The National Gallery of Victoria unveils its second Triennial, with a programme featuring over 100 artists and designers from 30 countries. Offering a thought-provoking view of this unique global moment, the Triennial will touch upon themes of artificial intelligence, sustainability, ecology, and diversity in the arts.

As part of the Triennial’s exhibitions and commissions, a group of global designers have been rethinking human-centric design, developing new ways of creating and harvesting materials, and made encouraging steps towards a radical re-think of our production methods and a more sustainable design.

Erez Nevi Pana

Sustainable Design and material research by Erez Nevi Pana
Erez Nevi Pana Crystalline at NGV Triennial Melbourne
Top: Erez Nevi Pana’s material research. Above: Installation view of Crystalline 2020 on display in NGV Triennial 2020 , Melbourne.
 Photography by Sean Fennessy

Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana’s work explores how natural materials can develop into design and architectural compositions, in particular focusing on salt accumulated in the Dead Sea. Titled Crystalline 2020, his project is one of the world’s first commissions of salt-based architecture: representing a journey from sea to land, it consists of four structural elements – a ladder, boulder, some steps and a walkway – assembled into an imaginary and symbolic architecture. The elements were created through a series of techniques developed by Nevi Pana over the years, including underwater crystal growth, melting, and merging salt and clay. Nevi Pana’s work intends to offer a new perspective on how salt-based architecture could be applied to create more sustainable housing and public infrastructure. 

Pirjo Haikola

Pirjo Haikola Urchin Corals at NGV Triennial Melbourne
Installation view of Pirjo Haikola’s Urchin Corals, on display in Melbourne as part of the NGV Triennial. Photography by Sean Fennessy

Through her work, Finnish-born Pirjo Haikola aims to ‘expand the role and agency of design’, combining her expertise as a designer, researcher and scuba instructor. These apparently different worlds collide in her work, and her project Urchin Corals is a fitting example of her creative thinking. The project is defined by a landscape of 3D-printed structures, created from a new material made of sea urchin shells and spikes. Because seaweed competes with corals in reef restoration projects, this new material, Haikola explains, has proven to offer an advantage to coral, resulting in measurable reductions in the growth of seaweed underwater. Her material is currently going through a testing process for wider coral restorations applications. 

Elliot Bastianon

Australian designer Elliot Bastianon’s work explores the relationship between science, nature and everyday objects and places. Growth Sites is an ongoing research project on ordinary chemicals and materials, which the designer uses to create domestic furniture and objects. These pieces, he notes, are part of a ‘speculative design project that looks to systems and processes found in nature to communicate ideas of order, disorder and entropy.’ Bastianon’s design process includes sumberging steel and concrete into a copper sulphate bath, to encourage the creation of distinctive blue crystal growths. Making the objects impractical to use, the addition of the crystal is a reminder of nature’s ability to colonise, adapt and create and an encouragement to re-think the relationship between humans and natural systems. 

Talin Hazbar

Syria-born Talin Hazbar grew her project, Accretions, in the waters off the coast of Dubai. Through her work, the designer traditionally challenges common notions of nature and its systems, and Accretions builds on this theme. The designers’ ongoing research into ocean life resulted in a collaboration with the sea, using its common calcium accumulation and accretion. To create her pieces, Hazbar submerges hand-forged steel armatures into water, thus encouraging the growth of molluscs, crustaceans and corals onto the netted structures. The results are often surprising: ‘I start questioning the idea of control vs. uncontrolled processes. Where we try to control the process and be conscious of what we want to achieve but always reach a certain state where things naturally fall, and take a different path. Natural behaviour takes over and controls what we initially wanted to control,’ she says. §