Designs on business

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Macau Design Centre has just opened, proving that design rhymes with business By Alexandra Lages Design is about the arts and education but it is also an industry. A design centre is a place that can join creative and business minds, and the community as well. This is the spirit of the newly opened Macau Design Centre. Four members of the Macau Designers Association have linked up to open this multi-functional building in the heart of Hac Sá Wan – or Areia Preta in Portuguese – with the soft opening in November last year. Zoe Sou, administrative director of the Centre, tells Macau Business that it is linked to the Macau Designers Association although its purpose is more related to business than academia. “The Macau Designers Association has 30 years of experience, they help local designers, but all in all they are more academically oriented. Our Centre wants to promote arts to the public and do business,” she says. The four-storey building accommodates twelve design studios, an exhibition hall, design studios, bookstore, performance venue, cafe and a rooftop garden. Studios are currently occupied by young local design companies, creating fashion to multimedia. The Centre wants to help Macau designers develop into different areas instead of solely focusing on mainstream interior design, graphic design or fashion. “The idea is to gather different aspects of design in this Centre. They can even work together and share resources,” Ms. Sou enthuses. According to her, the city’s design companies are primarily focused on doing their own thing. “There are small-scale design companies in Macau – but there’s no strong connection between them,” she says. Stable environment The Centre wants to help young companies with a business idea that are facing difficulties in finding space due to high rental prices of commercial property units. Ms. Sou says the Centre provides them with a stable space for a maximum period of three years, and every year the Centre reviews their performance before the contract is renewed. Studio rentals are MOP7 (US$0.88) per square foot, with areas range from 210 to 1,500 square feet, depending on the scale of the company. It includes the renovation fee, basic facilities, and other services. Ms. Sou says the Centre wants to attract the business units of firms and government departments. “We want to direct their attention to the real value of design and to apply it to business,” she says. In addition, the 12 design companies can sell their products at the Centre’s shop, while all local designers are welcome to sell their products there, too. Apart from products by local designers, the shop retails brands from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing. The Macau Design Centre is located in an old deserted factory on Travessa da Fábrica. The building was rented for 10 years, with the intention of providing local designers with a stable environment. The founders invested some MOP15 million in the project, including the daily operation fee, salary, rent, equipment, and renovation fee, etc. The first phase of renovation works funded by the government. The monthly rent of the building is MOP100,000. The Centre features three classrooms for holding seminars, design and creative courses and workshops, with the largest capable of accommodating 150 people. The venue and its activities target not only professional designers but the whole community, especially children. “We try to organise activities that can reach the whole community, not only local designers,” she says. Local institutions are welcome to rent the rooms to hold their education activities, too. Private companies and the public can rent venues to organise events, and the exhibition hall is also for rent. The first Centre exhibition – featuring the first Dutch Contemporary Design Exhibition showcasing avant garde and experimental works of Dutch design – will run until March 15. The Centre will co-organise the Macau Design Week this year, as well, most likely in July or August, and is also planning a number of exchange activities with design institutions and authorities from overseas.