Design Shanghai’s 10th anniversary edition comes at a time in the planet’s history such as we have never seen; a confluence, a conjunction of forces. As we emerge from the global trauma of the pandemic, new behaviours either fade away or are reinforced and attitudes to business and creativity emerge. The deeper impact is on our understanding of health and wellbeing, our ability to apply it to the design of our interiors, products, buildings and environment – but, most importantly – to apply it to ourselves.
Globally there is a gratifying trend at all levels of design and architecture to extend the idea of health in all its forms – mental, physical, spiritual. We engage with nature more honestly and openly; materials are natural or derived from nature; spaces are created that generate calm, serenity and refreshment. But at the same time as the natural world plays an ever more important role in design, Artificial Intelligence and the Metaverse set out whole new parameters for us to live by and judge what is important. Design has truly never been here before. How we react with digital space and machine intelligence demands not only a complete re-think of our relationship to physical space, but of the way we see and create ourselves.
So we see that wellness or wellbeing signify more than just health. It’s a ‘holistic’ thing – a full and complete 360° understanding – and practice – of what wellbeing should be… which leads us inevitably to the health of the planet. The focus on internal wellbeing, on the complete health of the person as well as the surroundings, naturally leads to the macro level. Regenerating design, regenerating ourselves, is a matter of attitude, of self perception – a higher, more abiding, more pervasive consciousness.
So, welcoming these unprecedented influences, we arrive at a new sensibility, a new mindfulness, a new ecosystem in which design refreshes and regenerates our spaces, but also our interactions, our behaviours, ourselves; and of course, regenerates itself. Design does different things now than it did 20 or 50 or even 10 years ago. Now it truly is a matter of life and death. Wellbeing means a healthy planet, where collaboration overcomes competition and we work together to make the world a better place; a living place. Which, after all, is what design is for.
Come and share it with us at Design Shanghai, 8-11 June.
——Aidan Walker, Design Shanghai Forum Programme Director