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Marisa Yiu, Co-founder of Design Trust: “The grand vision is to remain relevant, productive, flexible and contextual”

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Marisa Yiu, Co-founder of Design Trust: “The grand vision is to remain relevant, productive, flexible and contextual”

Established in 2014 by Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, Design Trust is a grant-funding platform that supports creative projects that develop expertise, builds research initiatives and content related to Hong Kong and the Greater Pearl River Delta Region. Working across a multiplicity of design disciplines from graphics, media, and architecture to the built environment, Design Trust aims to actively accelerate creative research, design and development of meaningful projects that advocate for the positive role of design.

We spoke with Marisa Yiu, co-founder of Design Trust, about why she started this initiative, what she looks for in selecting grant recipients, and her grand vision for Design Trust:

 

You have an incredibly established background in the arts – you’re a Founding Partner of ESKYIU, a multidisciplinary architecture and research design studio; you were also the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. What motivated you to pursue the initiative that is Design Trust?

Motivations are indeed spurred by observations and inspirations in and around our community, and we wanted to find a way to build a neutral and dynamic platform to support designers and scholars, to build a grant-giving organization that focuses on the power of design research and at the same time challenge the design discipline itself in the context of Hong Kong and the greater bay area. We are super excited both as a registered charity to fulfil something that is much needed in our city and region. Through the funding of meaningful projects, we hope to stimulate richer dialogues, foster a culture of experimentation, and generate new ideas.

Much of this was catalyzed from my past experiences and roles, working as the Chief Curator of the 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (at that time on the West Kowloon district), the empty site we had gave us a chance to experiment with building new audiences on design and architecture; it allowed us to open up possibilities. My own design practice ESKYIU has been focused mostly on cross-disciplinary approaches as a social practice and collaborate studio - so naturally Design Trust is an extension of the roots of these questions, programmed to encourage exchange between the public and private sector through design – be it with issues on improving public space, sharing of resources to building design archives, to learning and creating new tools for heritage craft and innovation.

As Design Trust’s co-founder, what would you say has been the most rewarding part of your role since it’s inception in 2014?

We have now expanded to new fellowships and design think-tank projects, and still focus on building long-term platforms to fund innovative and thought-provoking projects on a wide range of disciplines, ranging from graphics, media, wearable technology, and architecture to the environment. The DESIGN TRUST FUTURES STUDIO mentor-mentee think tank has been truly rewarding in that it brings about positive change not only to physical projects like future micro park design in neighbourhoods in Hong Kong, but also supporting emerging designers and architects to work alongside other established mentors like Elizabeth Diller, Sam Jacob to Gary Chang to name a few. The participants all work during the day so it's also a pilot and moonlighting initiative for all! Last year’s group’s designs have been nominated for the 2018 Beazley awards and now currently showing the London Design Museum. It’s incredibly rewarding to have international recognition. We also recently received a government grant and private foundation support for a 16-person young design delegation group for research, sharing the Architectural League in depth, and also gives the opportunity to share with an international community in the recent launch of Istanbul Design Biennale.

Design Trust describes itself as grant funding platform that accelerates creative research, design and development. What are some key factors that you look out for when selecting fellows and grant recipients?

We are really interested as an organization to foster cross-disciplinary projects focusing on the Greater Bay area region. Projects awarded have a wide-reaching audience and may be sited in an exhibition or biennale venue with international recognition and standing. The grant supports international exchanges between a Hong Kong/China-based collective with an internationally renowned cultural institution and aims to excel, share and build new knowledge and unique positions on the value of design. I’m also most interested in “Design Trust Seed Grants” that build and foster a culture of experimentation, testing and sharing. This grant is awarded to individuals seeking to kick-start a meaningful and intellectual project with social, educational, economic or environmental impact for communities.

Other programmes include the Fellowships, like the M+ / DESIGN TRUST RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP is in partnership with M+, a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We also recently launched the launched a fellowship in collaboration with the Royal College of Art. The Fellowship is open to applicants based in Hong Kong and the region, and addresses the burgeoning field of design curating in a global context. I am super excited as Design Trust is pleased to announce two female Fellows who will undertake advanced research into the theory and practice of contemporary design curating.

What is your grand vision for Design Trust?

There are many benchmarks, however the grand vision is to remain relevant, productive, flexible and contextual. It would be great to see how small initiatives like ours can make a social and cultural impact in the community and make an important case for investing in people’s design and scholarly careers and the role design research can play, whether as a process or experiment to lead to positive change or a new discovery.

Ultimately as an NGO, we are focused on ideas, innovating by looking at the past and the future whilst enabling new conversations to surface so that topics or themes that are often overlooked can enter our imaginations. To make design, thinking and culture the core asset of all and every society - all this to create New models of philanthropy and be able to utilize the incredible generosity of patrons to beneficiaries across spectrums to come together to make change. 

Our upcoming Design Trust gala around the corner on October 27th is a testament to how collaboration and power of private and public organizations and designers can come together for the same cause. For our upcoming benefit auction, we have been working closely with Prada as the title sponsor for the gala event alongside with OMA: Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, along with the countless volunteers and benefit committee members. This sheds a new light on why design matters and why a provoking theme like Rem and David’s HYPER ENVIRONMENT will probe further questions on the relationship between technology and nature, and how design plays an intricate role in that.

You must have seen a fair share of proposals since 2014. What has been the most memorable so far? 

Design Trust Feature Grant recipients: Brendan Cormier, Luisa Mengoni for their project "Unidentified Acts of Design"- an exhibition and research project that seeks out instances where design intelligence has occurred in Shenzhen and the PRD outside of the conventional notion of the design studio. Design Trust supported their case study research from drone developers, to the history of WeChat to knitwear technicians and their role in design today.

Graphically- Adonian Chan’s Hong Kong Beiwei Kaishu research project that looked at a specific moment of Hong Kong’s typographic histories that was extensively utilized after WWII. It is one of the most significant Chinese calligraphy styles that are most recognizable in the streets of Hong Kong. The project analysed the history, culture, popularity, and aesthetic value under the basis of modern typography, with further exploration on the future possibilities of a new interpretation and revitalization of such a gem of Hong Kong's visual culture.

A recent seed grantee team by Studio Florian + Christine, examining the notion of “Hong Kong Harbour: Future Sea Craft” is a design investigation addressing the rejuvenation of Hong Kong’s seaside waste material through mixing local craft with material innovation and engaging the public through collaborative design workshops.

And so many more!

 

To find out more about Design Trust, click here.
To find out more about this year’s Ambassadors Ball in benefit of Design Trust, click here.



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