How can design shape the future? Over ten days, Melbourne Design Week 2019 (14-24 March) addresses how experimentation with new materials and disruptive approaches can improve the urban environment and sharpen our social consciousness.
The National Gallery of Victoria forms the event hub, where ‘visitors will have the opportunity to experience pioneering design concepts, hear from world-leading experts and encounter cutting-edge technologies that will help us all consider new and innovative possibilities for the future,’ explains its director, Tony Ellwood AM. Presenting its largest program to date, the expanding state-wide festival includes 47 exhibitions, 16 film screenings, 81 talks, 33 tours and 18 workshops.
Curated by Guy Keulemans, ‘Designwork #3: The Supply Chain’ at Sophie Gannon Gallery challenges leading Australian designers including Henry Wilson and Elliat Rich to address the value of rejected prototypes, and how industrial supply chains are effected by labour offences, environmental crimes and sovereignty. Here, paper artist Benja Harney turns offcuts into furniture, questioning how we can consider waste as a resource, while Luca Lettereiti uses his body as a material to ensure proprietary of the end product.
Showcasing the work of some of Australia’s most innovative furniture, lighting and product designers is exhibition ‘Material Thought’, held within Modern Times, a furniture showroom in Fitzroy. The display counteracts the simplistic and implied categorisation of materials – sustainable/unsustainable, natural/synthetic, handmade/factory-made, recycled/new – providing a platform that critically engages with material, form and use.
Within the store windows of the ethical clothing label ELK, ceramicist and lighting designer Claire Lehmann realises two connecting shapes from bone china – one black, one opaque. Her designs (influenced by plumbing, air-conditioning, heating and wiring) convey the delicate strength of industrial design, challenging the aesthetics of domestic conventions.
While innovation is a key motivator for designers, the program also explores the benefits of reflecting on past movements. ‘New Haus: 72 Hours’, presented by art and design school LCI Melbourne, showcases furniture, weaving, screen prints, graphic and typography design created during a 72-hour intensive workshop (which visitors can observe). Inspired by the centenary of the influential Bauhaus movement, they devise futuristic adaptations of its successful models.
New York-based architectural practice SO-IL, who recently announced their collaboration with Hassell to redesign Melbourne’s arts precinct public spaces (between the NGV, Arts Centre and Southbank), re-contextualise over 50 porcelain objects from the NGV’s Decorative Arts collection. Activating a dialogue between the relevance of the past and contemporary design, they are displayed in geometric vitrines made from coloured dichroic acrylic. ‘It’s about a transition from object to experience, and the power of architecture to act as a mediator in that process,’ explains SO-IL’s co-founder, Jing Liu.
Elsewhere, The Ian Potter Museum presents the first major survey of the renowned Australian sculptor Clement Meadmore’s early career as a furniture and lighting designer. Part of a new wave of Australian design in the 1950s, it eschewed the heaviness of traditional furniture in favour of streamlined forms, new materials and inventive manufacturing.
Melbourne Design Week is on view 14 – 24 March. For more information, visit the website
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