We organizers and designers of the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale are eagerly awaiting the opening ceremony on February 16. Of course we’ll enjoy the pomp and circumstance, the speeches and the special events, but what we’re looking forward to most will really happen the next day: the public will enter the park. Randomly, wandering around, maybe on their way to someplace else. Not headed for any particular pavilion, most probably. At that moment we will finally be able to see the answer to the question that has inspired us throughout the past few months: How can we best engage the members of the public in this exhibition? Will those outside the design professions understand the exhibits? More importantly, will they be interested in them and feel their relevance?
Kowloon Park is a large and multifunctional public space that welcomes an incredibly diverse population every day. In this, it is totally different from previous Biennale venues, which were open only for the exhibition. On any given morning you can see groups of elderly people practicing Tai Chi here; at midday professionals and tourists come into the park to find a lunchtime seat; afternoons may find young mothers bringing their children for a breath of fresh air. And as the lights begin to go on in the evenings, the park remains a quiet retreat from the excitement and activity of neighboring Nathan Road.
So whom will this Biennale be for? It is the sincere hope of the curators, staff and exhibitors that this will truly be a public exhibition, open to all and enjoyed by all. Design is important; it impacts our cities, our homes, our very lives. We should all have a stake in it.