Chinese designer and architect, Jingjing Naihan Li, was born in 1981 in Harbin then moved to Beijing in the mid-eighties. Growing up, she spent most of her childhood amidst the explosion of imported cultural concepts. In 1999, she left China for United Kingdom to further her studies. Studying abroad gave her the need to study something that she can bring home with. She started studying architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
After graduating, Naihan returned to Beijing in 2004, where she collaborated with artist, Ai Wei Wei, and that experience made her decide to move back to China. When she first returned to pursue her career as an architect, she felt that it was a very depressing job. «This is going to be the rest of my life, surrounded by construction sites,» she says. So she started working on other projects, including installations for galleries. After working on those projects, she started to design for herself. Her life then became her design brief.
THE MOVING ARTS
Currently living and working in Beijing in the Caochangdi Art District, Naihan calls herself an ‘object designer’. She uses her personal experience and incorporates these ideas into her designs, as a way of communicating her view to others. She wants people to be able to relate to her ideas, her designs.
Naihan used all her skills accumulated from architecture, graphic design, installations and started creating solutions for the evolving contemporary lifestyle in China, especially the current increasing tendency towards life-long renting, instead of home ownership. With this, she created a household system for design-conscious people on the move.
«Home is personal definition, and I think design should serve its function to improve life. For renters, home is what you take with you on the road, thereby focusing on what you need becomes a kind of definition of a home. If you put an entire house into a mobile system, you can save space and maximise pleasure between displacements.»
Everything she designs pushes forth function. She works from a basic need, and builds on from there. Take entertainment, for example. Her range of mobile entertainment design includes a mobile football table, media wall, bar and television cabin.
When asked who her favourite architect was, she says, «I do not have only a single favourite person; I take reference from everything I am exposed to. There is no single thing that is more significant than the other.»
It may look like a finely finished shipping container on the outside but as you open, it reveals a functional household or office environments. The Crates was created for Beijing’s shifting urban playground where industrial and artist spaces are quickly discovered and soon destroyed.
Exhibiting at the Guangzhou Bienalle 2011 in Korea, Naihan came across a challenge of bringing her designs in one piece to Korea. After observing the residents in Cao Chang Di, she noticed they used cheap, plastic folding stools that inspired her to create The Fold series.