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Design Shanghai 2021 Forum Theme released!

Design Shanghai 2021 Forum Theme released!

Regenerative design comes to China – and the world

Regenerative design is not a new concept for Shanghai, but today, the city’s need for regenerative design, for social as well as environmental sustainability, is crucial. The truth is, the whole world needs regenerative design and the radical re-assessment of values it demands.

For Shanghai, the focus is on the regeneration of the old urban communities, whose coherence was swept away in the 1990s residential building boom which concentrated on single-function housing. With China’s gargantuan urbanisation programme in full swing, the need for a design strategy that goes beyond ‘simple’ sustainability has become increasingly urgent.

But sustainable design is no longer enough. Regenerative design goes beyond conventional sustainable design. Sustainability is about reducing harmful negatives; regenerative design is a positive approach that restores ecosystems, builds resilient communities, generates more clean energy than we use, and makes buildings and products that instead of using less carbon, actually positively take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Chinese traditions, both in ancient beliefs about the unity of humanity and nature, and the building crafts for wooden construction which are undergoing a modern resurgence, have already laid the foundations for the new attitudes inherent in regenerative design. This is why Chinese design in general and in Shanghai in particular is more than ready. For a city like Shanghai, the focus of international influence in China for centuries, the transition takes many forms and applications, in new techniques, processes and materials.

And so we come – once again - to ‘redesigning design’. Having worked for a generation to respond to the sustainability imperative, designers are now grappling with a whole new mode of thought; regenerative design demands ‘systems thinking’, the new version of ‘design thinking’. It sees us humans as part of the natural system, and we design as part of nature, to create resilient and equitable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature. We don’t do things to nature, taking from it; we design with it, giving back what we take and balancing the system.

In 2021 the three editions of the Forum for the Design Shanghai family – in Shanghai in June, Beijing in September and Shenzhen in December – will explore different aspects of this huge cultural shift. The Design Shanghai Forum is proud to represent thought leadership – and present thought leaders – from both Chinese and global design. You cannot afford to miss it.


Aidan Walker,

Forum Programme Director, Design Shanghai / Design China Beijing / Design Shenzhen




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