Alumni News

Report of an Elisava Alumni in Hong Kong

Agustina Garrigou, alumni of ELISAVA's Master in Furniture Design, has been invited to participate in Business of Design Week of Hong Kong, last December, where she has presented her collection Fishermen Bottles. This is the report of her experience.

Hong Kong, the rhythm of the world in a city
If Hong Kong was a person, she would be in her thirties, far from the teenage years and with a clearer course in life. A kind and open person/city, difficult to know in depth, to read. She would be very ambitious, would have grown suddenly and would be always hungry. She thinks every empty space is an opportunity, every free time has to be used, and every gap has to be filled. Her energy heart pumps almost double than others, supports more, and doesn’t get tired. She gets little sleep, light awakes her, and she always has a place to go. When she wants something, she perfectly knows why she wants it, because every little choice counts for her course.
There are no ingenuous choices, free from intentionality. But it doesn’t mean she is a cold and shrewd person. She is like this because she wants to cause a more chaotic cultural background. If Hong Kong was a person, she would be extremely smart and fascinating, and we would all like to meet her.
If there’s a place in the world where massive consumption can be seen, this is Hong Kong, a city which is specially prepared for this. You can’t avoid shops, because in order to walk through the city, you have to cross commercial areas. It guarantees that all public areas are well equipped and count on quality services, because people are clients. There are only a few public areas, such are squares or parks, free of shops. When walking through the main central neighbourhoods, it is surprising how many times you can see the same European high-end shops, and there is always people buying inside.
It should be highlighted that it happens so much often at this kind of stores (Chanel, Prada, Bulgari, etc.), and not so much at design stores. Consumption is more linked to an economic and social status than to a cultural one. This energy reflects a contrast that can be seen at the streets. On the one hand, there are high-end shops in wide and tidy streets, while, on the other hand, there are charming labyrinthine streets with food markets, Chinese medical products, and Chinese product markets where you can spend some time looking at the wide range and at the dynamic between people. In spite of using different social codes, Chinese people are always kind.
In the city centre, there are many art galleries. The best ones can’t be seen from outside; you have to go inside the buildings. The ones overlooking the street are usually empty, but it happens all around the world. You can visit artists and designers’ studios located in industrial buildings, which are opened to the public. You have to know it in advance; otherwise it is difficult to find out. It seems that design consumption is aimed at a closed loop, which has a more occidental mind, and it has a market that doesn’t grow so much because it has to compete with a line of massive consumption that provides a higher social status to the client.

Within this framework, the Business of Design Week (BoDW) takes place: from November 27 to December 5 at Hong Kong’s convention centre and at PMQ centre. This year, the guest city is Barcelona, and designers, entrepreneurs and design businesspeople established in this city are invited to take part in it. This is a great opportunity for a city that produces so many designers per year, but whose design companies are diminishing because of the current crisis. It is a possibility to open market to orient, to build new relations, to promote products and companies, and to grow and bet. It is an opportunity to strengthen the concept of Barcelona as a city of design and avant-garde. We repeat this concept in order to end up being like this.
Unfortunately, the weight of Barcelona at BoDW couldn’t be felt. It is my personal opinion. I was invited to exhibit in an art gallery in ceramics during this event at PMQ, and I went there to exhibit my work in relation to the city where I live, Barcelona. In spite of considering my experience as a highly gratifying one, I have to admit that I didn’t felt part of an event consisting on group of designers in Barcelona. There were kind of isolated exhibitors with little expectations regarding them, and sceptical people regarding the growing possibilities in Hong Kong. I think that a good exhibition, with better communication and interaction among participants and organizers, would have left a trace in order to attract inversion and people interested in collaborating with future projects. It would have been useful to establish Barcelona as a brand in design for the Asiatic market. Regrettably, I felt that BoDW had been slightly organized, with little interests.
In the future, places such as the PMQ centre should be taken in mind in order to do exhibitions or pop-up stores, with the aim of continue disseminating the so-called “made in Barcelona” design. In fact, in 2014, Stockholm had been the guest city for the BoDW and, in 2015, there was a Swedish designed store. PMQ is a centre for design entrepreneurs and its stands are used as stores and exhibition areas. This space had formerly been a residence for the English police, so that’s why it has a complex structure. This building is H-shaped, with two 6-floor pavilions, which are separated and, at the same time, joined with a central corridor in the 4th floor.
Each exhibition area is around 35 m2. There are permanent as well as limited exhibitions there. Some design spaces have an innovative proposal, while others have well-done handcrafted products, small entrepreneurs with products related to leather, jewellery, glasses, clothes and design gadgets.
There are also spaces where cookery is taught, and a library specialized in cookery (Taste Library). The Japanese company MUJI did an exhibition about compact houses. It suggested organized and aesthetical areas thought for Hong Kong’s departments. For BoDW, a closed stage was built in the central courtyard, and there was a communication about the design week provided with graphics and explanations in each floor and access area.
There used to be a lot of public. The negative side is that, in spite of having suffered some remodelling, the building has a complex structure. You have to go through different rooms, and to go up and down the stairs. It all makes the walk more difficult and you don’t really know whether you have already done all the tour, or you have missed something. However, this centre is very well located, at Soho, and there are many stores and attractive bars. I think that, if Barcelona had organized a more complete and interactive space for the BoDW, there would have been a greater impact.
Finally, we can state that, nowadays, Hong Kong is not a city specially focused on design, but it is a city driven by commerce. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that, in a none too distant future, this city may turn into the capital of design, because it counts on resources such as money, ambition for a modern culture, and the existence of a small community aimed to design. It is also easy for this city to assemble people, to feel the unstoppable energy and the connection with the Chinese industry. It is one of the most attractive cities in the world: a completely cosmopolitan, open and versatile place.
Agustina Garrigou, alumni of ELISAVA

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