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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005

An early look at Tokyo Design Week

Special to The Japan Times

Fall in Tokyo signals the arrival of festival season, and none has gained as much international praise as the annual gathering of all things contemporary and stylish known as Tokyo Design Week (Nov. 2-6). With four concurrent events -- Tokyo Designer's Week, Swedish Style, and new comers 100% Design Tokyo and Design Tide -- it's a massive undertaking, and one that lovers of design will truly enjoy.

News photo
100% Design's digital mock-up of the bar at the event's Jingu-Gaien location IMAGE COURTESY OF 100% DESIGN

Tokyo Designer's Week

The spiritual leader of Tokyo Design Week due partially to its veteran status, Design Association's Tokyo Designer's Week (TDW) makes its 20th appearance this year. Describing itself as a "celebration of the power of good design," TDW is actually comprised of a series of projects that all come together in the form of exhibitions, talks, installations, and, of course, parties -- the main exhibition hall is set to turn into a party space at night. Events have been held in a host of cities throughout this month (Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya), with Tokyo as its last stop. The main exhibitions are taking place for the first time at the central location of Jingu Gaien in Aoyama, making it much easier for design aficionados to catch as many as possible.

Leading things off is the hugely popular "Container Exhibition," in which participants are invited to create innovative environments within the confines of 20 ft. by 40 ft. shipping containers. The Jingu Gaien location will also host a "Student Exhibition," incorporating graduate works from 60 design schools around the world, while other events will be held throughout the city -- shop installations, open design studios and a "Professional Exhibition" to be held at Akasaka Karayan Square. TDW is launching the "Wrapping Bus," which will be traveling a circuit between every area hosting TDW-related events. The buses themselves are moving exhibits, as they will all feature designs by participating creators and companies.

100% Design Tokyo

Also part of the TDW extravaganza at Jingu Gaien is the first Tokyo edition of the United Kingdom's celebrated 100% Design fair. Established in London and held there annually since 1995, founder Ian Rudge says "the concept of 100% Design is to provide an exhibition of the best available contemporary design products for interiors." The main thrust is to put creators in touch with potential business partners -- this trade focus becomes apparent when you notice that two of the days (Nov. 2 and 4) are closed to the public.

The event's strict selection process by an advisory panel of multidisciplinary luminaries will assure that only the best in interior-related wares will be on offer. With over 150 participating manufacturers making the grade, the show is sure to leave a lasting impression on the Tokyo design scene. The exhibition space itself should also be of interest, with the original 100% Design designer Tim Pyne teaming up with Japanese design group Nomura to create an intriguing and attractive environment.

Design Tide

Another first for the weeklong celebrations is the inaugural edition of Design Tide, which many have mistaken as a successor to Idee president Teruo Kurosaki's 5-year-old Tokyo Designers Block (TDB). TDB is supposedly only "skipping" 2005, with plans for a return next year, but Kurosaki's presence on the new event's advisory board has further confused the matter.

Design Tide also wants to bring people together, acting as a bridge between creators, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, anyone with an interest in the world of design, and then nurture these relationships with various follow-up projects (an annual published archive of the projects is already planned). Expect to do a lot of walking as the 39 projects that bring together the works of 128 designers are being held in shops, galleries, and cafes throughout the city (luckily, most are concentrated close to each other in Aoyama, Harajuku, and Daikanyama).

One of the most intriguing ideas announced by Design Tide is the use of this year's most buzzed about tech trend, the podcast, to enrich visitors' experience. The event's official Web site will offer "Tide Audio" audio files for download to personal digital music devices. Participating designers, like art director Nagi Noda and Klein Dytham Architecture, are contributingdescriptions of their installations, which you'll be able to listen to as you walk the exhibitions. This creates the equivalent of museum audio guides, but in a more intimate interaction between creator and audience as is appropriate for a design festival like TDW. Design Tide also bolsters its Web presence with downloadable maps -- more online support that is sure to come in handy.

Swedish Style

Making its sixth appearance since its 1999, Swedish Style (Nov. 2-12) is continuing its stellar promotion of the best in contemporary Swedish lifestyle options. This year the emphasis is on fun, as the use of the "Happy Style" tag line suggests. Expect more than 75 participating designers and companies in 50 events spread over 25 locations, with the Embassy of Sweden as the focal point. The "Swedish Conceptual Design" exhibition there will display the works of six young designers and groups and the returning Swedish Style Cafe will hold a series of workshops.

Shinjuku's OZONE Living Design Center will host the "Swedish Style Annex," and offer up the "HOME SWEDEish HOME" installation, revealing the embassy's take on the life of a typical Swedish family. And for the first time, Ikebukuro makes an appearance in the Tokyo Design Week calendar with the "Mamma Gun sager: Ta en PAUS" event that sees Cafe Pause transformed into a Swedish cafe, complete with appropriate menu and graphic and video installations by Swedish design group Next Century Modern.

Encompassing all of the above, the 2005 edition of Tokyo Design Week certainly promises to be its biggest showing yet, and even casual attendees should be able to sample offerings from all four events as there are frequent overlaps. But no matter where you end up taking in the festivities, for those five days, expect Tokyo to be a design-lovers' paradise.

Tokyo Design Week runs from Nov. 2-6, while Swedish Style continues till Nov. 12. For more information check out the respective Web sites for each event; www.tdwa.com, www.100percentdesign.co.jp, www.designtide.jp and www.swedishstyle.net. And one final tip: pick up the show catalogs -- available at participating venues -- as fast as possible, as they disappear quickly.

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