The Playmaker
Let's play
  • It's Friday
    What day is it?
  • Now
    What time is it?
  • Anywhere in Melbourne
    Where are you?
  • What do you feel like?
    What do you feel like?
  • And what else?
    And what else?

Six Melbourne Design Week Events That'll Have You Thinking About How We'll Live in the Future

Symposiums, boat rides, exhibitions, and workshops — this year, the annual design festival is chock-full of events that’ll make you think twice about the future of urban living.
By Tom Clift
March 13, 2019

Six Melbourne Design Week Events That'll Have You Thinking About How We'll Live in the Future

Symposiums, boat rides, exhibitions, and workshops — this year, the annual design festival is chock-full of events that’ll make you think twice about the future of urban living.
By Tom Clift
March 13, 2019


Symposiums, boat rides, exhibitions, and workshops — this year, the annual design festival is chock-full of events that’ll make you think twice about the future of urban living.

The design festival kicks off on March 14 and will see creatives from Melbourne and around the world showcase and discuss their ideas which this year focus around the question: how can design shape the future? Now in its third year, Melbourne Design Week has a reputation to live up to – one that only seems to be growing both in scope and ingenuity.

In 2019, its biggest year yet, standout exhibitions, talks, and tours are showing an exciting tilt towards sustainable design while maintaining art-focused exhibitions like the immersive Sensory Experiments. With panels such as Toxic City? Symposium, exhibitions like Welcome to Wasteland, and informative conversations from the Waterfront: Reconnecting with Birrarung series, it's apparent that Melbourne Design Week will drive home the message that design is about much more than what meets the eye — it's laying the groundwork for a promising and sustainable future.

  • 6

    Keen for a relaxing Sunday session at the sauna? Well, this Melbourne Design Week you can do just that — sort of. This weekend, a prototype ‘sauna’ in the shape of a translucent white cabin will pop up at Fairfield Amphitheatre. Atmosphere is 24-hour design experiment that looks at the long-standing social tradition of going to the sauna and how it can have a place in our community. It will see a sauna suspended on an opaque body of water, with misty hot steam filling the floating structure.

    Visitors will be encouraged to enter the sauna and immerse themselves in the space, which will offer a variety of sensory experiences both inside and outside the structure — the program includes performances, soundscapes, tea ceremonies, scented infusions and ‘mindfulness experiences’. Participant interaction with the installation will form the basis for this social research experiment, which will examine how a sauna-like environment can affect the dynamics of a communal space. The experiment hopes to demonstrate a form of public design that enhances shared wellbeing, which the creators see as a potential ‘antidote’ to the heightened anxiety and social isolation of our time. What about the sauna makes it a beneficial community space for so many cultures? That’s what this collaboration between local creative practices Fresh Prince, Collective Futures and Studio RJM hopes to discover. The installation aims to improve communal welfare through the design of shared spaces, starting with this sauna prototype. The exhibition will open in the Fairfield Amphitheatre on Sunday, March 17 from 9am-5pm. All booked sessions have unfortunately sold out, but access to the sauna is open to the public from noon until 1pm and between each scheduled session.

  • 5
    Sensory Experiments

    What do Vue de Monde executive chef Justin James, critically acclaimed floral artist Hattie Malloy, and the structural engineering team behind the Sydney Opera House have in common? They all collaborated on Sensory Experiments, an astounding, ambitious, one-of-a-kind social experiment-performance art cross that’s guaranteed to challenge your mind and engage every one of your senses. Billed as both a “manifesto for sensory intelligence” and a “fleshy live experience”, the hyper-immersive work will be open for a single day at the heritage Norla Dome in Dockland as part of Melbourne Design Week.

    So what can you expect? Upon entering the silent, cold room, you will be me with an elaborate floral installation specially designed to captivate eye and nose alike. From there, you’ll be led deeper into the installation to taste edible art (petals are on the menu) and witness (and participate in) a series of performances choreographed to soundscapes designed by the team behind the most iconic venue in Australia. It’s set to be a real journey — so come prepared.

  • 4

    Join some of the brightest minds in science, design and architecture as they tackle arguably the most important question facing humanity today. As the global population creeps towards 9 billion and global temperatures reach a tipping point, cleaner, more resilient cities could hold the key to our salvation. But only if we’re willing to build them that way.

    This high energy symposium, co-presented by Melbourne Design Week and The New York Times, will be chaired by Craig Reucassel of The Chaser and War on Waste, and will feature Breathe Architecture director Bonnie Herring, Finding Infinity founder Ross Harding, University of Newcastle professor Sue Anne Ware, and environmental activist Joost Bakker. It will also include an interactive keynote address by Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde about the social role of art and design.

  • 3

    In 2019, Melbourne Design Week is celebrating the city’s closest thing it has to an iconic feature with a program of tours, talks and exhibitions centred around our relationship with the Birrarung — that is, the Yarra River. Take a bike ride along the river banks, explore the Wonthaggi desalination plant, or take a boat tour of the river’s most beloved swimming spots. Yes, people actually used to swim in the Yarra.

    Other events on the Waterfronts program include Undercurrent, a solo exhibition by Bangerang artist Peta Clancy featuring a series of sobering photographic works created in collaboration with the Dja Dja Wurrung community that highlight hidden massacre sights along the Yarra’s banks, as well as Commuter Afloat, a talk on the benefits of water-based transit held right on the water. For the full Waterfronts program, go here. Events are booking out fast, so make sure you get in quick.

  • 2
    Design on Film

    This week, Melbourne Design Week presents Design on Film, a unique program of documentaries exploring the world of design and architecture. Curated by veteran programmer Richard Sowada with screenings at ACMI in Federation Square as well as The Lido in Hawthorn and The Classic in Belgrave, this festival within a festival will showcase 13 flicks — including one screening in Australia for the very first time — about everything from sustainability in design to a historic mission to build a city from scratch.

    Among the highlights on the Design on Film program are Watermark, an experimental essay film about humanity’s relationship with water; In Between the Mountains and the Oceans, which tells the story of the once in a generation rebuilding of Japan’s holiest Shinto shrine; and Homo Sapiens, a ‘sci-fi documentary’ that imagines a world without humans in which our built environments are slowly reclaimed by nature.

  • 1

    Peer through a portal and experience a whole new perspective with this immersive exhibition at NGV Australia. Located in the gallery’s Federation Square foyer, this unique piece consists of five distinct works ranging from film to hand-blown glass sculpture, all housed in an intriguing architectural creation of timber and steel.

    Visitors make their way around the structure, peering at each work through one of five seperate portals. Each portal shaping the visitor’s experience in entirely new ways, as the act of viewing becomes warped and reflected by everything from mirrors to a long timber cantilever reminiscent of a Venetian mask. A collaboration between John Wardle Architects, filmmakers Coco and Maximilian and New York based Australian artist Natasha Johns-Messenger, Somewhere Other was first shown at the 16th International Architecture Biennale of Venice, and now makes its way to Melbourne as part of the third annual Melbourne Design Week.


Top image: Somewhere Other, shot by Tom Ross.  Words: Tom Clift, Georgia Hough and Marissa Ciampi. 

  •   shares
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x