School of Art, Media, and Technology

GDA Summer Sessions 2014 | Beijing / The Symbolic City

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GDA Summer Sessions 2014
Beijing / The Symbolic City

How can design be used to study, influence, alter and provoke contemporary symbolism by using information from, or inspired by, the physical location of Beijing and design and distribute these using on and offline spaces.

Keywords: The City as Interface, Hyper Visuality, Corporate Mythologies, (Un)real Estate, Demystification/Remystification, The Symbolic Surplus.

The tutors of the 2014 edition are:
  • Vinca Kruk (Metahaven)
  • Hendrik-Jan Grievink (Next Nature)
  • Thomas Castro (LUST)
  • Wang Ziyuan (Professor Studio 5 at CAFA, Beijing)

As the Capital of the Middle Kingdom, Beijing has become a symbol for the rise of Asia on the world stage. Not long after the world witnessed the collapse of one of the most prevalent symbols of the West in the form of the burning twin towers in NYC, we saw the rise of a new built symbol of the East in the flawed shape of the iconic CCTV building. Iconic, as the image of the building became a three-dimensional logo that travelled the world long before the completion of the actual building itself.
Do these kind of symbols – Small, Medium, Extra Large or Virtual – represent the cities in which they stand? Or does the city merely represent these symbols? How is the symbolic tissue of a city produced and consumed? Is there a role for the designer here, other than the creation of new patterns for symbolic consumption?

After the succesful first edition in Nida (Lithuania, 2013), this edition of the GDA Summer Sessions will take place in Beijing (China). We will apply contemporary design research strategies with a group of participants from all over the world. The city’s rich past, present and future will inspire projects that take the physical environment as a starting point. We will investigate, visualize and combine existing narratives, processes, and models and speculate about new (symbolic) meaning, not only of Beijing, but also projected to other regions of the world. The exceptional location, an exceptional program and an exceptional group of people will provide a perfect context for an intense program full of collaborative design research, reflection, playful experiment, debates, exchange and fun.


We will teach and encourage participants to use a broad array of experimental research and design methods such as: Design Anthropology, Critical Mapping, Street Interviews, Object Analysis, Quantitative Photography, Speculative Design, Design Fiction, Paper Prototyping, Design Probes, Fascination Presentations and Creative Writing.

Several masterclasses and workshops will ge given by the tutors, such as: Identity and the State, Template Culture: Form Follows Format, Pyramid of Technology, Image Consumption, Cultural Cartography, Analytical Algorithms / Heuristics, Chinese Typographic Symbolism, Identity in Chinese Culture.

  • The dates for the GDA Summer Sessions 2014 are: Saturday 16 till Sunday 31 August 2014
  • The tuition of the GDA Summer Sessions 2014 is €1000.
  • We offer two packages: one including the tuition and lodging (€1300) and one with only the tuition (€1000).
  • The deadline for applying is 30 May 2014.
For more application information, and details about the GDA Summer Sessions, please visit the website:

We hope to see you this summer!

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