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.


Visual Natures – The Politics & Culture of Environmentalism

Visual Natures: The Politics and Culture of Environmentalism in the 20th and 21st Centuries

maat – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon 

30/03 – 05/09 – 2022

This research project is product of critical investigations around climate science, creative practices and eco-politics developed at  maat museum over more than two years during my tenure as executive director, and therefore continues the journey started in 2021 with the data-driven installation Earth Bits – Sensing the Planetary and the public programme “Climate Emergency > Emergence”, curated by the first Climate Collective.

Visual Natures surveys political, social and cultural forms of collective agency that, over the course of the last one hundred years or so, demonstrate how the transforming human understanding of “nature” – philosophical, biological, economic – informs the ways in which we organise, sustain and govern our communities as an expanding planetary construct, both in concept and practice.

Loosely following a chronological order from the 1950s until today, the resulting mapping cross-references four subjects of analysis: artistic production and cultural events, technological innovations and scientific findings, social movements, and deliberations of global governance.

The presentation defies the challenge of its encyclopaedic character by way of a thematic organisation along three main concatenated clusters – “Deep Ecology (1950s – 1980s)”, “The Planetary Complex (1990s – 2000s)”, “Multinaturalism (2010s – present day)” – each converging around expanding meanings of “ecology” and environmentalism that from the 1960s onwards have grown central in international public and cultural debates as phenomena of global growth, natural resource scarcity and pollution became provenly intertwined.

Deliberately appropriating an expression by architect and artist Paulo Tavares (member of the maat Climate Collective 2021), “visual natures” points towards a post-anthropocentric, non-hegemonic politics and aesthetics of environmentalism to emerge as a democratic and egalitarian paradigm of coexistence within nature that transcends human-centred worldviews and refuses the ecological and social violence of extractivism.

Commissioned to the Brazilian architect Carla Juaçaba, the spatial design in which the research is presented takes inspiration from “The Conference of the Birds”, a Sufi parable written in the 12th century by the Persian poet Farid al-Din ‘Attar – a moral allegory of sovereignty and truth-seeking through shared sacrifice. According to her: “The exhibition design is a conference space in which we (humans) are birds discussing a new ordering between nature and man and between science and democracy, while redefining the idea of progress.”

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. Read more about it here

Environmental discourse seizes the fate of economies and entire populations, and while we remain far from shared consensus on coordinated climate action, it increasingly motivates collaborative commitment from various scientific and technological fields, inspires educational curricula and youth demonstrations, and animates artistic debate and intellectual activism across a generational expanse and disciplinary fluidity of engrossing development.

Visual Natures aims to shed light on the facts and phenomena that lead us here. To disentangle the precursory designs of our present, to learn where we come from and where we can be headed.

The Climate Library

The exhibition includes a Climate Library, a reading area incorporated in the installation where a vast reference list of books and publications pertinent to the various subjects addressed in the research is made available as a digital catalogue and partially in physical form. See more of the digital interface here.

A selection from this database is also presented with in-depth descriptions in the digital interface, composing a vast reference list of books and publications ranging from scientific literature, sociological and anthropological studies, economics, geopolitical analysis, to cultural research, art criticism, philosophy and investigative journalism.


Art Director and Initiator: Beatrice Leanza

Research and curatorial team: Beatrice Leanza, Nuno Ferreira de Carvalho, Rita Marques, Camila Maissune, Maria Kruglyak, Amir Halabi, Bárbara Campos

Interaction design: dotdotdot (Alessandro Masserdotti, Laura Dellamotta, Fabrizio Pignoloni, Giovanna Gardi, Nicola Buccioli, Mariasilvia Poltronieri, Davide Bonafede, Simone Bacchini, Nicola Ariutti)

Installation design: Carla Juaçaba

Visual identity: Lisa H. Moura (maat)


2020/2021 The Book


[photos by Lisa Moura]

2020 / 2021 The Book is a publication that collects two years of programming and research developed at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technologymaat – Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology 2019 – 2021 (Lisbon) under the direction of Beatrice Leanza.

This deliberately untitled volume signified by the temporal bracket of 2020/2021, was editorially conceived as a series of individual items (called maat Papers) each originally produced to accompany exhibitions and projects in a set of ‘read/see’ in-prints. This volume incorporates them with extra contents in the form of textual and visual essays that together encapsulate the concrete possibility for a form of critical institutional practice to emerge as a response to the unprecedented complexities we face as a society of planetary expanse.

