Nature and Technology Together Create Hope and Harmony
If there is any Chinese city where you would automatically look for cutting edge innovation and the most radically disruptive ideas about design and the way we live – or will be living – it is Shenzhen. In the early 2000s the city established its own strategy of generating a culture-based economy, and in 2008 UNESCO designated it as the starter in China of its ‘City of Design’ network. Not much more than 10 years later, the city has more than 6000 design firms with a total of 100,000 employees and a yearly output of 11 billion Yuan (US$1.54 billion).
A design force to be reckoned with on an unprecedented scale, even for China, Shenzhen is China’s ‘Silicon Valley’, home of tech giants like Tencent, and clearly the venue of choice for the expansion of the Design Shanghai family of exhibitions and thought-leading conferences. It’s perhaps no coincidence that China’s National Gene Bank is established in Shenzhen, where biosphere and technosphere work together to find innovative solutions to feed China’s and the world’s billions; the focus on ‘big data’ leads us directly to the next stage in Regenerative Design, where high-tech harnesses natural solutions and processes to solve the net zero carbon conundrum.
All over the world scientists, technologists, innovators and entrepreneurs are coming up with materials and products that not only generate zero waste but also sequester carbon. To design and make products and buildings that not only minimise but actually eliminate carbon is now a global imperative; and Shenzhen is the perfect place to demonstrate that nature and technology are not, as many people think, conflicting opposites in the search for solutions to global crises. Very much the reverse. Technology is the only way we can achieve the solutions we need, decoupling humanity from our exploitative and dominant attitude to nature and preserving both our own existence and that of the natural world.
The implications for design are, of course, enormous. And as we are discovering, these implications reach far into lifestyle; our purchasing decisions, what materials and products designers choose to create, decorate and make our homes, work- and play-places comfortable and sustainable, are increasingly being driven by technology’s relationship with the natural world. Technosphere and biosphere begin to go - and grow – hand in hand.
Shenzhen shows that making the magical and mysterious heart of Regenerative Design a reality – taking materials, processes and structures from nature and applying them to the built environment – is not just a pleasant dream. We can, and will, make this thing work. All we have to do is redesign our own attitudes and desires – our behaviour. Welcome to Design Shenzhen. You will never be the same again.
Aidan Walker, Forum Programme Director, Design Shanghai, Design China Beijing, Design Shenzhen