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Material Matters

As part of Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Droog Lab and TD are showing SZHKSMZ – Shenzhen Hong Kong Special Material Zone.

By Katie Dominy / 06-02-2014

With the aim to promote sustainable living by examining how progressive business models can be encouraged,  SZHKSMZ is an 'imaginary' shopping mall of 'imaginary' brands that visitors can biennale can wailk around. Droog Lab and TD, the design duo Theo Deutinger and Dario Marino,  have conceived a series of presentations and demonstrations for each company, that demonstrate an alternative solution to a world situation of scarce materials.

The premise for this shortage is this: with the prediction of a global middle class doubling from two to four billion by 2025, there needs to be a rethink of the use of the world's resources to accommodate this greater opportunities to a comfortable life. asks designer Agata Jaworska, co-curator of  SZHKSMZ a few questions about the project. 

How did SZHKSMZ come about?  

“The idea first emerged when we were thinking about the plans for a show in Milan in 2012, and actually it was decided that we would not do a show. But the very next morning Droog director Renny Ramakers came across an article in which economists, philosophers and politicians were speculating an alternative economy stimulated by a change in tax policy (a proposed material tax). That was when the idea of Material Matters was born—the idea that we would present an alternative future fair with companies that would come to thrive given the change in tax policy. 

“We approached Theo Deutinger of TD for this show for his ability to visualize a total (imaginary) concept. Besides the exhibition design, TD developed all the imaginary logos and promotional material for the companies. The imaginary future fair then travelled to Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week in October that year. 

“When Creative Director Ole Bouman approached Renny Ramakers with an invitation to participate in his Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in Shenzhen, we thought it was a good opportunity to show the concept to another audience. With TD we came to the idea of a Special Material Zone. We worked with local contractors that built the set in their warehouse. It was set-up on location within a few days. They were  a great team to work with!” 

Which imaginary company/companies is/are your favourites? and why?

“For me personally: The Material Party by Droog Lab and TD (because it addresses legal consequences and possibilities, like making hoarding illegal), 10kg Institute by Justin McGuirk (because it is so extreme—it proposes that everyone is rationed a 10kg 'polyblock' that can be endlessly reprinted), Crow Works by Joshua Klein (because it’s an example of harnessing the intelligence of crows that currently is untapped), Sea Treasures by Studio Swine and Kieren Jones because of the poetry in the idea of fishing plastic from the sea and eInterior by TD because of the wonderful animation. 

“I’m also quite fond of MMM: Material Matters Media for framing all the initiatives from the perspective of a fictional news broadcast.” 

What has been the reaction of Chinese visitors to the show? 

“We saw many people walking around the Special Material Zone, snapping pictures with their mobile phones, making the streets and facades come to life. We got many positive reactions!”

Material Matters at Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture runs until  February 28 2014.

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