A team of UNSW Art & Design students and staff led by lecturers Dr Ian McArthur and Brad Miller are currently in China to participate in Beijing Design Week.

Now a well established global event, Beijing Design Week 2016 is focusing on the role of design in cities as it relates to major challenges and opportunities such as innovation, sustainability and the environment. 

At this years festival of design and creativity, UNSW is partnering with a number of leading Chinese and Australian partners to highlight Mad.Lab, a project which has its origins in the rapidly growing regional capital Chongqing.

Mad.Lab brings together UNSW Art & Design, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, industry partner Priestman Architects and incubator CQubed.

The title of the project Mad.Lab which literally references ‘mapping and design laboratory', is a collaborative urban laboratory set up in 2012 comprising three areas of activity: education, research and practice. Mad.Lab programs take place in the context of ever-changing, always-challenging urban conditions in China. 

Mad.Lab explores China’s new urbanism and asks who is it for? 

According to Dr McArthur ’the Mad.Lab team system is to map in the field: not only not only in the physical and environmental dimensions, but by also modelling behaviours, flows and interactions. Intending enrichment, our plural approach is to interweave multiple readings of the city. Our approach is to design at the micro, medial and macro scales. We have focused on Chongqing; a fascinating, feisty and complex mountain city of 12m people some 2000km up the Yangtze River in South West China.'

China's unprecedented fast-growth development model of the last three decades is the context for the Lab. China's focus on economic growth and development on massive and relentess scale is now under review by a range of provincial and city governments across the nation. Complex problems have emerged from this astounding transformation, including over-building beyond needs, environmental pollution, infrastructure severances, de–humanised streets, community dislocations, inequality, personal and economic security questions, employment, education, healthcare and ageing population. Leaders are asking for less greenfield development, more integration, location specific urban character, culturalisation and smartening.

This cooperative international Lab demonstrates how students, academics and partners from across the design, digital media and architecture industries can work together through extensive practical people-to-people collaborations.  In addition to MAD.Lab the Innovation in Australia-China design education collaboration will be displayed as part of UNSW Art & Design's Future of Cities forum and is presented in partnership with Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA).

Mad.Lab @ BJDW also promotes Australian design education as international, collaborative, contemporary, diverse, and as a source of excellence by showcasing sustainability, co-design, adaptive reuse, place-making, media facades and metadesign as ways of creating a shared vision for tackling ‘wicked problems’ in fair and equitable ways. 

Finally, Mad.Lab is a great way to showcase the talent and skills of future Chinese and Australian designers via a pop-up exhibition and is featured as part of the Australian Embassy's Beijing Design Week program.

Follow Mad.Lab on Twitter to keep up to date with the project.

Partnerships and funders

Mad.Lab is a collaboration between UNSW Art & Design, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, industry partner Priestman Architects and incubator CQubed.

Mad.Lab @ BJDW is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Cultural Diplomacy Grant Program.

The Innovation in Australia-China design education collaboration will be on display at the UNSW Art & Design Future of Cities forum in partnership with the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA).

Building, strengthening and consolidating connections: the Australia-China Design Dialogues are supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mad.Lab in Chongqing is supported by the Australian Government through the New Colombo Plan by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.