXT, Dezeen, Wallpaper, Core77, Metropolis, IDEAT, Surface Asia, T Magazine, Domus, Abitare, Disegno, The Good Life, Elle Décor Italy, among many others.

Making Futures BJ – Craft and Design


Contemporary Shifts Across Craft and Design

A Pop-UP Forum in Dashilar

September 27 – 28, 2014; 2 – 8 pm

Location: the MFBJ forum was hosted in an installation dubbed the Fly Tower (or Trapped Tower) designed by Benjamin Beller of BaO Architects, Beijing

Curated bv: Malcolm Ferris, founder and curator Making Futures UK (Playmouth College of Art) and Beatrice Leanza (BJDW)

Organizers: Beijing Design Week, Dashilar Platform and Plymouth College of Art, UK

Program Partner: Stellar Works
Supported by: The Danish Agency for Culture, Coletivo Amor de Madre
The digital craft elements in Making Futures Beijing are aligned with ‘Made@EU’, a two-year collaborative project between Plymouth College of Art (UK); the Institut d’ Architectura Avancada de Catalunya(Spain); and the École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (France), and supported by the European Union Creative Europe programme

Making Futures: Beijing is conceived as a response to the Dashilar Craft and Design Pilot– the urban plan to promote one of Beijing’s oldest hutong districts as a creative craft and design zone. Complementing a series of collaborations between local craftsmen and contemporary designers established by Beijing Design Week, the project aims to bring Chinese and global perspectives into dialogue concerning the ideas and aspirations that underpin the overall Making Futures series. As such, Making Futures: Beijing will bring into focus research pertinent to the Chinese context and platform it as a contribution to international debate. Each day consists of two thematic ‘sessions’ (four across the two days) each of which is structured around a particular theme:

The Return of Craft?

Will extrapolate from current developments to explore whether we are (or in the near future will) experience a reappearance of small-scale production and consumption based on craft enterprises, design-to-make, and micro-manufacture.

Malcolm Ferris/ Think through Making                
Chiwing Lo/design director, Kanjian Creations: The Wisdom of Traditional Chinese Crafts      
Catherine McMahon (Atlas Studio) /researcher and DSL Craft Pilots series participant: Lightworks              
Jacob Dreyer/researcher, writer: 100 Year Brands               
[Stellar Works/MF BJ program partner]: The Possibility of Evolving 

Material Worlds

Will explore how craftspeople and designer-makers are proactively exploring socially and sustainably engaged projects through re-cycling, renovation and refurbishing and, increasingly, through closed-loop approaches associated with cradle-to-cradle design and make strategies.

Paul Mickelthwaite /course director, MA Sustainable Design –  Kingston University: Make Unmake Remake  – Sustainability and Design          
Pil Bredahl/curator the Danish Craft Collection: Sustainability and the Danish Crafts Collection (CC18)  
Instant Hutong (Stefano Avesani/Marcella Campa) /architecture and design studio (Beijing): RE-USE, Participatory Urbanism         
Danful Yang/designer (Shanghai)  : Exploring Chinese Traditions      
Mauricio Arruda/architect and designer (Sao Paolo): Architecture and Design for Sustainability 

Making Place

Will explore whether and how contemporary approaches to craft and small-scale making can avoid ‘Disneyfication’ and make positive and authentic contributions to community identity, heritage and ‘place-making’.

Andrew Brewerton/Principal, Plymouth College of Art: Plymouth School of Creative Arts – A Case Study in Urban Regeneration        
Zhang Lei (Pinwu studio)  /designer (Hangzhou) and DSL Pilots series participant: Handmade in Hangzhou           
Shikai Tseng (Poetic Lab) /designer (Taiwan): About Ripple and Bronze China Projects            
Kim Charnley /researcher, writer: Urban Space as Vernacular process

Craft 2.0.

Will consider advanced technological models of production, including digital print technologies, from craft and designer-maker perspectives, exploring their current and future potential to support artisanal micro fabrication and designer-makers.

