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Speaking to Xavi Calvo, director of World Design Capital València 2022

Speaking to Xavi Calvo, director of World Design Capital València 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 | 7 minutes

“Actiu contributed to turning our dream into an unparalleled movement for Valencian design”

As World Design Capital 2022, Valencia has kicked off its year of major events and initiatives. We spoke to its CEO Xavi Calvo, to go over everything that has been achieved to date and to get the lowdown on the events taking place over the next twelve months as well as to ascertain what the project's legacy will be from 2023 onwards for the Valencian Community, home to pioneering design industries.

You've been getting everything ready for 2022 for more than three years, with a pandemic in the middle. How has your team approached the next twelve months?

Looking back, I've realised that we've spent the same amount of time working on this before the outbreak of the pandemic as we have since then, which has given us the advantage of having enough flexibility in order to adapt some of our programming to the restrictions on gatherings and to organise activities from scratch that could be made hybrid or purely digital in a matter of days. So, with the programme on the table, the team and the entire organisation have come up with an exciting 2022 agenda with the confidence that comes from having the necessary tools to bring it to life.
The programme includes more than 100 activities, 150 speakers, 70 agreements, 25 venues and 100 entities involved. What will the highlights of the first half of the year be? And after the summer?

The programme is constantly growing, as the World Design Capital Valencia 2022 programme will not only be limited to our own activities, of which there are roughly one hundred, but we are already an umbrella organisation for many more that will be developed by other entities, companies and professionals who are taking advantage of the framework of this year of design under our satellite programme.

In the first half of the year, the official agenda includes exhibitions such as ¿Por qué soy así? at Centre del Carmen, which will also house the interactive exhibition Play With Design by Milimbo, Pepe Gimeno's exhibition at Fundación Chirivella Soriano, Anni and Josef Albers at IVAM or, in the same museum, an exhibition of posters and graphic design of the Valencian music scene from the 80s and 90s, the Temporada Ilustrada at MuVIM and the collective exhibition curated by Vicent Martínez on the alliance of design and the know-how of artisans inspired by one of the Valencian benchmark pieces: the hand fan. There will also be the premiere of the documentary TiposQueImportan, the exhibition and activities with Cachetejack at the Jardí Botànic, the presentation of the book Mestres. Arquitectura Moderna en la Comunidad Valenciana, the special call for the ADCV Awards, a film and design cycle at La Filmoteca, the exhibition proposal of El Último Grito at Bombas Gens or all the FOC workshops and events that will be held around the Fallas. Just before summer, we'll hold this year's first Signature Event, the World Design Experience festival between La Rambleta and La Marina de València.

In the second half of the year highlights include Valencia Design Week 2022 held at the end of September and Feria Hábitat Valencia, with many parallel activities, including everything from celebrating 20 years of the Nude exhibition, the Design and Health congress with the CDICV to the celebration of another Signature Event, the World Design Street Festival. What's more, Tachy Mora will inaugurate Escenarios de un futuro cercano at Centre del Carmen, which is an exhibition about what our domestic environments will look like in the not-too-distant future, and in the same location, the great Jaime Hayón retrospective exhibition is also being prepared. The XVII International DoCoMoMo Architecture Congress will come to Valencia, the ADCV and Raquel Pelta's Co-Design and Social Innovation conference will be held at Las Naves, and at the MuVIM, curated by Ramón Úbeda, we'll inaugurate the exhibition Diseño y Salud on the important role of design in the health industry. There will also be other Signature Events, including the World Design Policy Conference at the Palacio de Congresos as the international public policy forum that will turn Valencia into an international benchmark, on November 3rd and 4th.

This exciting project has involved companies, institutions and designers. What would you like this project to bring to these groups?

These are not just key audiences; they have also been key players in getting Valencia, and by extension the rest of the Autonomous Community, to be named World Design Capital. We have a programme geared towards talent and industry, which means that this capital status attracts opportunities for these three sectors in which design plays a key role, although it may not seem so obvious in all of them.
What has the support of companies such as Actiu, who have won the National Design Award and have supported this initiative from the outset, meant for you?

Companies such as Actiu, who got involved right from the very beginning when all we had was an idea and a pre-bid project, took a real leap of faith in believing that so much enthusiasm would turn into an unprecedented movement for Valencian design. Actiu is so involved because design is part of their DNA, they are a design company, and that is why their support is of the utmost importance, because they have been of great help when it comes to the part of project that is more focused on disseminating and teaching design.

Journalists the world over are writing articles about World Design Capital Valencia 2022, how is this coverage going? What are they telling the world about Valencian design?

What I find most interesting about this unprecedented media phenomenon (the international impact exceeded all our initial expectations months ago) for Spanish design is how the focus is being placed on values such as creativity and design to put Valencia on the map. We, the organisers, are thrilled to read that so much is being said about our region as World Design Capital, and that it is being used to talk about our gastronomy, our people, customs, industry... in publications related to everything from tourism to the most specialised media, which is shining a light on Valencian talent.
According to your estimates, design contributes more than €1.4 billion a year to the Valencian economy. What makes Valencian design companies so special?

These studies have been conducted over the last 4 years by the Generalitat Valenciana, the Valencian Institute of Economic Research, the Designers' Association of the Valencian Community (ADCV) and the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI). They analysed the economics of design and the economic contribution of design-intensive sectors in the Valencian Community. Being able to quantify this contribution of design to industry has been key to backing up a discourse that called for data, so the first achievement was the interest, participation and collaboration of Valencian institutions to outline, identify and measure design, and evaluate its use in the primary Valencian economic industries. These studies have concluded that the Valencian industry is well above national averages.

In recent years, you've gone to great lengths in design education with initiatives covering everything from sustainability, inclusion, craftsmanship, urban design... How do you think the social perception of what design is and what it contributes to people's daily lives and well-being is evolving?

This message is key: defining design as a tool for people's wellbeing, as well as the well-worn narrative of being a competitive tool for companies. At the end of the day, when talking about people and companies alike, design is always done with an end user in mind and, therefore, to solve certain problems that will contribute to improving our day-to-day lives. Design is a much bigger part of everyday life than we think and we are breaking down barriers that once spoke of shallowness, luxury or high prices to justify the benefits of good design. Luckily, the latest generations have already put the most frivolous part of this superficial perception of design in Spain to bed. Recovering the more social narratives, which have been making an impact for years in other countries with a more established design culture, helps us to position not just design, but culture in general as something that can benefit people.

What would you like 2022's legacy to be? What role will the Design Foundation of the Valencian Community play? 

On the one hand, to recover this social aspect, to get this idea across of design as something social, something that is everywhere and that seeks to improve our well-being. On the other hand, the very legacy of World Design Capital Valencia 2022 was the first objective set years ago, and that is why 2022 will not just be a one-off event, but the start of everything that is to come.

The Design Foundation of the Valencian Community will be the legacy itself. The body that will take over as an organisation and as an entity in the design of all the work carried out over the last four years with the institutional inertia facilitated by the World Design Capital itself.

World Design Capital Valencia 2022