Andrei Borțun, CEO The Institute: Our next natural move is to let RDW take on a life of its own within Bucharest

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 17/05/2024 | 18:01

Now in its 12th edition, Romanian Design Week, the multidisciplinary festival of creative industries organized by The Institute, presented by Unicredit Bank and funded by the Ministry of Culture, will open up the city for 10 days, from May 24th to June 2nd. Several exhibitions (RDW Exhibition, RDW Young Design, and RDW Design Flags) will be hosted in the historic monument building where the CINA restaurant used to operate (10, Benjamin Franklin Street), while over 100 related events will take place throughout the city as part of the RDW Design GO! format.

With the theme „Unlock the City”, the 2024 edition of Romanian Design Week aims to explore how creativity and innovation can shape the cities of the future and contribute to the exploration of Bucharest and its potential.

Business Review talked to Andrei Borțun, CEO The Institute and the organizer of this festival, about what RDW 12 means to him and the city and what are the novelties of this year’s edition.

 

With the 12th edition of Romanian Design Week just around the corner, what can attendees expect in terms of highlights and new features at this year’s festival?

RDW 2024 brings some exciting novelties. One of the highlights this year, especially at CINA’s exhibitions, is the mix of young and senior artists, along with local and European content.

Alongside the RDW Exhibition, showcasing top projects in architecture, design, fashion, and more, we’re introducing RDW Young Design. This format started as a trial last year but was so popular that it’s now a permanent part of the festival. Plus, we’re boosting our international presence with RDW Flags, featuring major projects from across Europe.

And in the RDW Concept Store, visitors can find items from both Romanian and international designers. We’re also expanding RDW Talks – last year was all about podcasts, but this time, we’re aiming for face-to-face conversations with creative minds from around the world. And let’s not forget about RDW Design GO!. It’s taking over Bucharest with plenty of events, from exhibitions to workshops to parties – something for everyone to enjoy.

 

Romanian Design Week has evolved significantly over the past decade. As CEO of The Institute, what do you see as the next step or direction for the festival, now that it has surpassed ten years of success?

Our next natural move, after 12 years, is to let RDW take on a life of its own within Bucharest.

What does that mean? It means integrating the festival seamlessly into the city’s cultural and urban fabric, so it becomes a natural part of everyday life without needing us to micromanage.

Our big goal is to see RDW Design GO! grow and flourish even more in the years to come. This format is the big umbrella under which all sorts of events, exhibitions, parties, and product launches happen, organized by new and old faces alike from The Institute community.

 

This year’s RDW Exhibition received an impressive number of entries across various design categories. Could you shed some light on what sets apart the projects chosen for this year’s showcase?

In general, the projects showcased at RDW Exhibition represent the best and most visionary demonstrations of design and architecture of Romania from the past year. We don’t just say this ourselves – we always have a Creative Board made up of experts and, to put it modestly, some of the most important creative minds of our time, who help with the selection process. This year, we were fortunate to have Romanian and international curatorial teams contribute to curating a selection of over 200 projects for Bucharest residents to see.

Furthermore, to showcase as many examples of best practices as possible, there was a preliminary stage before the curators’ selection: experts from the RDW Community (professionals who themselves exhibited at the festival last year) made an initial selection from the submissions we received. Thus, those who don’t make it directly into the RDW Exhibition will still be promoted through our website, because we want to ensure broad access to what constitutes good design and visionary projects that stand out in the creative industries.

Returning to your question, we’re less focused on common themes among projects, but I can certainly say that there are concerns related to sustainability, innovation, functionality, simplification – all of which, ultimately, are what good design and architecture aim to teach us and showcase.

 

The theme for Romanian Design Week 2024 is „Unlock the City”. How do you envision this theme shaping the festival experience and engaging with the local community in Bucharest?

This year’s theme aims to explore how creativity and innovation can shape the cities of the future and contribute to the discovery of Bucharest’s potential, its creative spaces, and the organizations or cultural projects that animate and define them. „Unlock the City” precisely expresses this idea of openness and exploration of the city.

It also helps us open up a broader discussion about places or areas in Bucharest that, if not unlocked, not only fail to bring prestige to the city or money into the local economy but become black holes, visible cavities in the possibly perfect dentition of a specific area.

On one hand, organizing RDW in forgotten, abandoned, or blocked buildings throughout these years has become an attribute of the project’s brand. On the other hand, our choice of such locations also stems from the fact that this city, a European capital, doesn’t truly have an infrastructure dedicated to these types of projects. And, in the case of the historic monument building CINA, we may be referring to the most valuable square meter of Romania, from a cultural and historical perspective, at the present time.

 

Despite Romanian Design Week’s longstanding presence, what elements or developments in the creative industries landscape continue to surprise or excite you, particularly in the context of this year’s festival?

Looking back, I realize that over these years, we’ve played a part in building what we can now call creative industries. Especially in recent years, I’ve noticed that local and governmental administrations have increasingly understood the role of such projects in a city’s or country’s economy, in city and country branding, in talent retention and attraction, in more involved and satisfied communities, and in revitalizing areas, neighborhoods, or cities.

In recent years, we’ve also seen a more efficient use of budgets from major private sponsors of these types of projects. These budgets, increasingly substantial, are directed towards art, culture, and creativity – towards projects that make our societies and cities better. We’ve also noticed the emergence of objectives and strategies related to these on both public and private agendas, which brings more predictability and collaboration. One of the effects, I believe, is an increase and diversification of an audience interested in quality content.

Last but not least, I think specialists and organizations from the creative industries have more and more work on increasingly valuable and better-paid topics.

The fact that we know we’ve been able to contribute, even if only in a small way, to the evolution of the reality described above – makes me happy and motivates me, along with The Institute team, to keep going and organize RDW 13, 14, 15, and so on.

I believe we still have work to do in raising awareness among public authorities about the immense benefits we can have, as a city, from the skilled use of creative industries. It’s understandable, and probably this will be reflected in the theme of the RDW 2025 edition. Probably, the very mindset of a designer, the questions they ask, and the ways they answer them – can significantly unlock a series of current challenges. So, from here, I also draw the conclusion that we need to continue our efforts, collaborate, and continue to offer an experience that shows how creative industries can be better used for the city and society in general. All these things keep me connected and engaged, even after all these years.

 

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Tickets for the Romanian Design Week 2024 festival can be purchased from https://bilete.romaniandesignweek.ro. Students, pupils, and retirees have free access, while UniCredit cardholders with Mastercard receive a 50% discount on ticket purchases, which is applicable during the payment process.

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