Peter Oakley/Research Leader, Royal College of Art UK: The Future of the Digital and the Hand-made    
Elaine YanLing NG/designer (HK) and and DSL Craft Pilots series participant: CLIMATOLOGY and NATUROLOGY   
Zhang Zhoujie/designer (Shanghai): Digital Lab      
Guto Requena/designer (Sao Paolo): The LOVE PROJECT EXPERIENCE          
Justin Wang/founder Makers Carnival (China) and CEO Makers Space, Beijing:The China Makers Movement           
Areti Markopoulou /architect and professor at IaaC – Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalunia (Barcelona): Personal Manufacturing – Perspectives from the Institute of Advance Architecture of Catalonia

 Making Futures: Beijing represents one of the first attempts to gather China-based perceptions regarding the current and future performance of contemporary craft and designer-maker practices and to place these in dialogue with trans-national debate around these issues. It is intended that that the dialogue started in Dashilar will continue into the future, not least by a strong research strand dedicated to Chinese perspectives in the 2015 UK edition of Making Futures.

Making Futures is a Plymouth College of Art (PCA) research platform developed and curated by Malcolm Ferris. The platform consists of a bi-annual international research conference; a series of satellite exhibitions; an on-line journal that reports the proceedings as an Open Access archive, (ISSN 2042-1664); and a range of related staff and post-graduate student projects. The conference series has evolved across its three editions to date (2009, 2011 and 2013), into the foremost international event in its field, with a good reputation across global art, craft and designer-maker communities.


THE READER: Across Chinese Cities – Beijing


Concept and Editorial Direction :: Beatrice LEANZA
Editorial Assistants :: HAN Chang, ZHAO Ying, Claudia FENG
Copy editing and proofreading :: David Drakeford
Designed by :: LI Xibin and SUN Xiaoyu from D-T-Z-W Design Studio
Published by :: Beijing Design Week, June 2014

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Across Chinese Cities – Beijing, an official collateral event of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, THE READER is as complementary research tool inclusive of a rich textual selection from original sources excerpted from existing historical and critical literature, fiction, journalism, blogs and articles, in Chinese and foreign languages. Some of the Chinese texts appearing here have been translated in English for the first time. THE READER is oragnized in 7 thematic chapters referencing  and complementing those articulating the show, namely:

The Outer and Inner City (on Architecture and Urban History)
Cultural Hub
Historic Industries and Commercial Ecology
The People’ Factor and The Real Estate of  Things
The Pre-Olympic Conundrum (A City that was)
Preservation, Friend or Foe?
Communities and The Architecture of Relationships

Contributors included experts and participants to the exhibition:

Michele MATTEINI, Aric CHAN, Laura Trombetta PANIGALDI, Abitare China magazine, Approach Architecture, CAFA – Central Academy of Fine Arts, Matali CRASSETT, CYJO, Instant Hutong, Kenya Hara studio, LAVA design agency, Lumalu, Meta Hutongs, People Architecture Foundation, People’s Architecture Office, reMIX Architecture, SANS Practice, Varvara SHAVROVA, Standardarchitecture, Studio Ramoprimo + MDDM Studio, The DaZhaLan Project (CAO Fei and OU Ning), Jia Yong, MAD Architects, Michael YOUNG, HUA Xinmin, CUI Yong


Making Community ¬ Design/BJ


Beijing ‘Design-in-Progress’

Curated by Beatrice Leanza
Centre for Contempoary Chinese Art – Manchester
April 3 – June 3, 2014

Making Community showcases a selection of ongoing initiatives rendering a generative grammar of creative engagement with the spatial and social context of the Chinese capital.

This relational archipelago of interdisciplinary design practices is both premise and product of an evolving cultural predicament formulated by the mutually defining changes along the design-and-community nexus in the contemporary urban realm. Radically collaborative and open-ended, they are inherently shaped as metaphorical constructs of ‘speech and duration’ that reflect on the urgency for localized forms of intellectual and practical connectivity to amplify and enable solutions in the contested spaces of the city, for and with its constituencies. The exhibition is therefore not conceived as a static display of finished products, but as an ‘architecture of relationships’ informed by urban research and social agency engaged in the rethinking of existing topographies of knowledge production, and the creation of instruments for its dissemination.

