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Design Society museum in Shenzhen surveys the industry’s development with opening exhibitions

A timber pavilion constructed by a robot and a flat-pack chair from the 18th century are among the objects included in the first exhibitions at the V&A-backed Design Society museum in Shenzhen, within spaces designed by MVRDV and Sam Jacob.

Design Society Shenzhen, Sam Jacobs Studio

Design Society officially opened to the public on 2 December 2017, in a building designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki for a site on the city’s waterfront.

The museum’s inaugural exhibition, titled Values of Design, launched on the same date, together with a second show called Minding the Digital.

Values of Design looks at how design is regarded across the globe and what principles influence in the industry. It is being held in the permanent gallery space of the V&Amuseum, which is a “founding partner” of Design Society.

The 250 objects in the show are organised into seven themes – performance, cost, problem solving, materials, identity, communication, and wonder – which intend to highlight their shared design values.

Design Society Shenzhen, Sam Jacobs Studio

For example, a lacquered chair that was shipped from China to the UK in the 18th century as two flat planks is shown with a stool by Open Desk that can be locally manufactured, illustrating designers’ efforts to create furniture that can be cleverly distributed and assembled.

A 19th-century plastic comb is also displayed alongside an ethically-produced smartphone from Amsterdam-based tech company Fairphone, showing the industry’s changing attitudes towards making sustainable resources.

Design Society Shenzhen, Sam Jacobs Studio

When it came to designing the exhibition space, Design Society tasked London-based Sam Jacob Studio with creating an environment that touched on the multitude of design values presented in the show.

To do this, the studio decided to employ a variety of materials. In the performance-themed area walls have been crafted from dichroic glass, which appear to change colour as visitors pass by.

Design Society Shenzhen, Sam Jacobs Studio

Panels of perforated metal form the Problem Solving section, while marble has been used in the Cost rooms to echo the material palette of the entrance hall in London’s V&A building.

The gallery has also been arranged as a sequence of open-ended rooms, to allow visitors to “create their own non-linear path” throughout the show.

Design Society Shenzhen, Sam Jacobs Studio