In keeping with the future-driven, collaborative spirit of its contents, the book is a collection of designs developed by the design team of the museum and different studios that came involved in the making of graphic projects and visual identities of various programs. Bundled in a custom binder to be filled with new in-prints over time, the book is also a physical moniker of the transformative and additive nature of its own content and the kind of institution it speaks of.

The book opens with a section dedicated to the 2020 program maat Mode – Prototyping the Future Museum which featured along five months more than 220 events organised in collaboration with over 80 individuals, collectives, entities and organisations near and far, and set in the museum-wide architecture intervention “Beeline” commissioned to the NY-based studio SO – IL.

The programs’ investigations looked at the increasingly troubled earth-bound life and unveiled forms of active engagement we could uphold to appease the mounting extremes and radicalism of phenomena that are product of our times, and how to model new avenues of experience and experimentation through creative knowledge and inspiration.

Relevant photos and texts are presented in four strands: “Of Lands, Seas and The Human Factor – Exploring ecosystems of life, preservation and multi-species coexistence”; “Community and History In Music and Sound – Voyages through alternative traditions, sonic mythologies and collective legacies”; “Freedom Practices – Visions of a world in various states of emergency”; “Digital Reels – The museum on a keyboard and other stories”.

Projects are grouped under two main sections – Collective Futures and Time & History – each collating voices and visions from curators, creative practitioners, scholars and activists that came involved in exhibitions, public and educational programs, onsite and hybrid projects many of which can be accessed on maat ext. (extended), the museum’s new digital space launched in 2020.

From journeys into the world of post-global geopolitics, a remastered understanding of humans’ relationship with the other-than-human world, marine ecosystems, epidemiological history and contemporary biopolitics, some of the projects took on the challenge of unmaking the long-standing paradigms through which we have known the world, to liberate new forms of imagination that are plural, emotive and more than haptic, designing new paths of planetary empathy.

Others fostered encounters around the historical legacies of imperialism, colonialism and unattended traumas either politically motivated or environmentally inflicted, so opening up the museum to critical enquiries around collective agency and emancipating forms of intellectual and social participation towards embodied justice.

The program framework maat Explorations encompasses an ongoing series of exhibitions, public and educational projects delving into the multi-faceted subject of environmental transformation from various scholarly and experimental vantage points, bringing forward sociocultural and technological investigations interwoven in speculative and critical practices in the arts and design at large. 

Part of this effort was the establishment of the Climate Collective which pays testament to a desire to deepen our understanding of climate justice as an intricate complex where geopolitical, legal, and sociological implications abating the life of people and ecosystems in the other-than-Western world are of critical importance for constructing equitable futures on a true global expanse. Conversations from the inaugural program Climate Emergency > Climate Emergence (2021/22) are presented in edited form. 

We have upheld a credo that institutions of culture are civic arenas that should perform as purpose-driven organisations, 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.” (excerpt from the introduction written by Beatrice Leanza).


Editors: Beatrice Leanza, Nuno Ferreira de Carvalho
Book design: Lisa Hartje Moura
Featuring designs by: dotdotdot, Joana Pestana, Max Ryan, studio obelo, João Turvo, omni group, Beatriz Severes
Language: English (Portuguese language edition also available)
Published by: Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon – December, 2021

A limited number of copies is available for press reviews – please contact [email protected]
For more information [email protected] 



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 www.bside.design

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



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 www.btsremade.org – we will update on the next steps soon.




Across Chinse Cities was an international program promoted by Beijing Design Week (BJDW) since its launch at the 2014 International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Developed as a series of exhibition, public programs and events, it aims at generating unprecedented content and research around the state of producing, thinking and being in the urban condition of today China, providing access to the practical and theoretical knowledge generated at the crossroads of its unabated challenges and ambitions.

The three exhibition projects produced (Across Chinese Cities – Beijing; Across Chinese Cities – China House Vision; Across Chinese – The Community: the Objects, Spaces and Rituals of the Collective) featured as official collateral events of the Venice Architecture Biennale between at the 2014, 2016 adn 2018 editions, while relevant activities like talks, symposia, publications and spin-off exhibitions have taken place in the context of Beijing Design Week and other cultural institutions and platforms internationally.

