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World Design Capital 2022
On 9 September a dream came true for Valencia. The World Design Organization (WDO) named the city World Design Capital 2022, a designation previously held by Lille, Seoul and Helsinki, among others.
It is widely known that Valencia has always had a powerful talent pool of designers. With a rich history of names including Josep Renau and Luis Debón, the city is now preparing to celebrate the present day of a discipline that has long been part of its identity, through traditions like Las Fallas, through fashion with Francis Montesinos, or through illustration with Paula Bonet and Paco Roca.
This adventure began when a series of designers worded their hopes. In 2017, designer Xavi Calvo published an article highlighting different events held in Valencia in which design played a vital role. At the same time, Vicente Pons, CEO of Point, a century-old design company, visited Mexico City during its tenure as World Design Capital in 2018. There he entertained the possibility of Valencia being designated to hold the biannual event in 2022. After months of hard work, just a few weeks ago the WDO committee officially announced Valencia had been named World Design Capital 2022 (VWDC 2022). That “why not?” that so many times designers like Pons or Calvo had repeated, was full of reason and, above all, of future.
"Design has to be understood as something that pervades our daily lives,” Calvo says. “It’s very transversal, and that’s one of the first messages we want to communicate with this initiative. Design is present in urban planning; in the way we convey socially oriented messages such as the fight for gender equality. It’s everywhere in our daily lives, from when we get up to when we go to bed. It’s in a comfortable chair or in the interface that enables you to transfer money online. It's something that helps people be happy.”
A history linked to design
Without a doubt, one of the most important highlights is Valencia’s historical weight in design, which spans two centuries. Calvo remembers Luis Dubón, one of the great pioneers in the field. His modernist approach materialized in a series of posters, paintings and designs that created a new and contemporary image of Valencia during the first half of the 20th century. His are the first labels printed to make orange exports more competitive. There is also José Segrelles, who painted the first posters for the Fallas, commissioned by the Valencian Society for the Promotion of Tourism in 1929. During the 1980s, La Nave studio worked as a modernizing agent for local and national design. And it must not be forgotten that, although he lives in Barcelona, Javier Mariscal was born in Valencia and started his career here.
“We have a past, but also a present,” Calvo adds. For example, last summer Comic Con San Diego gave Paco Roca an award for his career. Ana Criado was nominated for an Emmy for Best Credit Title Design for the TV series Star Trek: Discovery. And the Hyperloop team from the Polytechnic University of Valencia received an award last July in Los Angeles for their pod [the future means of transportation] design proposal.”
For a city that not long ago suffered the consequences of a craze for celebrating major events, this designation marks a new phase at a time when the city is experiencing a cultural, urban and social rebirth. “It's about taking advantage of what you have, emphasizing our virtues and our treasures. Valencia is not the birthplace of great Formula 1 pilots, but of great designers. Sometimes we aren’t aware of the potential of talent that we have, but there are many Valencians working internationally.” Xavi Calvo gives more examples, such as Inma Bermúdez, who from a sustainable house in a town near Valencia, she designs furniture and accessories for Ikea that many of us have probably at home.
Although activities will officially begin in 2022, the machinery is already moving. Since the bid for the designation, Valencia has been a showcase for the city’s design-related professionals. A sector, which, as Calvo said, is transversal in many ways. Fashion, industrial design, illustration, architecture, graphic design or videogames are some of the disciplines included. “One of our goals,” Calvo concludes, “is to show how design can transform a city, how it can make it better.” Without a doubt, 2022 will mark a before and after 2022 for Valencia.
Various activities will take place throughout 2022. Each month will be devoted to a different theme. January, for example, will be dedicated to climate change. March, to feminism; and in December, to sports, with the city holding one of the ten most important marathons in the world (Trinidad Alfonso). Conferences, exhibitions, workshops and other activities will also be organized in such symbolic spaces as the Bombas Gens Art Center and in museums such as the IVAM, the MuVIM and the Center del Carme Cultura Contemporània (CCCC). In addition, Valencia will also host the European Design Awards in 2020.