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Taipei celebrates year of design-led achievements and looks forward to continued integration of design thinking into urban living

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Agency): The Convocation Ceremony, the last of the International Signature Events to take place as part of World Design Capital (WDC) Taipei 2016, was held this evening. During the ceremony, Taipei officially handed over the designation of World Design Capital to its successor, in preparation for WDC Mexico City 2018.

Overseeing the ceremony, the Mayor of Taipei City, Ko Wen-Je, was joined by the Secretary General of Icsid, Dilki de Silva, and Yung-Feng Chung, the recently appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Taipei City Government. Talking in a pre-recorded video, the Director General of WDC Mexico City 2018, Emilio Cabrero, shared his thoughts on the upcoming program.

Opening tonight’s event, Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-Je spoke of the ways in which the WDC program has worked over the past four years to change the lives of Taipei’s citizens. He stressed that although the Convocation Ceremony represented a celebration of past achievements, “Today is not an end; we’ll continue our work in the future.” Future development, he announced, could be cultivated in three directions: the establishment of better cross-departmental relationships; the identification by the government of where the energy in the community lies and a willingness to support the resulting grassroots initiatives; and a readiness to listen to citizens to better understand when and where change in the city is necessary.

Secretary General de Silva, who was representing Icsid, the organization who established and manages the WDC designation, followed Mayor Ko on stage tonight. “We are all gathered here to celebrate a great accomplishment and to plan the future for Taipei,” she said. “The design community, together with the city and the local planning committee, have done a wonderful job, and we know that the Taiwan Design Center, a long time member of Icsid, has worked very hard to gather the design community together and create a program that benefits the citizens of Taipei.”

The ceremony represented an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and challenges of WDC Taipei 2016. In a forum entitled “Design X Life: Urban Actions”, key figures involved in the WDC Taipei 2016 initiatives – such as Re-create Taipei, Play Bubble, and the Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer – came together to discuss the insights they have gained from a year of targeted design interventions and their future aspirations for the WDC Taipei 2016 legacy.

Indeed, in his closing speech, Commissioner Chung talked about the importance of adopting what he termed an approach of “mutual subjectivity.” He named cross-departmental collaboration within the city government and cultivating an attitude of clear dialogue with city councillors as key factors in ensuring design is incorporated into city development in the future. “First of all,” he said, “design is not just about decorating the city. I think it’s about having our citizens and designers work together to utilize design as a platform and to introduce design into our administration.”

Among the speakers who took to the stage was Agua Chou, founder of Agua Design, who led Re-Create Taipei in collaboration with Spanish artist collective Basurama. The key outcome of the project, which was part of the WDC Taipei 2016 International Open Call program, was the creation of two playgrounds, each made from up-cycled trash and located in two different underused urban areas in Taipei City. Chou was joined by Li Yu Fu of the Cheng-An Neighborhood Community Development Association.

Yan-De Wu, founder of Do You A Flavor, a social enterprise based in Taipei that aids homeless and impoverished people, also spoke about the Play Bubble initiative. For this project, famed Taiwanese designer Aaron Nieh was invited to design bubblegum packaging in order to give street sellers a high quality product to sell and stimulate fun interactions between street sellers and pedestrians. Wu was joined by Xiao Ming, one of the street sellers who benefited from this initiative.

Mark Yeh, one of the co-founders of the non-profit organization Agoood, spoke about his work with people with learning difficulties. As part of WDC Taipei 2016’s Design Station project, the team turned designs created by people with learning difficulties in art classes into a wall mural at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall MRT Station. In order to engage the public and inject some fun into the often mundane daily commute, viewers of the mural were encouraged to find the “Fish Man” hidden in the imagery.

Xiang-Jin Huang, the Chairman of the Dazhi Market Stall-Holder Committee, shared his insights into how the Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer project, which was managed in tandem by Archicake Design and City Yeast, has improved commerce in the Dazhi Market and how the project could be developed in future. In 2016, Xiang-Jin Huang welcomed three professional designers into the traditional market, and encouraged nine stallholders to participate in the program.

Lastly, Jin-Fu Guo and Wei-Han Chen, two of the volunteers from the WDC 2016 Design Volunteer Program, who assisted in organizing and running many of the WDC programs and events, discussed the insights they have gained through their participation and their hopes for the future transformation of Taipei through design.

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