Architecture Competitions Design Exhibition

Competition: Shenzhen’s Design Society and C Foundation launch international open call for design curatorial proposals

September 24, 2020

Initiated by Design Society and funded by Shenzhen Chuangxiang Public Welfare Foundation (referred to as “C Foundation”), the 2020 Curating Design Plan launches an open call for curatorial proposals, with the submission deadline of 1 November 2020. Its jury will select one Design Society Curator Award and three Design Society Research Fellows from the submissions. The winning proposal will be developed into an exhibition and presented in the Park View Gallery of the Sea World Culture and Arts Center for three months. The three Design Society Research Fellows will be awarded research grants.

Since its opening in 2017, as China’s first comprehensive cultural platform with design as its theme, Design Society has continuously broken the barriers of the design industry. In doing so, we have been trying to expand the definition of design, to build the relevance of design development for society and culture, and to popularise design thinking and leadership.

The Curating Design Plan is a programme dedicated to supporting creative talents. Jointly initiated by Design Society and C Foundation in 2020, this edition marks the project’s inaugural event. Each year, we will hold an open call for proposals and set up a jury committee, who on behalf of Design Society will shortlist the most promising proposals, and support their further development through thematic workshops. The three most outstanding proposals will each be awarded 30,000 RMB in research funding. In the last phase of selection, mentors from the jury will be assigned to guide the three selected proposals in refining their submissions, after which one final winning proposal will receive an extra 300,000 RMB and will be developed into an exhibition presented at the Park View Gallery in the Sea World Culture and Arts Center.

As an ever-evolving discipline, the definition of design is in constant flux. It has long since expanded from the creation of objects with aesthetic and functional value to a tool and a way of thinking used to identify and to solve problems. Its nature is closely connected to reality, and it is gradually manifesting itself as an aspect of critical thinking in the process of solving and analyzing problems. Over the past three years, Design Society has actively investigated and contested the values of design through exhibitions and public programs, identifying three key aspects of value proposition today:

Responding to the urgencies of our time. Design carries a wider mission in society, responding to ever-expanding social issues and needs such as cultural and technological development, rural and urban diversification, and cultural and environmental sustainability. Design also has the potential to unfold the complexity of the above social issues and help us understand the increasingly intricate times we live in. It is able to further expand this dialogue among the public through the medium of exhibition.

Generating new curatorial knowledge. In order to create a design, one must reference complex systems such as the labor, production, and circulation that constitute our understanding of a design, both as a concept and as a product. Through interrogating and researching these stereotypical systems, design can help us reflect critically on our relationship with objects, presenting a new perspective, and generating new knowledge and ideas.

Positioning design in cultural, historical, and artistic momentum, while contextualizing it in a broader discussion. As a form of creative practice, our understanding towards design should go beyond design as a commodity. Instead, we should experience it as an integrated part of an interconnected web of culture.

2020 Curating Design Plan: Design (Re-)union

With the theme of Design (Re-)union, The Curating Design Plan aims to support designers and curators in seeing the values of design beyond the surface; to speak through the medium of exhibition to share their keen insight, imagination, methods and actions; to rebuild connections and lead the public to grasp new solutions; and to open new critical dialogues.

The submission needs to reflect at least one of the following qualities:

The relationship between humans and materials in a new post-pandemic social condition;
An understanding of the cultural context and design development of Shenzhen and the Grater Bay;
Challenge the existing authoritative interpretation of culture and design;
Have keen insight into the development of urban and rural areas;
Critical reflection on exhibitions as a form of cultural expression and putting forward new ideas;
Rethinking the global mode of material, energy and resource circulation.

Rewards and Support

Design Society Research Fellow
Design Society will select three Design Society Research Fellows, and will support each selected curator or curatorial team with 30,000 RMB (tax included) for their further research.

Design Society Curator Award
One winning proposal will be selected by the jury and be awarded with 300,000 RMB (tax included), which will be used to develop the curatorial proposal into an exhibition with assistance from Design Society. The outcome will be presented in the Park View Gallery, on the first floor of the Sea World Culture and Arts Center. The exhibition period will be from April to June 2021 (including the installation and dismantling process).

Submission Requirements

Any individual, curatorial team, or company can submit a proposal.
There are no limitations to candidates’ age, nationality, gender or ethnicity, and no restrictions on job occupation and educational background.
The proposal needs to be practical and feasible within a reasonable budget.
The exhibition and exhibits need to be able to be displayed in good condition for the full duration of the three-month exhibition period.

What to submit

Curator or Curatorial Team Introduction: Including, but not limited to, the contact information of the curator or curatorial team, habitual residence, self-introduction, curating experience, etc.

Curatorial Proposal:
A brief description of the curatorial concept (within 1,000 words);
Images and descriptions of exhibits (each within 100 words);
Exhibition design concept;
Artist list and introduction of each artist (each introduction within 200 words);
Public education and events proposal (academic forum/workshop, etc.);
Detailed budget (please refer to the exhibition budget template).

Download link of the Park View Gallery floor plan and the budget template here

How to submit

Submit the materials (Curator or Curatorial Team Introduction and Curatorial Proposal) with the subject name: Name+2020 Curating Design Plan to


Convenor of the Jury: Zhao Rong, Deputy Director of Design Society

Secretary of the Jury: Siyun Tang, Curator of Design Society

Jury members:

Ole Bouman, founding director of Design Society

Bryony Shepherd, head of interpretation, Victoria and Albert Museum

Hang Jian, professor and the director of Museums at the China Academy of Art

Hou Hanru, artistic director of MAXXI (National Museum for 21st Century Art and National Museum of Architecture), Rome, Italy

Joseph Grima, creative director of Design Academy Eindhoven and Chief Curator of Design at Triennale di Milano

Song Xiewei, professor and PhD academic supervisor of School of Design at Central Academy of Fine Arts

Tong Lan, board member of C Foundation, founder of Lantao Design Academy

Marisa Yiu, co-founder and executive director of Design Trust

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