Design & Style

What should you see at Melbourne Design Week in 2020?

26 February 2020

Design & Style

What should you see at Melbourne Design Week in 2020?

26 February 2020

This year the Melbourne Design Week program invites visitors to reflect on the theme ‘How does design shape life?’ Image: Supplied.

Melbourne Design Week is almost upon us, and this year's program is the biggest yet. From March 12 to March 22, design fans will converge on Melbourne and regional centres such as Bendigo and Geelong for the National Gallery of Victoria’s international design festival. There will be over 300 events on the theme 'How does design shape life?'

"This year Melbourne Design Week will challenge and inspire us to reflect on the power of design to shape our city, and also the world at large," NGV Director Tony Ellwood AM announced at the program launch. "The 2020 program is built around five thematic pillars – waste, design cultures, design evolution, healthy cities and waterfront – which explore how designers are solving some of the world's urgent challenges."

The stellar line-up features talks, tours and exhibitions from environmental engineers, architects, social entrepreneurs, authors, jewellery designers and more. With the help of NGV curators Timothy Moore, Ewan McEoin and Simone LeAmon, we’ve compiled a list of highlights that will help you navigate the very best of the program.

Deep Dive: Sea Urchin Snorkel Tour

In 2019, Open House Melbourne led a series of Waterfront-themed events that looked at our relationship with the Yarra River. In 2020, this part of the program has expanded to include the bays and oceans that surround Melbourne.

One of its most exciting events is a free snorkelling tour of Port Phillip Bay with designer Dr Pirjo Haikola on Saturday March 14. Dr Haikola will show you how sea urchins, which are reproducing at an alarming rate due to the changing ocean temperature, are destroying the region’s marine ecosystem.

"This is your opportunity to get underwater and take a look at the issue firsthand,” says curator Moore. “You’ll then get to talk about possible solutions, like how we might be able to innovate with food.”

Francis Kéré: Architecture Shapes Life

Internationally renowned architect Francis Kéré – who designed this primary school in his hometown of Gando – will share his vision for a future Africa. Image: Supplied.

African-born architect Francis Kéré, who is renowned for his sustainable building designs around the world, will present a talk about how architecture shapes life. Kéré, who is based in Berlin, has focused most of his career on designing spaces in Africa that are produced in collaboration with the local community and respect traditional culture.

On Tuesday March 17, he will talk about how this approach to architecture could shape the future of Africa, and how it could apply to Australian design.

Bas van Abel: Dark Matter

In this eye-opening keynote on Wednesday March 18, Dutch social entrepreneur Bas van Abel will consider the origin of every material that goes into the production of a mobile phone, and the impact this is having on the world.  

Social entrepreneur Bas van Abel will talk about how design can help businesses become more sustainable. Image: Supplied.

Through his company, Fairphone, the fastest-growing tech start-up in Europe, van Abel develops ethically-produced smartphones. He will draw on that experience to talk about how brands “can use design innovations to become successful, while solving ecological and social problems at the same time,” says McEoin.

Ellen Broad: Artificial Intelligence | Made by Humans

There's no doubt automation makes our lives easier, but as artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in society, some ethical questions start to arise. To start with, who designs AI systems, and who gets to decide their influence?

On Thursday March 19, Ellen Broad, the author of Made by Humans: The AI Condition, will deliver what promises to be a fascinating keynote lecture on the moral dilemmas that designers face when crafting artificial intelligence systems.

Cassie Leatham Exhibition

If there is one exhibition you visit during Melbourne Design Week this year, make it this one. Taungurung/Wurundjeri artist Cassie Leatham will be displaying her new contemporary jewellery collection, Spirit Within, at the NGV Design Studio daily during the festival.

Leatham is based on Boisdale, only an hour west of bushfire-affected East Gippsland, and her collection incorporates natural materials that she has gathered from the region over the last few months, such as feathers, gumnuts and seeds.

“This collection brings added significance to Melbourne Design Week, because of course it reminds us that our country is burning,” says the event’s curator LeAmon.

Melbourne Design Week Award

Over the 11 days of the festival, the NGV’s curators will be on the hunt for the designer who has best captured the theme, 'How can design shape life?'

The winner will receive the inaugural Melbourne Design Week Award, which will be presented at Mercedes me Store Melbourne on Thursday March 20.

Make sure you head along, because this will be a chance to connect with other festivalgoers and reflect on the inspiring design solutions that have been shared throughout Melbourne Design Week.

Mercedes me Store Melbourne will also be a satellite event during the festival: The Shape of Things to Come (on Thursday March 19), a panel discussion about how experimental design can bring together the arts, biology and science. Book your tickets now to avoid missing out.

By Emily Tatti