Two books were produced as part of this series, Across Chinese Cities – Beijing: the Reader and Across Chinese Cities – Ideas in Action was produced for the World Design Capital Taipei 2016, and consists in an unprecedented publication on critical design practice in China.

You can read more about Across Chinese Cities under dedicated entries in this website.

Editorial content and texts by Beatrice Leanza.

Chief Curators: Beatrice Leanza and Michele Brunello (DONTSTOP Architettura)

For full list of credits and supporting partners and institutions please check the individual entries.



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.

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


Venice Architecture Biennale 2014

Across Chinese Cities – Beijing

An Official Collateral Event of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
Tesa 100, Arsenale Novissimo
June 4 – November 27, 2014


Beijing Design Week with the collaboration of Dontstop Architettura presented Across Chinese Cities – Beijingan investigation into the Chinese capital’s spatial transformations and its historical district Dashilar, as a Collateral Event of the 14th  International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition expounds upon the complex architectural and social transformation of the city, looking at contemporary challenges between globalisation and localism, the processes of continuous adaptation and resilience found therein which remain paradigmatic for many contemporary cities like Beijing.

“Across Chinese Cities – Beijing” responds to the thesis set forth by Rem Koolhaas with “Absorbing Modernity” by looking at Beijing’s mutations in relation to Dashilar’s in two juxtaposed sections: “Across City Sections” and “Across Dashilar”.  Dashilar, a city within the city, an historical and peculiar area situated southwest of Tian’anmen Square, becomes a prism to observe the whole city and the contemporary urban condition. Dashilar’s interwoven fabric of traditional courtyards and alleys (hutongs), the vibrant and dense urban and social ecosystem of crafts, specialized knowledge, infrastructures and historic buildings are taken here as experimental platforms for innovative pilot projects. Characterised by capillarity and porosity, its built forms and social condition offer themselves to a productive retooling and questioning of existing spatial devices: an engine for urban regeneration and reinvention.

“Across City Sections” consists of an installation composed by a map of the city and by a linear timeline of five city sections. Each scaled 1:500 along Beijing’s North-South axis they are temporally posited along five crucial moments: 1488: Foundation of Dashilar, 1914: Construction of experimental Xiang Chang District,1958: Inauguration of Tian’anmen Square,1992: Opening of Henderson Centre, first Shopping Mall, 2014: Beijing today, the global city. From within these spatial and temporal sections, the invariant core of the Forbidden City and the grand transformations of the urban fabric are set in contrast with the small-scale changes in Dashilar, attesting to its adaptive capacity across different historical thresholds.

Juxtaposed to the linear enunciation of “Across City Sections”, “Across Dashilar” draws a circular and explorative path across the socio-cultural dynamics, the economic and political factors which, since its foundation, have shaped Dashilar as a space of productive marginality. Originally founded outside the imperial city’s walls as an ‘outer city’ or external settlement, Dashilar evolved into a spatial dimension of autonomous alterity, where social and behavioural hierarchies were subverted. The historical mesh enveloping Dashilar unfolds into four historical moments (the Mongol Dynasty in the XV century, the Ming and Qing period, the end of the empire and the first Republican period, the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949 until the economic reforms of the 1990s, the pre Olympic period and the XXI century), while being interpolated with various interdisciplinary projects realised in the last two years by a wide range of studios and creatives as a result of the cooperation established between Beijing Design Week and Dashilar Cutural Investment co Ltd. Part of a regeneration scheme aimed at mending the urban and social fabric of Dashilar by means of a nodal system founded on principles of social design, the selected projects are responsive to Dashilar’s endangered architectural infrastructural and communal ecosystem, so here becoming points of departure for historical and thematic explorations. In this section, architectural archetypes and construction types are presented and complemented by an anthropological journey into the literary and cultural history that made Dashilar the creative and commercial heart of the capital since the Ming Dynasty. Six pilot projects are contextualised within historical scenarios, refraining the effects of key historical and political transitions. The pilots are accompanied by a selection of works on various media ranging from photography, sound art, video, animation and interactive applications to co-design and collaborative projects with local residents and craftsmen.

