Design Made in Hong Kong 2022 edition: “Memphis and the Post-Contemporary Object”

Italian Cultural Institute Hong Kong is pleased to announce “Memphis and the Post-Contemporary Object”, the third edition of Design Made in Hong Kong, an ongoing project that aims to create a solid creative exchange between Italian and Hong Kong design, paying special attention to the young generation.

The focus of the 2022 edition will be the style of the Memphis group and the main partners are the Hong Kong Design Institute and Novalis Art Design.

Specifically, in this project, students of Forniture Design and Interior Design from Hong Kong Design Institute will be asked to design some objects inspired by Memphis Group, an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1980.

An iconic portrait of the collective, on The Tawaraya boxing ring bed , 1981

The artistic approach to furniture design introduced by Memphis in the eighties, that was then adopted by a large part of the world, has seen in the following years a progressive weakening of the more explosive and charged aesthetics of its product language, in favor of an ever softer chromatic mainstream. 

Even as the scenario evolved in this way, Memphis always remained true to itself, keeping its vocation for the artistic hybridization of everyday functionality intact. Today the most effervescent soul of emotional furniture returns to appear once again in the contemporary visual scenario, awakened by native digital aesthetic languages characterized by bright colors and deconstructed geometries, according to an “insta-friendly” approach designed to look good on one’s small screen smartphone (and encourage e-commerce). 

The great opportunity that presents itself in Memphis today is that of combining the firepower of the visual languages typical of social networks (Instagram in the first place) with the cultural density of a brand that has made the history of post-modern design.

Carlton bookcase by Ettore Sottsass, 1981
Miley Cyrus posing in front of her Carlton bookcase

With this in mind, students will design a set of forniture that defines the aesthetic identity of Memphis in a way that is consistent with the brand and, at the same time, in line with the new aesthetic sensibilities native to digital networks, thus bringing the freshness of the new contemporary visual scenarios into the real product, defining a new contemporality in which the physical product speaks the language of the digital image, turning it into a “solid”, physically present element.

The project created by the team will be on display, together with a retrospective of the Memphis Group, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as a part of the 25 Years of Design exhibition at the beginning of September 2022.

Project team

HKDI: Michael Chan, Michelle Cheng, Damon Yau
Project tutor: Damon Yau

Novalis Art Design: Charmaine Tam, William Figliola
Master lecture: Martine Bedin