A selection presented for the first time in an international context and originally featured during Beijing Design Week 2013, Making Community offers itself as a dynamic archive and a participatory device to open a conversational space around: design and cultural heritage, architectural preservation and urban revitalization, sustainability, up-cycling and environmental consumption, digital and artisanal fabrication, interactive and social design.The creative outputs range in open-source research platforms for urban innovation, digital and print publications, books, experiential apps, identity and branding, product co-design, documentaries and experimental videos, among others.  Taken here as a case-study, BJDW plays out as a resounding system of creative communities, where territoriality and collectivity are continuous with its molecular formation as co-creation. It aims at forging a force field that can augment and expand professional perspectives into institutional agendas and public debate, to devise the tools and the awareness for ‘process’ to truly be emplaced as productive exchange on the micro-scale. As one of the core projects developing within BJDW urban ecology, the Dashilar Pilot project is here employed as a narrative dispositive of concrete solutions implemented through transcultural and cross-disciplinary interactions. Launched with the BJDW 2013 edition in close cooperation with the Dashilar Culture Investment, a governmental developer, it is an international call for ideas responsive to Dashilar historical area of densely populated alleys (hutongs), its aging infrastructure and endangered architectural and social landscape. An abridged presentation of resulting proposals serves here to contextualize the complexity of ‘transformation’ – a form of collective thinking involving the making of professional and social communities wired to institutional networking – as opposed to the complacency in political agendas of ‘change’. Textual and visual narratives caption each project with information about their initiators and contributors; relevant links to online platforms are provided for audiences to start forming an understanding of a Beijing-bound design landscape and part-take in an ever growing laboratory for innovation and self-engagement.

The exhibition set up and visual design are the work of SANS, a Beijing-based studio made of Neill Gaddes and Yijing Xu, who’s been involved in the development of the Dashilar Project since its inception, and contributed heavily in making the Dashilar Pilot series possible.

Participants and Projects:

Participants names refer to those of initiators, many of these projects are the result of multiple contributions which are credited in the documentation provided on site of the show.

A.M.I. (Appropriate, Mutate, Innovate), Audio Archecology & Concrete Flux (Tom Baxter and Solveig Suess), CYJO, Dashilar Pilot series: [Hutong Toilets (Michael Young), Pop-Up Canopy (Peoples Architecture Office), 2 Yangmeizhu (reMIX studio), Fringe Density (Urbanus), Rabbit Grandpa Zhan (metaLINGO), Modul’Hutong (Matali Crasset), Micro-Hutong (standardarchitecture studio), The Museum of Bicycle Parts (CAFA Visual Communication dpt), Scagnel (Luca Nichetto)], Design For the Real China, Hutopolis (Gianantonio Bongiorno, Eugenia Murialdo, Luis Aguirre Manso), Interactive Beijing (Fei Jun and Lulu Li), LAVA Design Studio, Meta-Hutong (Andy Bryant and Wang Shuo), MovingCities (Bert de Muynck and Mónica Carriço), SANS (Neill Gaddes and Yijing Xu), The Other Place, Wai Architecture Think Tank (Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia), Sander Wassink.

A selection of publication and books presented within the show will be also available at the CFCCA store: Concrete Flux magazine, LAVA Mobile Design Agency Newspaper, Hutopolis book, Abitare China HUTONG, special summer issue 2013, Pure Hardcore Icons publication.

Concierge / BJDW ’11

Concierge @ The House of Leaves

September 24 – October 3, 2011
BJDW – Beijing International Design Week 2011
Design HOP | Dashilan’r, Beijing

For its participation to the first international Beijing Design Week, BAO Atelier stationed its project in the bustling neighborhood of Dashilan’r, the historical commercial district of old Beijing right by Tiananmen Square, and house to the most cutting-edge, experimental program of BJDW.

The project takes cue from Naihan LI’s latest series of design works titled “The Crates”. Inspired by the volatile and exuberant spirit of a contemporary urban habitat like Beijing’s and its epic detournement of building construction, decay and regeneration, LI’s mobile creations accommodate with poetic comfort the moody impracticality of globe-trotting, ready-to-move lifestyles. Sofas, beds, bookshelves, workstations, and foosball tables pop out of their own shipping shell to form a unique spatial language which is whole with a ‘total’ concept of dwelling. Wooden crates become carapaces to contain the body, objects and the memories we carry with them. Situational freeplay and sculptural abstraction blend here to make room for a design practice which is intrinsically relational and open-ended.
On this occasion a brand new all-in-one Media Box was presented, including its mini-cinema, DJ deck, lights, karaoke equipment, multimedia screens and seating area.

