Tilman Thürmer, who is CEO of innovative Shanghai based design studio COORDINATION ASIA, has extensive experience in museum architecture and design. Beginning his career in Europe, Thürmer moved to China in 2008, where he continued to work on progressive and experimental public space projects. We speak to this multi-award-winning designer about the differences and the similarities between designing for European clients and designing for the Chinese-speaking market.
At COORDINATION ASIA, Thürmer begins, we believe in any market you work in, you need to know the parameters of that market. “Our design is based on those parameters: Which specific visitor or consumer are we are designing for? What the important external factors are in play?” However, he continues, while globalization is closing the gap between design in the East and the West, there is definitely still a difference between working in Europe and working in Asia. “In general, I think it’s safe to say that in China, spaces need to be visually striking and need to ‘entertain’ to impress and have an impact.”
In 2011, Thürmer was selected–through an international screening process led by President Ren of the Shanghai Film Group–as the Art Director for the new Shanghai Film Museum. He was assigned the task of creating a museum concept that would bring the history of Shanghai film alive, while also designing a landmark museum that could compete on an international level. “The Shanghai Film Museum is a great example of how we created a localized space with an international look and feel. The content focuses on Shanghai’s golden age of film, which is something that’s very close to the hearts of the locals. We managed to create a space where this feeling is enhanced even more by making the visitor part of the history of film in an immersive and interactive environment,” he explains.
Clients in China are typically very open, and this attitude means designers are often given a lot of trust and the freedom to try out new ideas, says Thürmer. “This makes working in this market fun, and never dull.” However, as a company, COORDINATION ASIA believes that design is not just about creating beautifully decorated spaces. Instead, it is “about transferring stories in the right way.” As a result, the company tend to cherry-pick clients: “We prefer to work with people that are open for discussions and that give us a certain trust to help them create something great.”
What does the future hold for design for the Chinese-speaking market? Thürmer sees interactive technology playing an ever greater role in people’s lives. “People want experiences that are as close as possible to ‘the real thing,’” he says. “For studios like us, it will be pivotal to keep up with developments in this field and to work with the right partners.”
About Tilman Thürmer
Tilman Thürmer is CEO of COORDINATION ASIA and a board member of CREATE BERLIN. With a degree in architecture from The Berlin University of the Arts, Tilman has realized numerous exhibitions and museum projects since 1994, including the award winning HNF in Paderborn, and the Forum of Contemporary History in Leipzig. In 2004, Tilman founded design company COORDINATION BERLIN together with product designer Flip Sellin and architect Jochen Gringmuth, and in 2008, he became a Member of the Board of CREATE BERLIN.
That same year, he moved to Shanghai and founded COORDINATION ASIA, a studio that specializes in museum planning and exhibition design and that has worked on numerous highly regarded public space projects including the Shanghai Museum of Glass, and the Shanghai Film Museum. Thürmer has been awarded the Red Dot Design Award, the Design for Asia Award, several China’s Most Successful Design Awards, a gold and silver Cannes Lion, and the German Design Award, and has been invited to sit on the jury of numerous Chinese design competitions. Today, Thürmer permanently lives and works in Shanghai with his Chinese wife.