A dedicated area hosts a  film program ‘Beijing on FIlms – 1980s – 2000s) curated by Meng Xie (director of Public Programs UCCA, Beijing) so further expanding the investigation into related issues and selected topics.

A special Reader is presented as complementary to the exhibition, inclusive of a rich textual selection from original sources excerpted from existing historical and critical literature, fiction, journalism, blogs and articles, and it is edited by Beijing Design Week in collaboration with experts in related fields and the participants to the exhibition. A series of programs and workshops will also be organised in the opening weeks of the biennial.

The exhibition problematizes the assumption of a centripetal modernity which is here supplemented by a vision in which the interactions between an architecture of resilience and relationship are essential and pivotal in the evolution of a polycentric, porous and informal city.



Beijing Design Week


Michele Brunello (DONTSTOP architecture) and Beatrice Leanza (Beijing Design Week)

Special Installation:

Ma Yansong

In collaboration with:

Dashilar Platform, SANS Practice (Neill Mclean Gaddes, Yijing Xu)


For “Across City Sections”:

Dontstop architettura

For “Across Dashilar”:

Abitare China magazine, Approach Architecture, CAFA – Central Academy of Fine Arts, Matali Crasset, 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


Rethinking Relationality


Rethinking Relationality (or the artist as bricoleur)

Published by: cura.books
Produced by: qwatz, artist in residence program – Rome
Editor: Beatrice Leanza 

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Essays and words by:

Beatrice Leanza (curator The Human Factor), Mami KATAOKA (chief curator Mori Art Museum, Tokyo), Pauline J.YAO (curator M+ museum, Hong Kong), June YAP (curator Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative – South and Southeast Asia), Mike SPERLINGER (assistant director LUX, London), Chris MANN (composer and performer), and the artists.

An Introduction by Benedetta Di Loreto (director qwatz, artist in residence program – Rome)


Part of the project The Human Factor organized by qwatz, artist in residence program – Rome and curated by Beatrice Leanza, the publication features Koki Tanaka, Charles Lim, Hong-Kai Wang and Liang Shuo,  the four artists who were part of an exhibition of the same title held at Museo Pietro Canonica in Villa Borghese (May 23 – June 3), presenting  a selection of both existing and newly created works as a result of a two-months research period at qwatz in April and May 2012.

The book collects the critical reflections of artists, leading writers and curators invited to expound upon this cross-section of Asian contemporary art practices, as proponents of discerning perspectives around the meaning and criticality of ‘rethinking relationality’  in order to reinforce transregional narratives within global cultural practice and discourse.

Arranged in four focused chapters (1.Situational Objects – 2.Beautiful Evidence – 3.Musical Memory – 4.Neutral Spaces) the commissioned contributions – presented in form of essay, interview or deferred dialogical experiment – incubate deepening social and philosophical interpretations departing from each artists’ practice by rendering a transformational architecture of experiential knowledge that identifies itself with change and situated relations:  through the sonic space of speaking and listening (Hong-kai Wang), in the sensorial and affective relationship with things and people (Koki Tanaka), in the social and aesthetic process of inhabiting (Liang Shuo), in the construction of narrative dispositives mapping real and imaginary territories (Charles Lim).

‘Relationality’ is addressed here as a crucible for the articulation of theoretical thinking that can eventually interrogate normative paradigms of visual and material production engrained in the Western modern project and its contemporary accounts. Taking an interest in a history of associations of ‘relation’ within transcultural positions that advocate divergent models of sociability, materiality, concepts of interdependence and spatiality, this publication looks at the work of writer and poet Edouard Glissant as a guiding intellectual inspiration for an exploration of the entanglements of contemporaneity and globalism stemming from other-than-western historical and aesthetic traditions.

Language: English
Dimension (Width x Height): 140×200
Color: blue and CMYB
Pages: 80
Graphic Design: Andrea Baccin
Editor: Beatrice Leanza
Year: 2012
Produced by qwatz artist in residence program Rome
ISBN: 978-88-97889-10-6


The project THE HUMAN FACTOR is made possible by the generous contribution of various supporters and sponsors:

Ines Musumeci Greco; Agi Verona; Japan Foundation; Cultural Affair Department, New Taipei City Government; FARE in collaboration with Open Care and with the support of Fondazione Cariplo, NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, GAI – Associazione Circuito Giovani Artisti Italiani; O’A.I.R.; ArchiviAzioni;  ROMA CAPITALE, Museo Pietro Canonica in Villa Borghese – musei in Comune, in collaboration with Acea, BNL, Unicredit, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Acqua Claudia, Finmeccanica, Lotto, Vodafone, with the support of Atac, la Repubblica.