Concierge is a curatorial inspiration developing from this design ensamble: the installation built inside one of Dashilanr’s old factory complexes materialized an inexistent part of the actual building dubbed “The House of Leaves“, a semi-private/semi-public residence located on the edge of the Fifth Ring Road in Caochangdi village (also home to BAO Atelier offices). Drawn upon an intimate image of both action and reflection, this serendipitous space represents an antechamber of no definite time or spatial confines, a public retreat and an interior garden activated by a politics otherwise known as ‘meeting’. Daily talk-shops, happenings and presentations are accompanied by impromptu performances and informal gatherings, with cocktail making sessions and live music. Events included among others: a scribbling, scrawling and mixing afternoon with WEN Ling (aka Ziboy), graffiti artist HE Cong and Leo (86/33 link); workshops organized in collaboration with the British Council, such as “Domestic Super Objects”, an experiment with everyday domestic objects to reveal their creative potential by designer Nelly BEN HAYOUN, and “Nuclear Tea Party You” by designer Zoe PAPADOPOULOU.


The Third Party

The Third Party:  An Exhibition in Three Acts

November 11, 2010 – January 24, 2011
Platform China Contemporary Art Institute | Beijing, CN

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curator ::  Beatrice LEANZA
exhibition design ::  LI Naihan

The tripartite exhibition The Third Party (see The Third Party [curatorial]) explores the shaping relationships between narrative and aesthetic objects to foreground an inquiry in the realm of the ‘ordinary’ specific to the Chinese context. By juxtaposing different acts of description as represented in the work of a group of artists from across the country, the three portions of the exhibition place three different possibilities of narrative articulation. From the most intimate and solipsistic to the collective and participatory, they intend to break off the circuit of signification and knowledge between work and world, and rather expose the processes by which meaning is produced and attributed.

The exhibition is visually designed to present the works of the individual artists as self‐pronounced archival displays. While each act features a different group of artists, some of the works will varyingly evolve in the course of the three months or come to completion at an arbitrary moment in time. Responsive to the idea of the exhibition as a ‘field report’, one that escapes the structural preordering of objectifying analysis, a special architectural installation called The Beehive has been devised by LI Naihan. Constituted by units of hexagonal cardboard boxes variously repurposed to be adopted and adapted according to the works, The Beehive creates a deceptive information system that allows for the temporary arrangement of both things and the ‘emotional ecologies’ attached to them. It allows the works to drift in their own visual and material reality while making it possible for us to see them as disjunctions of a larger contextual narrative.

The House of Leaves

September 2010
BAO office | Caochangdi village, CN

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interior and furniture design ::  NAIHANLI & Co.

In fact, it all starts with a leak.

Giuliana Bruno, Public Intimacy – Architecture and the Visual Arts

The House of Leaves is a three-story red brick building covering 560 sqm that comprises a private (or semi-private) apartment on its top floor, a working station (BAO office) on the second floor and a large public living room.

The house as an intimate image is ultimately an impossible space. It is a reeling archive of processes that keep on changing and being drawn towards the irrationality of depths and new beginnings, deprived, as it becomes, of the certainty of relative topography. In intimate spaces things are imagined and set in motion in timeless interiors, they are stretched between memory and anticipation, between the idlesse of thoughts and the intentionality of objects, bound to the dual function of reality and unreality. So of change and new beginnings. Or of meaningful in-betweenness.

We move back to where we were. Things have changed, the village has changed. It has gone from [chǎng, cháng] – an open field, a generic space, a place of gathering, to [chǎng] – a workshop, a factory, a place of productive purpose. At least, the new signage off the fifth ring road says so. Caochangdi, once dark and subterranean, is now well lit and architecturally sound.

Somewhere between those two signs dwells an image of poetic comfort, an emotional retreat. On one side the open-endedness and idleness of freeplay — that primordial function of inhabiting that separates us from both past and reality, where things and time can be squandered, undone, dissipated; on the other, a site of function, a place of scheduled objectivity and self-awareness.

The House of Leaves sits amidst said confines. It takes its name from the genre-defining novel written by Mark Z. DANIELEWSKI. A typographically labyrinthine book tiered through multiple narrators and triggered by continuous détournements of filmic narrative, it is designed in an architecture of knowledge that both defines and defies itself. The book is a house, about a movie of a house, whose interior changes unexpectedly further and deeper than its exterior. As it’s been observed, it is impossbile to read The House of Leaves the same way twice. It is meant to be an impossible space, and it should be explored like one. What constitutes and builds throughout the act of reading is ultimately a private space of imaginific derangement where multiple cross-references leak from phrases to extruded paragraphs and page-long footnotes – the actual house arises from within the fractures of its building process.
Seemingly this House of Leaves appears as an architectural analogue of what we have set our practice to be ever since we founded BAO Atelier in 2006.


