On 2nd December Design Society and the V&A Gallery opened its doors to the public for the very first time. As the curatorial and exhibition teams breathed a sigh of relief having completed exhibition installation, the learning team sprang into action. The learning programme was launched with a public opening festival on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December with a range of activities, talks and workshops open to all.
A large, international conference comprising panel discussions and key note lectures launched Design Society as a platform for debate and exchange at the cutting edge of global design practice. Pertinent themes such as UK/China Collaboration, designing culture, place making, digitisation and future values of design were explored by prominent designers from across the world. To celebrate the opening of the V&A gallery we invited a panel of creative practitioners whose work is on display in the V&A Gallery to share their opinions on what the future values of design should be. Sam Jacob, Alice Masters, Peter Ting, Liam Young and Monica Shen joined exhibition curator Brendan Cormier in a lively and provoking discussion.
Curator and volunteer led Values of Design, Minding the Digital and architectural tours ran throughout the weekend and offered the public a chance to delve deeper in to key themes and highlights of the exhibitions and building.
Meanwhile, the learning studio was a hive of activity offering those keen to get creative a range of practical design workshops. V&A family studio drop-in sessions were particularly popular with over 240 children and parents joining us for ‘fabulous fashion’ and ‘brilliant badges’ workshops.
Throughout Seaworld Arts and Culture Centre, programmed interventions including performance, installations and live jazz brought the building to life. A further 350 children took part in a collaborative activity, building lightweight structures exploring the connections between nature and engineering. Originally designed by engineers at Arup for the V&A family programme in London, the activity was recreated in Shenzhen with help from Steamhead and MG maker spaces and facilitated by engineers from Arup’s Shenzhen practice.
The formal learning programme commenced during the week following the opening festival. Special welcome events for school teachers and university design lecturers provided the opportunity for local educators to explore the exhibitions through curator led tours as well as meeting Design Society’s dedicated learning team and finding out about opportunities and resources available to them and their students.
We also welcomed our first school groups to take part in tours and design workshops. High school design students from Shen Wai school took part in a drawing and ideas generation workshop in the Values of Design exhibition to develop their school project work on global warming and excess waste. Joanne Anderson, head of design at the school commented:
“Bringing students into the ‘Values of Design’ space took my classroom from flat to life. It was amazing to have students link everything they are doing in class to a real world context. A very rich, varied and contemporary learning space for design as a subject with a balanced link to historical and current themes.”
Primary pupils from Shenzhen American International School became designers for the day in our ‘Make it!’ workshop. Participants enjoyed an object handling session, gallery drawing tour and practical design and making activity in the learning studio.
A special thank you to our wonderful team of 140 volunteers from local universities and the community who create a welcoming and friendly experience for visitors and assisted with the activities and events. After nearly three years of programme research and development, welcoming the public into the building to participate in activities and events was incredibly rewarding and exciting. We look forward to continuing our work building relationships with designers, universities, schools and the community so that we can offer an innovative and exciting programme that will inspire and engage everybody with design.