Belgrade Design Week: New ideas ripple by the Danube

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Shortly
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.”     

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate