Report on ADA at Beijing Design Week

The Australian Embassy in China invited a delegation of Australian design representatives to Beijing Design Week 2014. BJDW is a four year old citywide event, co-hosted by the Ministries of Science & Technology, Culture and Education, which was attended by 5 million visitors in 2013.

The Australian delegates were Ken Cato, Brandon Gien, Ian Wong, Ian McArthur, Rohan Nicol, Jess Scully, Kristin McCourtie, Debbie Ryan, David Mills, Andrea Miles, Aimee Zheng and Oliver Kratzer for the ADA.

The itinerary commenced with a briefing by Embassy staff, including Mr Michael Clifton, Austrade’s China Country Manager. Through the course of the first day, the delegation also met with or was briefed by the Deputy Director of BJDW, Mr Vittorio Sun Qun and Bea Leanza, BJDW’s creative director: a very high level of representation considering the official launch was the next day.

One of the Embassy’s public diplomacy goals is to promote a positive and contemporary image of Australia in China and advance Australia’s interests internationally. As design is firmly on the Chinese leadership’s agenda and Australia has a first rate design sector, the match is a natural one.

BJDW would be better served if it was called “Beijing and Regions Design, Art and Architecture Month” – the range of activities is that broad and the timeframe spans far more than a week.

BJDW consist of more than 350 sites and events, spread over the whole of Beijing, but concentrated around three main sites: 751 D-Park / 798 art district, Dashilar, with its traditional hutongs, and the China Millennium Monument in the city’s west.

Events range from individual installations by local and international designers and artists, more formal curated exhibitions, a tradeshow component featuring Smart City, to a series of forums, talks and presentations.

Working to a tightly scripted schedule, the delegation visited all the major sites, with Embassy and BJDW staff joining, guiding and assisting. There was a visit to a 600 year old temple that is now part of a world class (Australian designed) restaurant and boutique hotel complex, a reception organised by the Embassy and AustCham Beijing with  speeches by the Australian Deputy Ambassador, and also Vittorio Sun from BJDW.

The three key events attended were:

  1. The official launch of BJDW on Friday night at the Millennium Centre, a near Olympic experience with the delegates marching down the blue carpet, waving to an adoring crowd of photographers and media, transmitted on Chinese TV.
  2. A formal meeting between the head of the Beijing Industrial Design Centre (in charge of BJDW), Mr Chen Dongliang and our delegation.
  3. The launch of the guest city Barcelona in its pavilion, a very cool, massive converted oil storage tank. This was a very well attended, high level event with the Mayors of Beijing and Barcelona in attendance – the catering was pure Catalan!

The delegates had the chance for many in-depth conversations during travel, meals and after-hours. There were many wide ranging discussions and broad consensus on a number of topics:

–       Our understanding of where China is at today is ten to 15 years behind the actual situation.

–       Australian representation at BJDW would be a very desirable thing – from an informal, individual/institutional to possibly one day applying for “feature city”, although the value proposition and many more details will require further discussion.

–       There was agreement that any engagement with BJDW be arranged through the delegates and in conjunction with the Embassy, as it is very favourable to be seen to be working with government. There was discussion about the creation of a small logo, which infers that the individual efforts are part of the greater whole.

–       The food is delicious.

The unofficial highlight of the trip for the art junkies was running into Ai Weiwei in our hotel lobby one evening.

Oliver Kratzer
ADA Chairman

The AdA has organised a forum hosted by Fenella Kernebone to share some of the delegates insights into BJDW and Beijing on the 28th of October. For details visit:


The AdA travelled to China as part of the Australian Design Industry Delegation to Beijing Design Week, organised by the Public Affairs and Culture Section of the Australian Embassy of Beijing and would like to thank the Australian Ambassador to China, Ms Frances Adamson, Deputy Ambassador Mr Justin Hayhurst, Mr Michael Growder, Counsellor, Public Affairs and Culture, Ms Jen Mason, First Secretary Public Affairs and Culture, and overall delegation coordinator, Ms Hayley Ward, Senior Cultural Relations Officer.

Please visit http://www.bjdw.org/open_ceremony/?lang=en for more information about Beijing Design Week.

  • Report on ADA at Beijing Design Week