Italian Architects and Designers in China—Call for Ideas!

27 September – October 6, 2012
Beijing Design Week, Beijing


A project promoted by the Embassy of Italy to the People’s Republic of China in collaboration with Beijing Design Week 2012.
Supported by: Rizzoli China, Beijing Industrial Design Centre
Exhibition: 751-DPark, Watertank (Beijing Design Fair), 27 September – 2 October, 2012
(posters and custom envelope: 60 x 90 cm)


The call for ideas promoted by the Embassy of Italy to the P.R.C was launched on the occasion of BJDW 2012 as an open platform for creative expression dedicated to the large community of China-based Italian studios and independent professionals in the field of architecture and design. Dubbed Density 0%, it asked for original visual contributions and reflections around the much urgent and debated topic of ‘urban density’. Participants were to submit realistic or imaginative renderings of a space of pause and suspension responsive to the highly congested cityscapes of contemporary China. Chinese urban areas are spaces of flow per excellence where spontaneous forms of communal anchorage and aggregation seem inexorably thinning out of their spatial memory while increasingly becoming product of artificial zoning built in new commercial and residential quarters insulated from the porous fabric of the ‘social’.  The theme ensues from a wider perspective, one that concerns man and ‘world’ – world intended as a space of sharing and coexistence, therefore a prelude to a process of action for and of the community that is inseparable from a form of ethical and civic thinking. The participants had to offered their own interpretation and perception of a possible space of decompression and its functions, a hiatus within the uninterrupted urban context, in form of an image, providing a title and short description of the concept.

The posters were also presented in an exhibition on display in the Watertank of 751 D-PARK, one of the main hubs of the design festival, and were collected in a limited edition publication realized by Rizzoli China.


The Jing Issue

A special Beijing insert for CA (CasaAmica) architecture and design magazine
CA – CasaAmica October 2011 | 22-page insert

concept/editing ::  Beatrice LEANZA
graphic design ::  ourwork.is
contributors ::  Beatrice LEANZA (texts and translations), XIAO Longhua (illustrations), Nod YOUNG (illustrations), SONG Min (texts and translations), Cici WANG (texts and translations), Boris SHIU (photos), FANG Zhenning (photos)

On the occasion of the first Beijing International Design Week 2011, Italian CA magazine commissioned a special Beijing-themed insert—a guided journey and a design portrait of the city as seen through its characteristic spatial typologies. Following CA’s editorial structure, generally organized according to seven keywords pointing to a thematic focus, The “(Bei)Jing Issue” indexes instead seven ‘key-spaces’ which are explored as micro-universes where things and people speak for themselves, to and of the city. With an opening and closing section respectively dubbed “Entrance (rukou)” and “Exit (chukou)”, the seven key spaces/chapters unveil a city that like a mysterious Chinese box is made of infinite worlds-within-world. Macro- to micro- and back again, we start from rooms, houses, gardens and courtyards, traverse urban villages, old factories and entire districts, to eventually land in the digital mazes of social networks.

Key spaces:

  • 环路 / Anelli & Griglie / Grids & Rings
  • 胡同 / Vetrine / Storefronts
  • 四合院 / Giardini Segreti / Courtyards
  • / Villaggi in Città / Minimal Heavens
  • 场地 / Magazzini & Depositi / Mighty Warehouses
  • 内外 / Beijing Interiors
  • 微波 / Nella Rete / Webs


Xijing: The work of the Xijing Men collective

exhibition catalogue
Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation | Venice, IT
organized in collaboration with Arthub Asia

editor ::  Beatrice LEANZA
catalogue design ::  Hironori Oooka Office | Tokyo, JP
publisher ::  Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa
details ::  Italian and English | full color | 60 pp.

Realized on the occasion of the first institutional exhibition of the Xijing Men collective, the catalogue features the first complete survey of its work from 2007 until today. The book includes written introductions and images of 11 projects including the Venetian one. With contributions by Angela VETTESE (director Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa) Arthub Asia (Davide QUADRIO & Defne AYAS) and an essay by Beatrice LEANZA.

