BAM believes that Copying is OK, because copying can only have two results and both results have benefits. In one scenario the copy is not as good as the original. In this case the author or creator of the original is still ‘the best’ product or idea. There is certainly a sense of pride which comes from copy-cats not being able to best the original. However, in some cases a copy may actually surpass the original. The copy took an idea or a product, and through copying it, improved upon it, and made it better. When this occurs, the author of the copied item or idea does not benefit, but the greater public does. This is how ideas advance in both art and technology. Both outcomes of Copying are essentially good.
Bottom of Form
Only through the lens of deranged laissez-faire corporate capitalism is copying perceived as BAD. The logic continues that, people won’t create or innovate if they know their ideas will be stolen. This seems to fundamentally ignore the human and animal impulse to compete. It seems ridiculous to think that if one to were arrive at an idea first, that said individual or company is entitled to the idea indefinitely, being protected and insulated from the march of progress, while financially benefiting from keeping others trying the same idea.
For BAM, copying can only be good. When we get copied, there is an unavoidable twinge of anger, but in most cases, it is pure comedy. BAM has had a few projects copied HARD. In China this of course is common. The term Shanzhai, has a hint of comedy, in which a copy is somehow hilariously bad, to the point at which one questions why even attempt it. The first time BAM was copied was the ‘playground that started it all’ in Beijing for Swire in Jiuxianqiao.
This project was really one of the first internet-famous designed playgrounds in China, starting a new wave of play environments. Almost immediately it was copied elsewhere in Beijing. Many of the details where copied exactly, however, the overall proportions of the project seemed to allude the designers of the copy. This malformed version of BAM’s design only served to provide us, not only with pride, but a hilarious moment of WTF?! In this case a fairly ‘no-name’ local design institute was obviously prompted by a fairly ‘no-name’ developer to copy (but smaller and cheaper) BAM’s design.
Recently BAM was copied again, and yet again the miniaturization and deformation of the proportional system of BAM’s design is akin to the feeling of farting, but then realizing it was more than just air. While BAM still maintains that copying is ok, this time some of the conditions are different. The design firm which has copied BAM’s work presents itself as an up and coming design firm, with a host of well known Chinese real estate developers such as Aranya, among others.
Developers show no shame in attempting to copy each other’s ideas in a seemingly endless competition of polite-modern, faux-minimal, one-upmanship to garner attention from the conformist trend-hunting sensibilities of a rising middle class. In this world of constant regurgitation, it is the job of the designer to find ways of taking ideas and making them anew. However not here. It is one thing for a local design institute to blatantly copy another’s design at the behest of a developer, yet, it seems to be something entirely different when a company which espouses to be a ‘design firm’ engages in such ridiculous methods. Not only was BAM’s work copied, but it also appears there is a copy of an art installation by artist Yang Tao, the original was in Beijing at the Parkview Green Fangcaodi.
Being copied again, simply reaffirms us at BAM, that copying is STILL OK. As is shown by copy projects there can only be one of two results, either the copy is better than the original, in which case, congratulations are to be given to the copying firm, or the Original still reigns supreme, which is most certainly the case here, in which case… Congratulations BAM! We must thank the copying firm for showing us yet again that “COPYING IS OK!”
Text: Jacob Schwartz Walker | BAM Founding Partner
Images: Courtesy of BAM