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Julien De Smedt heads to Business of Design Week

Business of Design Week (BODW) returns from 2 to 7 December and this year, a Belgian flavour will descend upon Hong Kong. Narelle Yabuka draws some insights from Belgian BODW conference speaker and architect Julien De Smedt.

Julien De Smedt heads to Business of Design Week


November 21st, 2013

This year, Hong Kong’s annual BODW conference partners with Belgium to acknowledge that country’s international importance at the highest level of design and creativity. The Belgian and Flemish perspective will be reflected in exhibitions, forums, and programmes exploring the growing business of design, innovation, and branding.

Among the Belgian speakers will be award-winning architect Julien De Smedt, founder and director of Julien De Smedt Architects (JDS). This multidisciplinary firm was established in 2006 and now has offices in Brussels, Copenhagen, Shanghai, and Belo Horizonte (Brazil). Prior to founding JDS, De Smedt worked with OMA/Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam and co-founded and directed the architecture firm PLOT with Bjarke Ingels in Copenhagen.

Julien Smedt

Regardless of the scale at which JDS works (which ranges from large-scale planning to furniture), it takes an approach that emphasises the social dimension. Recently, De Smedt started collaboratively producing designed objects alongside his well-known architecture practice via Makers With Agendas (MWA), which he describes as a ‘design capacity’. Its first range includes a trestle table whose legs fold, and a single-handed drinks tray that you swing to avoid spillage.

Julien Smedt

What will you be discussing in your presentation at BODW?

A variety of things regarding architecture, but specifically, the fact that the primary aim of my style of architecture is to activate people. It’s not just about aesthetics.

Julien Smedt

You’ve recently launched Makers With Agendas (MWA). How has the response been so far?

Our first batch of projects is very domestic. We need to generate capital to expand our ambitions. We’re entirely self-financed and the stakes are high, so we need to function with a step-by-step formula. The first agenda we’ve addressed is the one of compact design. Accordion is the best student of that class.

Julien SMedt

Why do you describe MWA as a ‘capacity’ (rather than, for example, a ‘company’)?

At MWA, we’re like a cooperative or a family with a common goal: trying to work with themes and problems rather than just entertain ourselves with a cool design. The culture of making is linked to the culture of curiosity. This bizarre alchemy links curiosity to productivity. The idea and concept behind MWA emerged out of working together at JDS Architects. MWA launched this fall at Maison & Objet in Paris, as well as Design September in Brussels, and will be launched exclusively in the United States at the New Museum.

Julien Smedt

There seems to be a dimension of ‘urban action’ in a lot of your architectural work. What are some key drivers of your design process when you work on a non-urban site?

It is about relating to what is around you. We are not afraid to create architecture that is a visual spectacle – very much like the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo.

What are you currently working on?

MWA launches its product line in America this Friday (22 November) at the New Museum in New York City. We are really excited about that.

Organised by Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC), BODW runs from 2 to 7 December 2013 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In addition to a three-day forum, special events include the Detour public exhibits and displays, the BrandAsia Forum, the DesignEd Asia Conference, the Technology For Design seminar, as well as the annual HKDC Awards Gala Dinner.

JDS Architects

Makers With Agendas

Business of Design Week 2013

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