San Diego/Tijuana are one of two finalists to be chosen as the International World Design Capital for 2024 – a designation that would bring the region worldwide recognition for its cooperative efforts in the arts and a wide range of projects.
Moscow is the other finalist.
“We are toe-to-toe on the international page with Moscow. That concept is rich with symbolism, given the state of the world and says something about our region that isn’t widely understood,” said Tad Parzen, president and CEO of the Burnham Center for Community Advancement.
“The San Diego/Tijuana region is the best kept secret on the planet and we want to give it the recognition that it deserves,” Parzen said. “We are among the leading innovation centers in the world in arts, technology, science, biotech and health.”
The Burnham Center and the University of California San Diego Design Lab lead a binational team working on the San Diego/Tijuana project.
“We want to raise the narrative of our binational region and the many ways we collaborate,” said Carlos Cristiani, executive director of the project.
A Beautiful Partnership
The competition to be chosen a World Design Capital is hosted by the World Design Organization, headquartered in Montreal.
According to its website, the World Design Organization is a non-governmental organization that promotes industrial design and “its power to enhance economic, social, cultural and environmental quality of life.”
Founded in 1957, the organization has more than 185 member organizations around the world, according to its website.
Just by being chosen a finalist, the San Diego/Tijuana region has gained attention as a model of cross-border collaboration that other nations could emulate.
“This has been a wonderful bringing together of the community on both sides of the border,” Parzen said.
Being chosen also would bring significant economic benefits.
The designation would bring an estimated $800 million in direct spending over the course of 2024, create 46,000 jobs and have an overall economic impact of more than $1 billion, Parzen said.
Parzen compared the contest to the Olympics, adding that San Diego would be the first U.S. city to become a World Design Capital.
Mexico City was chosen a World Design Capital in 2018, but the pairing up of San Diego and Tijuana marks the first time in the competition’s history that there has been a binational entry, Parzen said.
“This is a beautiful partnership,” Parzen said.
San Diego/Tijuana adopted HOME as the acronym describing its entry.
As described on its website, “HOME stands for the set of values the shape our design approach and enable us to seize extraordinary opportunities – Human-centered, Open, Multidisciplinary/Multicultural, and Experimental.”
The focus is on human centered design, a somewhat amorphous term that roughly defined means design that takes into account the effect something has on people.
That can be something as simple as a jar that’s easy to open or something as complex as immigration policy.
Practical San Diego/Tijuana examples cited by Parzen include Cross Border Xpress, the cross-border pedestrian bridge to Tijuana International Airport, and maquiladoras that manufacture goods in Mexico for distribution in the U.S.
“HOMES 2024 is built on a theme which is we are home to a lot of amazing things,” said Michele Morris, president of Design Forward Alliance.
Initiated by the Design Lab at UC San Diego in 2016, the Design Forward Alliance is a non-profit organization that promotes design-driven innovation in business, education, and government.
“We can showcase from the ceremonial side of this lots of things from the military to biotech to the border. We’ve got amazing culinary, arts and culture,” Morris said. “We’re going to showcase all the things we’re great at.”
At the same time, Morris said the region is “not afraid to talk about what HOMES means that’s missing – homelessness, migration, immigration, hours to cross borders.”
“We feel like we’re a living lab in many ways for what the world’s facing,” Morris said. “This is about showing the world that we are more than just a border or two border cities. We are one regional home to seven million people who are more alike than they are different and who partner in many incredible and groundbreaking ways.”