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Ten Things to Learn, See and Do During the First Ever Melbourne Design Week

Explore 'fake' design, queer architecture, virtual reality and killer whale chairs.

Architecture and design lovers, take note — Melbourne Design Week's inaugural program launches this week. Held at the National Gallery of Victoria and selected venues across Melbourne, the ten-day creative extravaganza runs from March 16–26 and features talks from leading local and international designers, as well as a slew of tours, exhibitions, workshops and industry events. Broadly exploring the theme of 'design values', the 2017 event will investigate the question: What does design value and how do we value design?

With dozens of events to choose from, we've picked out ten of the best to help get you out and explore what's on offer at Melbourne Design Week.

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Porky Hefer: Fiona Blackfish (2015)

GAPE AT THIS KILLER WHALE CHAIR

While chairs are often overlooked as ordinary objects in our homes, Creating the Contemporary Chair argues the chair is a focal point for the evolution of design vernacular — and that it even symbolises an object's ability to express ideas. Having fixated designers for decades, the exhibition will present 35 provocative designs from 1980 to 2016. The exhibition has been in development for two years and includes several prominent international designers such as Jacopo Foggini, Helen Kontouris, gt2p and Porky Hefer, who designed this killer whale piece. It will be on show at NGV International from Friday, March 17.

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CREATE YOUR OWN CITY SOUNDSCAPE

Global engineering firm Arup work with soundscapes to improve the melodies resonating inside theatres and concert halls, as well as to reduce the noise that emanates from infrastructure such as airports and stadiums. The Design a City Soundscape event for Melbourne Design Week will see the Arup acoustic design team host a soundscaping workshop in their SoundLab, which is a dedicated space in their East Melbourne office for listening to 'auralisations' (that is, sound simulations of real-world places). Participants will be able to use Arup's own library of sounds and recordings to produce soundscapes, which will later form the basis of discussion on the importance of acoustic design. Multiple free sessions will be held on Sunday, March 19. Make a booking for this one.

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Haven't You Always Wanted..? 2016 NGV Architecture Commission, shot by Sean Fennessey

DESIGN YOUR OWN PAVILION WITH VIRTUAL REALITY

Redesign the 2016 NGV Architecture Commission by M@STUDIO Architects with the help of virtual reality. Situated in the NGV's Grollo Equiset Garden, the acclaimed pavilion takes the form of a light-hearted reinterpretation of the humble carwash. A collaboration by RMIT's Centre for Game Design Research, M@STUDIO Architects and d__Lab RMIT, If Only… allows you to give the pavilion a fresh coat of paint, while also letting you remodel the surfaces and materials used throughout the original design. The pavilion (which you can visit until April 17) is an exact replica of a 23-metre car wash in the eastern suburb of Blackburn and was designed to highlight the banality of suburban architecture.

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ATTEND A FREE HIGH FASHION PARTY

High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion explores the latest concepts by RMIT fashion designers with their reimaginations of the evolving industry. Utilising archive material on the former Fashion Design Council (1983–93), an organisation dedicated to promoting experimentation fashion design in Australia, the exhibition will transform RMIT Design Hub with a program of presentations, performances, film screenings and exhibitions. The closing party is when you want to be there though. Taking place on Thursday, March 16 from 6pm, the free party will feature D&K's All Or Nothing — a performance that evolves over several hours — alongside sets by local DJs Andras & Lewis Fidock.

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Theodore Treehouse, shot by Peter Bennetts

LEARN ABOUT QUEER SPACES IN ARCHITECTURE

How can workplaces become friendlier for LGBTQIA people? This designer talk sees panellists Simona Castricum, Sophie Drying and Nicole Kalms discuss what represents queer architecture and how it contributes to professional identities and practices. Moderated by academic Naomi Stead, the panel will also discuss what architecture can gain as a profession from valuing the influence of diversity, and how might queerness bring about new design principals and considerations. The event takes place at NGV on Sunday, March 26 from 3pm.

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Hugh Altschwager: REPLICATE THIS

SEE A BUNCH OF (VERY GOOD) FAKES

How do designed objects become valued? 26 Original Fakes explores issues of authenticity, creative practice and the commercial market as 26 contemporary Australian designers reinterpret and create their own 'fake' of a replica Jasper Morrison HAL Wood Chair. Curated by Friends & Associates (a collaboration between designers Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan to bring local designers closer together through partnerships), the exhibition features prominent designers such as Studio Edwards, Adam Goodrum, Jon Goulder and Fiona Lynch. The exhibition takes place at Watchmaker, Melbourne Design Week's off-site venue on Smith Street by Piccolina Gelateria, and is open daily from 1–7pm.

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TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GUSH ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHS

Hear from some of the very best photographers as the Centre for Contemporary Photography presents What Makes A Great Photograph? The event's five panellists will each be given five minutes to discuss a chosen favourite photograph and explain why it holds significance with them. As part of the NGV's Melbourne Art Book Fair, audience opinion and discussion is highly encouraged. The speakers include leading architecture photographer and artist John Gollings AM, director of prominent photography organisation M.33 Helen Frajman, and curator of the Centre for Contemporary Photography Pippa Milne. What Makes A Great Photograph? will go down at NGV International on Sunday, March 19 at 2pm.

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Ian Wong

LEARN MORE ABOUT AUSTRALIA'S MOST INNOVATIVE DESIGNS

Wi-Fi, ultrasound technology, the legendary Hills Hoist — Australians have been responsible for a long list of revolutionary designs, many of which have impacted the entire globe. Innovators: Australian Design and Innovation celebrates this rich history with 16 digital archives of Australian inventions in an immersive exhibition. Featuring designs such as the bionic ear and polymer bank notes, the exhibition also commemorates iconic designers such as Marc Newson, Susan Cohn, Michael Simcoe and Denton Corker Marshall. The exhibition is being held at Monash University's Clayton campus from March 16–24.

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RMIT's Ngarara Place, shot by Peter Casamento

LEARN ABOUT INDIGENOUS ARCHITECTURE

With many significant Indigenous landmarks dotted throughout the city, this Melbourne Design Week panel discusses Indigenous-led projects and how designers can move further away from collaborative or consultative models. Exploring several high-profile design practices headed by Indigenous Australians, the diverse panel will consider how Indigenous design can be defined and how it might be promoted within the Australian architecture, interior design, town planning and product design communities. The talk takes place at NGV on Friday, March, 24 at 6.30pm.

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EXPLORE TOKYO'S ARCHITECTURE OVER COCKTAILS

Just as the NGV is putting on the first ever Melbourne Design Week, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is presenting Cities of Architecture for the first time this year. The series of talks — which will run monthly until October — will explore the world's most fascinating and beautiful cities. For Melbourne Design Week, director of Fitzroy's NMBW Architecture Studio Marika Neustupny will present a lecture on Tokyo on Monday, March 20. Tickets cost $35 and include a custom-made cocktail to suit the city, designed by the people at the Melbourne Gin Company and Starward Whisky.

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Melbourne Design Week kicks off on Thursday, March 16 and runs until Sunday, March 26. For the full program, visit their website

Published on March 13, 2017 by Hudson Brown

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