CDM 2010

CDM 2010 – Rizzoli Beijing

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

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graphic project and media kit ::  ourwork.is

The catalogue for the CDM 2010 project was integrated to the media pack as a detachable booklet inclusive of articles about the Chinese design market, curatorial text and all featured products with technical charts and descriptions indexed by category (furniture, lights, fashion, graphics, sound and art editions).


Emporium:  A New Common Sense of Space

November 4 – December 8, 2009
Museo della Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci | Milano, IT

curation :: Beatrice LEANZA
exhibition design and graphic project :: studio dotdotdot, Milan
catalogue design :: LI Naihan

artists ::  AHN Doojin, AHN Kanghyun, AN Jungju, BAE Young Whan, BIRDHEAD (SONG Tao & JI Weiyu), GAO Shiqiang, HASHIMOTO Satoshi, Elaine W. HO for HomeShop, JUNG Yeondoo, KIM Gisoo , KIM Sangdon, LEE Wooyeon, LI Naihan, LIANG Shuo, MATSUBARA Megumi, MIN Ji Ae, NI Haifeng for ARROW FACTORY, NIWA Yotaro, QIU Xiaofei, Siren Eun Young JUNG, TANAKA Koki, MICHIKAZU Matsune for THE SHOP, XIJING MEN (GIMhongsok, CHEN Shaoxiong & OZAWA Tsuyoshi), YAN Jun, YANG Jun, KIMURA Yuki, KIMURA Taiyo

Emporium: A New Common Sense of Space</em > exhibition catalogue, full color images and curatorial essay by Beatrice LEANZA. Customized lettertype for mail visual. Digital invitation and posters.

Selected for best exhibition design in ADI – Design Index 2010 as finalist for the Compasso D’Oro Award.

Radical (In)difference

Radical (In)difference: Thoughts and gatherings around flexibility in public and artistic practice

2009 – 2010
Research and program proposal for Pro Helvetia Swiss-China two-year Cultural Program

Radical (In)difference is a progressive program of analysis, discourse, documentation production and curatorial activism in three tempi. The dossier describes a year-long tool-making process of giving physical shape and territory to dialogue. Through constant documentation and real-time mapping of these semantic exercises, richness is made relational, reflective, narrative and spatial.

The program is envisioned to generate confrontation as a modicum to constructive discussion, and while drawing a framework of reference for theoretical, artistic and curatorial praxis, it challenges the establishment of alternative forms of interaction, dialogue for a critical, creative community.
The three main discursive areas grouped under each section are conceived in a progressive build-up, which will explore issues relevant to COMMUNITY / NETWORKING, INDIVIDUALITY / SUBJECTIVITY and PUBLIC SPACE / COLLECTIVE IMAGINATION.  Each tempo is exposed into a specific format for public fruition and circulation (1:: a forum, 2:: a printed and online documentation series, 3:: an exhibition), all throughout implemented by small and medium scale multidisciplinary events ranging from workshops, artistic collaborations, open talks and exhibitions in collaboration with a variety of international professionals.


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, Danwei.org, City Pictorial, City Weekend, Vision, Art&Design China

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.



A mini magazine for Domus China

May 2006
Project proposal for DOMUS China magazine: a special year-long monthly insert titled Iterations©, drawing upon local spatial modalities and the artistic system

From our proposal:

Emerging as the focused theme of the forthcoming 10th Venice Architecture Biennale Cities Architecture and Society, “the interactions between cities, their built form and their inhabitants” are regarded as key factors to understanding how contemporary social, economic, and cultural transformations are affecting the way people live, work and move within large-scale metropolitan areas around the world. How do local city environments iterate global forms and (alternatively?) deal with them? The implications of the rise of creative industries in China is not only a symptomatic feature of social change but a fundamental factor shaping the city’s spatial development, informing the way intellectual capacity is channeled (textual, gestural, representational) through its different productive compartments.

Each section is realized as an actual model, a charted 3-D projection of all the collaborations initiated throughout. At the end of one year Iterations will be both a precious archive and a source for a multimedia exhibition, displayed on the basis of the design realized for the magazine and articulated through its embedded theoretical implications.



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.