The Secret Life of Things in Chinese Art and Design

April 14 – 19, 2010
Salone Internazionale del Mobile – Milan Design Week | project of CDM 2010
Design Library | Milano, IT

curator ::  Beatrice LEANZA
exhibition design ::  LI Naihan
catalogue design ::

Introduced within the framework of CDM 2010, the exhibition is conceived as a wondrous journey into contemporary object-scapes through the creative processes of a young generation of 30 Chinese independent designers, artists and studios as a way to explore both formally and conceptually the micro-fields of everyday life. These formal experimentations often resort to natural materials and textiles, paper, wood and bamboo, and to different ways for revisiting traditional techniques, formats and forms of image-making, therefore rethinking the way they continue to mediate a sense of proximity to the social, the subjective and the philosophical. In bringing together these experiences the present appears as an ahistorical shelter where illusion and artifice are granted an essential purpose that is to induce us in a state of suspended reading, “native in some way to the primary function of inhabiting” (G. BACHELARD). With the aim to create a connection to their original context of production the exhibition design transforms the darkened room at DesignLibrary into a theatrical stage-set drawn upon the floor plan of a prototypical modern Chinese household, a symbolic remake of a changed sense of domestic, private space in contemporary urban society. This built form realized as an abstract structure of white walls (polystyrene) and floor lines as seen in architectural drawings, is a calculated reproduction of an 80 sqm apartment with a small night garden. By wondering these rooms the visitors are taken into a filmic detour into the personal life and visual histories behind the designers while discovering the minutiae of everyday worlds in continuous change.

’09 New Media Archeology

September 10, 2009 – October 11, 2009
Part of the 2009 Shanghai eArts Festival
DDMwarehouse | Shanghai, CN

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curators ::  Alex ADRIAANSENS, LI Zhenhua
exhibition design ::  LI Naihan

09′ New Media Archaeology attempts to offer up new media realities happening at several time-cues in the past, the present and the future. This reality is revealed through several clues. One clue comes from the development of visual art after photography. Another is from the art forms influenced by the knowledge and technologies in different fields based on science of chaos developed in the 1960’s. 09′ New Media Archaeology intends to integrate new media art developments under these two main clues, and to implement further discourse, exhibition and discussion with such social topics as urban design, public education and concept integration. It is hoped that a new mode of development can be co-constructed beyond borderlines between artists, planners, organizations and universities from different countries, presenting the sources of these clues by establishing the past events of new media, determining starting directions through discussion of future events, and a platform for discussion can be provided through present exhibitions. 

— from the event press release


UBS Collection in China

visual identity, graphic & catalogue design
UBS Art collection three-part touring exhibition in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou)

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The three exhibitions each presented a different selection of work assembled by Joanne BERNSTEIN, curator of the UBS Art Collection.

catalogues included ::
Moving Horizons –The UBS Art Collection: 1960s to the Present Day, NAMOC – National Art Museum of China | September 29 – November 4, 2008
Memories for Tomorrow: Works from The UBS Art Collection, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai | June 6 – July 20, 2008
Fact and Fiction: Recent works from The UBS Art Collection, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou | February 21 – March 22, 2009


The Opportunist: 100 Hours!

The Opportunist: 100 Hours! Poetics of Delay, Neglect and Exclusion

September 2008
Borderline Moving Images – Shanghai edition (unrealized project)
Special Edition within the framework of INTRUDE – Art & Life (Zendai Museum)
Shanghai & Beijing, CN

concept and curation ::  Beatrice LEANZA
visual design ::  LI Naihan

The special Shanghai edition of Borderline (see Borderline – Moving Images and The Opportunist [curatorial]) is designed as an information network revolving around a broadcasting unit, it is an experiential tool for motivating an alternative experience of space by way of time. With a total of 100 hours programmation (i.e., 4 days + 4 hours), The Opportunist will take up different forms of public interventions in both physical sites, “on air” sessions and the web. The proposal includes a dedicated webpage running literally as a time-machine where videos, articles and podcasts are uploaded at each corresponding hour per featured project.

