Fourth “Silent Class”

The “Silent Class of 2019” is a form of teaching complementing school education and targeting hearing-impaired design students, a project pulled off by C Foundation’s volunteers in Shanghai and Shanghai Puki Coordination Agency for the Deaf. During the first three classes, students “listened to” design cases shared by Mr. Xu Xiaodong, visited a famous design institute where Mr. Ben Wu told them what it took to become a designer, and then visited Mr. Gary Zeng’s company where the cross-discipline designs inspired students to establish their own aesthetics approach and develop new understanding of aesthetics. The fourth class put students in close contact with materials.

Several venues were utilized for this class, and the first that welcomed teachers and students from Shanghai Youth Technical School for the Deaf was the Nabel Ceramics Design Experience Center that was freshly inaugurated in April of this year. The exhibition hall was designed by Ju Bin, a well-known designer and Director of C Foundation. Resembling an artistic lifestyle gallery, the hall put on display the latest ceramic tiles that Nabel researched and developed.

The entrance of the exhibition hall is small, but it leads into a larger open space inside, made more so by the pool with a mirror-like surface and the hollow partition wall. Exhibition scenarios on the second floor are enclosed with white veils and look like magical boxes, bearing no resemblance to the conventional display of ceramic tiles. Their labyrinthine space layout gives visitors the fun and joy of exploration. According to the staff, the space design, modeled after traditional gardens of South China, leverages such techniques as comparison, partition, extension and twists and turns of space to allow visitors to explore the limited space in limitless ways.

In the exhibition hall, the students saw not only cabinets and kitchen countertops made of ceramic tiles but also floors and walls that use ceramic tiles in different ways for different scenarios. For example, floors under the wooden tables and chairs in the lounge area are covered with tiles like carpets; paintings made by piecing together ceramic tiles resembling fossilized wood were hung on the second floor, and the fossil-like patterns give one a sense of the millions of years the transformation takes. Different surface treatment of ceramic tiles with the same pattern produces different finishes such as glossy, matte and soft light.

By touching the ceramic tiles, the students felt their different textures; the different colors and patterns produced a visual shock, and the different use of ceramic tiles in space and the dazzling creativity shown opened their imagination.

In the afternoon, the students took a five-minute walk and arrived at Xiao’s Design. The lecturer Mr. Xiao Aibin, Director and Chief Designer of Xiao’s Design and of KING WOOD, illustrated the different design approaches to hotels, clubs and residential spaces respectively and gave a detailed and comprehensive explanation on how to leverage materials for better design from such angles as space layout, intention and purpose of materials selected, use of materials and the final effects.

For example, the shimmering flow of Huangpu River was applied to the wall of the hotel lobby and presented like a work of abstract art; the everyday objects from Shanghai households in the old days were also embedded into the wall of the façade, producing an interesting decorative effect; the map of Shanghai was made into the pattern of carpet on the aisle to guest rooms that echoes the silhouette of modern buildings on both sides of Huangpu River, making the narrow aisle lively and interesting. Through analysis of such actual cases, Mr. Xiao Aibin clearly illustrated the design approaches and ideas that would make material a powerful weapon and tool for designers.

Students gave full attention to and actively thought about the content during the one-hour lecture. Seeing cozy coaches on the open-air balcony, some student asked: “What if it rains?” The answer is that fabrics of cushions, backrests and all the other items are water-proof. This is a case in point that mastery and application of different material features and functions help put imaginative designs into practice.

Mr. Xiao Aibin said he constantly needs to keep his desire of and passion to design alive during his 30-year career, to which all the students gave him the thumbs up, expressing admiration in their way. 

The fourth “Silent Class of 2019” concluded amid students’ applauses. As the summer vacation approaches, the “Silent Class” will take a short break. We look forward to resuming it in the coming autumn and helping more hearing-impaired design students develop employment-oriented skills and fulfill their potential. 

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