Sun, Jul 05, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Night market, reconstructed

Two Israeli designers spent more than two months in Taiwan looking at night market culture and exploring ways to make improvements while preserving traditions

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

A few prototypes of modified night market stools are on display at Chungshan Creative Hub.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Imagine walking into a typical Taiwanese night market. Everything feels as it should — the sounds, the smells, the sights, the crowd, the vendors — all blending into a comforting atmosphere of familiar, ordered chaos.

Suddenly you notice that something’s different. You’re still sitting on a good old metal stool — but it’s elevated, and comes with a red basket to throw your trash in. Another metal stool of the same type is attached to the one you’re sitting on, serving as a table to place your bowl. Even though you never complained about the night market furniture in the past, you suddenly find sitting down and eating much more comfortable and convenient.

Israeli designers Ori Ben-Zvi and Maya Ben David created a series of similar constructs using existing night market objects during their two-and-a-half-month designer residency in Taipei as part of a series of government-sponsored events for the city’s designation as World Design Capital 2016. The designers presented their prototypes at Chungshan Creative Hub (中山創意基地) last Saturday followed by a design workshop with local professionals and students.


The two designers are the first of five foreign residencies that will take place this year. Sponsored by the Taipei City Government Department of Cultural Affairs and executed by Art Happening Ltd (宜東文化), the project will also send Taiwanese designers abroad for similar residencies. In addition, there will be shorter-term programs later this year where international designers come to Taipei to help solve various urban problems.

World Design Capital CEO Wu Han-chung (吳漢中) said he felt that residencies should not be limited to fine artists. He added that while the designer residency program is not as large scale as many of their international events such as the upcoming Taiwan Designers’ Week, it facilitates an in-depth exchange that other programs may not offer.

“Many ... foreigners [are] just here for a conference or event,” he said. “Residencies are important because they live here and look for inspiration here. To me, it’s an immersion process. I’m more concerned about what they’ll experience in Taipei, how they feel and what inspires them.”

Wu said that while a few designers did residencies last year, this is the first complete program with funding for materials, presentations and workshops.

“This event matched our goal to facilitate interaction between international designers, local designers and the public,” project manager Chen Ying-lin (陳映霖) said.

Wu said public engagement is an essential part of the World Design Capital designation, which he sees as a movement for change.

“We hope design is the transformation process,” he said. “We’re combining education and design, and pushing for ways to allow the public to collaborate with designers to co-create and solve the city’s problems.”

Ben-Zvi and Ben David knew that food was big in Taiwan before coming but didn’t realize how essential it is to local culture. When they visited a night market, they were blown away by the rich tradition in the food-making process.

“It brings a lot of added value to what you eat when you see the whole process of making and you see the person’s hand movements,” Ben David said. “You first understand it, then you also appreciate it more.”

“It’s almost a doorway to the past,” Ben-Zvi added. “You can see the same movement happening a generation before and generation before. You go, ‘Is what I’m eating a dumpling or the fossil of a dumpling which has been going on for 2,000 years, just through different hands?’ We’re seeing something that is a live tradition.”

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