The broadcasting unit is conceived as a self-sufficient structure for use in public spaces; fully equipped with radio and DJ deck, external LED lights and projection surfaces, this central hub would play host to a series of talks, live performances, screenings and music programs, thus becoming a connective node for physical and virtual communication with the city and online communities.

Borderline – Moving Images

June 23 – July 1, 2007
various locations | Beijing, CN

The graphic project included visual identity and design for all communication material, posters, flyers, invitations and web. The festival published also a free independent journal chronicling all events and projects. The main visuals is inspired by Beijing City sprawling mobility, each character of the title Borderline (边界线) is cut out of a simplified map of the city.

main organizers :: BAO Atelier & Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing
in collaboration with: Soho China, Ltd., 86/33 Link, Theatre in Motion, Chaos Projects
supporting institutions :: CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts), Beijing Film Academy, Goethe Institute Peking, Austrian Cultural Forum, Norwegian Office of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Belgium in China, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations (Mexico), Icelandic Art Center
sponsored by :: MinSheng Bank, Barco, Boloni Group, Intelligent Alternative
media partners :: Modern Media, Domus China, Time Out Beijing,, City Pictorial, City Weekend, Vision, Art&Design China


A Theory-Fiction between the Real and the Possible

June 2007
Opening exhibition of Borderline Moving Images 2007
SoHo Shangdu Underground Parking Lot | Beijing, CN

curator ::  Beatrice LEANZA
exhibition design ::  LI Naihan

artists ::  Fikret ATAY, Johanna BILLING, Candice BREITZ, Mircea CANTO, Calin DAN, Claire FONTAINE, 高世强 GAO Shiqiang, Clarisse HAHN, Teresa HUBBARD & Alexander BIRCHLER, Jesper JUST, Mathieu LAURETTE, Melik OHANIAN, 欧宁 OU Ning & 曹斐 CAO Fei, 石青 SHI Qing, Ulla Von BRANDEMBURG, 吴文光 WU Wenguang, 张培力 ZHANG Peili.

design background ::

Through the ideal city, the grand socialist city, the modern city — the social, subjective and political space are represented.
 The space design accommodates the narrative of the different video pieces into a constructed environment of ephemeral simulation, where the spatial qualities of certain Beijing urban tropes and structures of spatial signification, sociality, movement, will be juxtaposed to specific filmic stories. Seduction is a staged fiction that wishes to provoke how forms and processes of production ultimately surface while questioning the reception and understanding of cultural orders as reconstructed truths. In the underground site of SoHo Shangdu parking lot, the experience offered to the viewer and the challenge put on the works presented is that of reconsidering the way they expose themselves to each other (as belonging to diverse critical/cultural/information systems and subjective spheres) while restoring that minimum distance necessary for the latent meaning of the image to remain still and become a point of collective meeting and counter representation. In this sense the show also puts together filmic languages that are very distant yet articulates vivid coded systems within a hybrid environment. The participation of the public in the reading of the show is thus one based on displacement and surprise, unattended meetings with subconscious and alien “possibilities” of existence that the one dimensional media performance of the modernizing process often hides, yet perpetuates.


Nike China ’08

Nike & Beijing ’08 Olympics – Golden Team

January – October 2007

On the backdrop of the 2008 Olympics, an in-depth case study of local youth trends and sport culture through the lens of Nike’s star athletes, developing strategic creative formats redefining the brand’s positioning and its impact in contemporary urban culture. Production of research tools, multimedia and textual supports.


Contemporary British Art 1990-2006

15 December 2006 − 04 February 2007
Guangdong Museum Of Art | Guangzhou, CN

08 March 2007 − 06 May 2007
Capital Museum | Beijing, CN

editors :: Emily BUTLER, LIANG Junhong
publisher :: Cultural and Education Section, British Embassy | 2006
publication information :: full color images, 155 pages, English and Chinese
graphic design :: LI Naihan

