Belgrade Design Week: New ideas ripple by the Danube
Thursday 27 June 2013
before I left Belgrade a woman said to me. “If you write about us, don’t make
us seem like savages.” For natives and blow-ins alike it can be hard not to
conjure the dark days of war but I
was in the capital for altogether more cheery reasons.
Belgrade Design Week was underway; a diffuse event of talks and installations - and lavish dinner and late parties - taking in architecture, city planning, product design, art, curation, graphic design, video game making, advertising and branding.
The festival, now in its eighth year, had innovation set out an underlying theme with an impressive variety of speakers, from celebrated French designer Christophe Pillet to UK adman Paul Belford and Sebastien Noel of the London based experimental design collective Troika, roaming freely across topics of their own choosing. Genial Dutch designer designer/engineer Daan Roosegaarde offered his plans to reinvent roads while Polish designer Oskar Zieta displayed his ingenious ways of bending metal at will to create products.
Elsewhere, in a nice touch, the event was embedded in the city with a series of design installations in shopfronts all over town. As you walked around and noticed one, it was like a wink from a shop telling you they were in on the idea.
There wasn’t really a trade element to the week, with the audience seemingly made up of students, interested locals and independent entrepreneurs working across different design disciplines. A number of volunteers helping out I spoke to were architects. Perhaps one idea behind Belgrade Design Week was to show these groups, the city itself and the wider world that interesting ideas and events are taking place here. That the city can be a new incubator for debate, creativity and innovation (its reputation as a city for partying was done no harm either).
Belgrade’s City Architect, Dejan Vasovic, presented a talk on a number of projects in various stages of development. The plans suggested a new growing ambition. Some were low-key school nurseries, others more grand: a new bridge across the Danube, dubbed “the Chinese bridge” because of the source of financing; a new municipal building with a dramatic sweeping structure designed by Sou Fujimoto (he of the current Serpentine Pavillion). Also being planned is a large commercial and residential development from Zaha Hadid Architects.
The event was run, with the help of a small coterie of staff, by Jovan Jelovac, an advertising entrepreneur. Throughout the week Jelovac was cheerleading for Belgrade, cheerleading for the festival itself, cheerleading for the speakers. However he ended proceedings on a downbeat tone, suggesting that this could be the final Belgrade Design Week - though Jelovac and others involved would later strike more positive notes on the future of the conference.
But despite occasional downbeat perspectives, the event itself was proof that new things can happen. This year’s design week was staged for the first time in Belgrade’s Museum of Contemporary Art, an impressive 60’s modernist building on the banks of the Sava river by Serbian architect Ivan Antic. The museum however has been closed for several years awaiting redevelopment that has yet to arrive but authorities had been persuaded to let the organisers reopen the gallery, albeit briefly. “It had been closed for seven years,” announced Jelovac, “but look how easy it is to make an event happen here.” It occurred to me that a wider application of this premise could serve as a motive for Belgrade Design Week. Long may it continue.
On the first night of the event a series of designers made brief presentations. Slightly nervous, a woman discussed her work, speaking quickly and concluding cheerfully, “Ok, happy happy.”
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 3 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 4 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
- 5 Largest ever study into the gay gene 'erodes the notion that sexual orientation is a choice'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyoncé '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed in low-fi homage to viral video
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'