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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story


As cultural boundaries dissolve, the origins of design are becoming obscured. But Asia still has a place in the shape of things to come

By Alexandra A. Seno

asia in the new millennium
Mapping the Future The future wealth and size of Asian nations

The 21st Century By Arthur C. Clarke

Asia Trends 2000 The promises and perils of one wired world

The Microchip Silicon will get into everything
The Power As the region prospers, chances for conflict may become greater
Essay by Fidel Ramos Ending repression was easy; now we must defend freedom
The Dynasty It's here to stay
The Classes Many more Asians may escape poverty
The People Democracy in Asia will become increasingly deep-rooted
Essay by Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo Shifts to new paradigms may include the "common good" and spirituality
The Mind Classrooms of the future will be virtually unrecognizable
Essay by Stan Shih The challenge of creating markets in a competitive world
The Body Science will soon deliver miracle cures, designer babies and new dilemmas
The Soul Asia seeks a new cultural identity
Essay by the Dalai Lama Balancing material progress with inner development to achieve true success
The Food Are the pushers of genetically modified edibles out to lunch?
The Vacation Inner and outer space are the destinations of the future
The Design Asia still has a place in the shape of things to come
The Metropolis Sweeping global changes are reshaping urban destinies
The Earth Environmental awareness is growing
The Jobs New and reinvented careers will fire the imagination
The Money The cashless society is on the way
The Investor Globalization and the Net will empower future shareholders and savers
The Sexes Democracy, capitalism and the Internet can lift women to the top
Essay by Marina Mahathir In Malaysia, we should change the way society looks at their roles
The Family The family promises to be much different than it is today
The Economy New ways of working call for new ways of thinking
Essay by Donald Tsang Financial well-being is a responsibility for each nation and the world
The Network The connection will go much deeper

The Asiaweek Round Table on ASEAN in 2020

Celebrations Asia is gearing up

Celebrities How some of the region's most visible personalities intend to welcome the New Year

Millenium Dictionary From pop anthems to dawn sites and midnight nuptials, a guide to 2000

DECADES AGO, THE "MODERN futuristic look" was defined. Shiny vinyl. See-through plexi-glass. Shimmery silver. Slinky shapes. They were not always easy to use, wear or live with, but they captured a moment inspired by that 2001 space odyssey we were all to make. With the year 2000 mere months away, those visions of what was to be the future are now retro. Design going into the new millennium is less science-fiction, more science-fact. Inter-galactic carriers are no longer required, thank you. The story is not about life on Mars, but about trying to make life on Earth a little better.

This means that the future shirt on your back will probably look a lot like the one hanging in your closet today. And the much-loved little black dress will survive - with an update or two. But how about a computer-aided, multi-dimensional hologram to provide the necessary accent? The parameters of what materials to use are evolving. Guangdong-born New Yorker Vivienne Tam has already used treated paper to make perfectly wearable clothes. "Paper is interesting because it's light and cool and actually more durable than cotton. It's also easy to wash," says Tam. For the last fall/winter look of the millennium, she gives design boundaries another nudge by experimenting with metal mesh dresses. Says a Singapore fashion magazine editor: "Imagine the possibilities of getting together these materials, traditional looks and a power outlet." Plugged-in fashion at its most electrifying.

The interface between the man-made and the natural is shaping architecture. The work of Japan's Kurokawa Kisho offers a glimpse of what is ahead. In his masterplan for Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, Kurokawa envisions a city protected from the sandstorms and flooding common to the area by a wall of trees and an artificial lake. He used a similar approach with the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang. Opened in 1998, the airport incorporates an element of the countryside it displaced. The man-made forest is pleasing to the eye, but, more than that, says Kurokawa, it serves as a sound buffer to "protect the living environment."

If there is one thing Kuala Lumpur airport does not suffer from, it is lack of space. But how will tomorrow's architects confront the great dilemma of too many people and not enough land to accommodate them? How about going underground? In Japan, Taisei Corp.'s "Alice City" - named after the Lewis Carroll fantasy - envisions huge concrete cylinders buried as much as 150 meters deep. Each module would be large enough to accommodate offices, hotels, theaters and a life-support system for a population of 100,000 human moles. Already the Japanese parliament has passed legislation limiting the ownership of land to 50 meters below ground - allowing, one day, for underground cities to be built without the developers having to compensate the surface owners. Another idea on the design board (which is where it may stay): cities stacked one on top of the other.

From a university in Buffalo in the U.S. comes news of the first observation of semiconducting in a carbon composite material. The discovery could revolutionize the future of "smart" structures, allowing architects and designers to consider buildings constructed of materials that have electronic capabilities - with not a computer chip or electrical lead in sight.

When it comes to progressing from the back room to the living room, few products can match electronics for speed. And few areas of design will offer such exciting challenges in the coming years. "The television is the most obvious [example]," says Rungsima Kasikranund, editor of Elle DÈcor in Thailand. "The monitor will get thinner, the look more space-age-like, yet with a more powerful sound system." More Internet convergence will mean that the TV is no longer just something to watch passively, but a means of interaction. Still to be resolved: What will this computer/entertainment center/work tool look like? And which room will it go in?

In the future, attempting to track the geographical origin of design shifts will become less and less relevant as cultural boundaries dissolve. "Brand culture" is already being emphasized over cultural identity. Sony's central design committee works out of Tokyo, but the look of, say, its PlayStation could be the result of input from a multinational design team spread across the planet. "We sometimes suit items to look like what we think the local market wants," says Sony. "But, over all of that, there is the corporate image to keep."

So does this mean that as the next millennium progresses, the specifics of Asian design will become absorbed into an international look that masks origins? Happily, the answer is no. The rest of the world will continue to demand the craftsmanship of Asia's artisans and the fine quality of hand-made goods - though change is inevitable. "There is a ready acceptance [in Asia] of anything seen as appearing new and modern," says Eric Otto Wear, associate head of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design. "That trend will continue." Meaning? Well, a stroll through the hip Hong Kong lifestyle emporium G.O.D. gives a clue. It stocks a variety of goods sourced from around the region in styles appropriate for tomorrow's world. Among them:the classic Ming horseshoe-back chair done in metal, or homeware such as chopsticks, bowls and bathroom accessories made in traditional materials, but with modern styling.

International design is going through a raging infatuation with anything perceived as "Oriental." That is not necessarily the future for Asia. "Everyone has had a high dose of the tacky Asian look, with dragons and bamboo," says G.O.D. design director Douglas Young. "The next wave of Asian designs will reflect urban tribal style." It will spring from real people on the teeming streets of present-day Bombay and Shanghai. And it will find its individualism in the great expanses of lookalike housing blocks that many Asians will find themselves living in as people continue to pour into the big cities. To find the future of design in Asia, you just have to look around you.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel ì at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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