Aftershock tells the story of how the UK’s artistic landscape was revolutionized as a new generation of British artists injected a heady mix of controversy and glamour into the contemporary art world. As a result, the UK’s art market has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence, and popularity in exhibitions of contemporary art has soared, as witnessed in the runaway success of Tate Modern, London’s first museum of international modern and contemporary art which opened in 2000. Aftershock features eight works selected from the British Council’s own extensive collection of British art, in addition to major loans from public and private collections, and works lent by the artists themselves. It includes sculpture, painting, video installation, photography and works on paper, both early iconic works and new work made in the past year.” –excerpt from press release


Art from China, Japan and Korea

8 November 2006 – 11 February 2007
Catalogue of exhibition at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo | Turin, IT

curator ::  Francesco BONAMI

Alllooksame? / Tutttuguale? is an exhibition aimed at emphasizing the complexity of the art scene in China, Japan and Korea from a Western point of view. Such an approach shows how difficult it can be for a non-Asian curator to set aside his prejudices and find a thread across the different identities of the three countries, which are already intertwined on a historical and linguistic level, but completely different, or even opposed, in terms of culture and creativity. The title, Alllooksame? / Tutttuguale?, was borrowed from an Internet site that was created by a young Japanese — partly as a joke, partly to celebrate the stereotype of “diversity at any cost” while underlining the significant difference between prejudice and racism.

from the introduction written by Francesco BONAMI

participating artists ::  CAO Fei, CHEN Qiulin, CHEN Shaoxiong, CHEN Xiaoyun, HU Yang, JIANG Zhi, KAN Xuan, LI Shurui, LIANG Juhui, LIU Ding, LIU Wei, LU Chunsheng, Qingyun MA, SHI Yong, SONG Tao, WANG Xingwei, Xu Zhen, YANG Yong, YANG Zhenzhong; AYOAMA Satoru, BAIK Hyunjhin, CHOI Ho Chul, GIM Hongsok, Im Gook, KIM Beom, KIM Kira, KOO Donghee, LEE Hyungkoo, LEE Yong-Baek, PARK Junebum, SO Young Choi; AKIYAMA Sayaka, FUKAYA Etzuko, KAKITANI Tomoki, KANEUJI Teppei, Manabu IKEDA, MAKOTO Aida, MORI Chihiro and SHOJI Michiko

Three Exhibitions in a Box (catalogue)

September 2006

editor ::  Beatrice LEANZA
design ::  Duoxiang Studio
contributors ::  Beatrice LEANZA, OU Ning, Hee-yeon PARK
publisher ::  Platform China Contemporary Art Institute | Beijing, CN

Catalogue for the first edition of Borderline – Moving Images Festival (2006). The book is divided into three main sections following the main exhibition Video in A Box:  “Anymansland” – “Straits” – “Nomansland”. Each section features images, texts and brief descriptions of the works, visualized through different layouts and paper. Like an harmonica, the book can be further opened up to A3 size, revealing additional text content, essays by the curator and a complete list of events and projects featured in the festival.


Object Cast


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author & editor :: Beatrice LEANZA
contributions by :: Gianni VATTIMO and AI Weiwei
graphic design :: LI Naihan
language :: English with Chinese translations
ISBN :: 988-99015-0-1
published and distributed by :: Timezone 8

A project stemming from the homonymous exhibition featuring Italian artist Andrea GOTTI and Beijing based sound-artist duo FM3 (Christiaan VIRANT and ZHANG Jian), held at B.T.A.P. (Beijing Tokyo Art Project) gallery in Beijing from January 26 – March 26, 2006.

It is structured into three main sections. Each of the sections is entrenched into a different reading speed, highlighted by the different devices used to express it (image, sound, text), as well as by shape, material and reading orientation.
The reading activity is lead through by three diverse time performances (circular, point-like and linear) as embedded in the architecture of the book itself.

The featured material consists of: photos (archival material of past journeys taken by Andrea GOTTI around China and relevant to the installation theme, a time-line of the work in progress of the featured installation, together with “pictorial” still-lives and GOTTI’s preparatory works), written files (the essays by the author blending critique and intellectual fiction; academic contribution and philosophical artistry from East and West are confronted in the pieces by philosopher Gianni VATTIMO and artist AI Weiwei) and sound files (a CD card embedded inside the book, cast in a 3 mm thick transparent acrylic sheet containing sonic architecture by FM3).

This book is an immersive reading tool that engages the eye, the ear and the mind. It is a playful and synaesthetic experience that breaks away from the common use of books as binding linear reading. It invites the reader to an interactive reinvention and deconstruction of its different parts.