TransLocalMotion–Summer School in Shanghai, China

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October 16, 2008

My name is Gabriel Wartofsky, I’m currently a 7th term transportation design student at Art Center, and through sponsorship provided by Designmatters and the Art Center Sustainability Summit, I am am one of three Art Center students (along with Arthur Leung and Seon Young) who participated in “TransLocalMotion,” the international summer school initiative hosted by the Tongji University of Architecture and Design in Shanghai, China in August.

This summer school brought together a diverse group of international design students, ranging from architects to media designers, to put together an exhibit installation for the Shanghai Biennale that documented the effects of rapid urban renovation on a small community on the Suzhou River.

We had 14 intense days to design and set up this exhibit, experience the gravity of one of the largest cities in the world, and ultimately help give a voice to a community rich in culture and tradition unique to Shanghai’s past.

I managed the advertising team, which focused on capturing the essence of this community through a multi-sensory installation.

Soon discovering that this community had no official name, we primarily focused on developing a logo that could define the neighborhood do exhibition-goers. Fascinated with the number graffiti ads common in the area, we combined both the cultural (Suzhou River Area)and geographical (coordinates of area on a map) identities of this area into one logo. We chose the color blue for its association with the qualities and characteristics of the community: calm, clean, loyal, and by water.

We then set out apply the synaesthetic process to visually document the voices of the people, documented the local’s perspective of their own community using photographs, and recording the sounds to serve as auditory memories for those exhibition-goers who had forgotten this traditonal way of life.

The experience really demonstrated how design can empower a community. As a group, we were awe struck by the way in which this community operated, and fascinated by the speed in which this way of life was being eradicated in Shanghai. We used the power of design to document this unique period of the Chinese existence, and in doing so, won an award for the Best School Exhibit at the Shanghai Biennale.

This was an amazing experience that has taught me how design can serve to document the beauty of community.

For more information on the work done, click here. To download a pdf documenting our group’s project, click here.