At Dashilar, Lim Sio Hui finds one of Beijing’s oldest hutong neighbourhoods transformed into a surprising playground for creativity.
15 October, 2012
Beijing Design Week (held from 28 September to 6 October) kicked off its second year with a bunch of opening parties in the Dashilar district, drawing both design aficionados and curious pajama-clad hutong residents to meet and mingle in its alleys and ancient courtyard houses. With 45 event venues featuring pop-up shops, cafes and exhibitions and a host of programmes held in the roughly 1km by 1km district, there was no lack of activity and buzz on this design trail.
Brachina, an installation by the Campana brothers
An outdoor installation made of iron rods hand-curled in free-flowing spirals by internationally renowned designers Humberto and Fernando Campana was a major highlight. Inspired by the Cashew tree from their native Brazil and titled “Brachina”, the airy pavilion was intended to lend a sense of greenery and respite in the chaos of Dashilar’s commercial activity and cramped hutong life, not unlike the central Santa Cecilia district of São Paulo, where the brothers are based.
Works by Linlinsays
Most impressive were the envelope-pushing works by the country’s young, experimental breed of designers and makers. At 14 Yangmeizhu Xijie, communications trained designer Linlinsays (also co-founder of design consultancy Jellymon) unveiled a collection of furniture, jewellery and home accessories inspired by the women of Bada hutong (Beijing’s red light district in the 1900s) and characterised by asymmetrical lines, unexpected tenacity and subtle hidden details.
Milkywave by Aida Studio
Other strong works took inspiration from the visual richness of hutong life. Experimental designers Aida Studio strung and lit 1,664 of the city’s ubiquitous ceramic yoghurt jars to compose Milkywave, an undulating chandelier that looped across a two-storey stairway in the former bicycle factory at 8 Dawailangying Hutong.
Installation by Gareth Repton of Luma Lu studio
The history of Dashilar came to life through an intriguing Augmented Reality Walk created by young British filmmaker Gareth Repton of Luma Lu studio. Through viewing stations equipped with video and photo installations at historic institutions found in the neighbourhood as well as screenings such as a 3D projection mapping on the facade of Qingyunge, one of four renowned shopping malls during the Qing Dynasty, visitors got to journey into the past of this richly storied hutong.
Luma Lu stand
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