"Made in China" is a phrase we hear every day; "designed in China," not so much. To explore the growing world of Chinese design, Italian house Alessi asked prominent Chinese architects to create a collection of trays (an Alessi staple) inspired by Chinese culture. "It is designed in China, made in Italy," says CEO Alberto Alessi. These are a few highlights.
(Pictured above): The curvature of Zhang Ke's tray nods to design trends of the Ming Dynasty. Flip it over for a second aesthetic: It stands on its four peaks to create a flat, slightly elevated serving plate. ($575, alessi.com)
 Clouds Root
Chinese academics compare human emotions to the movement of clouds. Wang Shu, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, designed this set to represent the love between a man and a woman. "They meet by chance and approach, leaving a space between each other," he says. ($404, alessi.com)
Liu Jiakun's aluminum tray mimics the ancient bamboo scrolls that were used as writing material before the invention of paper. ($410, alessi.com)
A version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.