A New Normal – Melbourne Design Week 2021
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Words Sofia Echesortu

A New Normal, curated by Finding Infinity and exhibited as part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, invites Melbourne to look into its imminently-possible future as a self-sufficient and waste-free city. Finding Infinity took over the rooftop of 130 Little Collins Street, generously provided by Jeff Xu of Golden Age, in the heart of Melbourne to showcase 15 key projects that would make possible the transformation of the city from a consumer to a producer of energy by 2030, with a strategy that would pay for itself in less than 10 years.

A New Normal brought together 15 of Australia’s leading architects to workshop, prototype and build Melbourne as a self-sufficient city by: electrifying transport and buildings; drastically improving the efficiency of buildings; introducing energy storage and renewable resources; treating and reusing water to create an endless supply; using organic waste as a fuel for heat and power plants; and ending the concept of landfill. Aaron Roberts, Director of Edition Office, describes A New Normal by stating that “all of the proposed initiatives individually are normal. They are currently happening in various cities around the world. But all of them combined in one location, that’s new.”

COVID-19 allowed the team to further refine each initiative and gave them the time to consider the impact A New Normal could have in terms of economic recovery and job generation.

15 of Australia’s leading architects came together to workshop and build prototypesto showcase Melbourne as a self-sufficient city.

A New Normal combines technical solutions with potential cultural connections. Clare Cousins, of Clare Cousins Architects, emphasises this opportunity, saying: “we’re connecting technology with culture – architecture is such a great vessel to achieve this.” This approach changes the human relationship to the built environment, which, in turn, drives the design and implementation of these initiatives by ‘warming up’ the public to the transition while informing politicians of the public support and enabling businesses to provide the solutions. It is an ambition that Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, shares – speaking at the launch event she encouraged the public and private sectors to “build something we can be proud of.”

Ross Harding, Principal of Finding Infinity and curator of A New Normal, explains that COVID-19 allowed the team to further refine each initiative and gave them the time to consider the impact A New Normal could have in terms of economic recovery and job generation. “We worked out it is a $100 billion transformation of Greater Melbourne. It will create a self-sufficient city in less than 10 years; it will pay for itself in less than 10 years, and it will create 80,000 jobs in construction and 40,000 ongoing jobs from there,” he states.

A New Normal works on the premise that culture is the key driver and enabler in empowering communities to invest in solutions.

A New Normal presented carefully curated spaces exemplifying the key technological and cultural initiatives to turn Greater Melbourne from a consumer to a producer of energy.

Crucially, A New Normal draws on technology that already exists, and each initiative has in some way already been implemented elsewhere around the world. This was a deliberate move to ensure that the transformation is not a cost but rather a low-risk investment with a big return, as all initiatives are projected to pay for themselves within 10 years. Openwork’s Founder, Mark Jacques, shares that “these pilot projects are designed to help de-risk the transition for the state government, provide working case studies for the private sector to replicate and make it easy for the general to come along for the ride.”

While A New Normal acknowledges that technology and profitability are vital, the political and individual ‘will’ of people to pursue and invest in these solutions is equally significant. Based on this understanding, A New Normal works on the premise that culture is the key driver and enabler in empowering communities to invest in solutions. The 15 installations exemplify the future of the city, however, the key goal, as Ross states, is to “integrate technology with culture” to get the public involved, invite cross-collaboration between all sectors and accelerate the transition of Greater Melbourne as a self-sufficient city, positioning the city as a global leader in environmental and economic transition. Nick Harding, Founder of Ha, agrees that “the challenge we have ahead requires coming together for something bigger than ourselves, rather than simply fixing short-term problems” and states that this provides “an opportunity to give back to the next generation and every generation after that.”

A New Normal is now seeking $50 million and 15 sites by the end of 2021 to make each pilot project a reality.

A New Normal highlights the need for cross-collaboration between all sectors to accelerate the transition.

Design is at the forefront of the plan to challenge the current models of urban development and adopt practices that merge the technological with the cultural. Alison Potter, Principal of Grimshaw Architects emphasises, “we’re not reinventing the wheel but harnessing the power of good design to create a regenerative future for our city.” A New Normal poses this challenge as an opportunity to rethink how our cities work and how we want to live in them, promoting a sustainable culture in the process.

Ewan McEoin, Senior Curator of NGV Melbourne, highlights that “Melbourne is in the right place at the right time, and we are planning today for the future ahead,” acknowledging Melbourne’s unique position to drive A New Normal’s proposed transition and reiterating Melbourne Design Week 2021 theme “design the world you want.” Redesigning infrastructure to reconnect it with the people by giving technology a feeling, working towards a city that is a producer of its own energy and provides its own resources: these are the ideals that A New Normal not only encourages us to envision but provides viable, costed plans to make them reality. “We can transform our city to run on resources that will never run out, this transition is good business,” says Monique Woodward, Director of WOWOWA.

Following the launch at Melbourne Design Week 2021, A New Normal is now seeking $50 million and 15 sites by the end of 2021 to make each pilot project a reality. “We didn’t want this to be presented as some vision or an idea,” Ross claims. Instead, A New Normal has translated a $100 billion transformation into 15 tangible projects that are currently seeking funds and sites. “In some way, we’re presenting these projects, but they are all for sale,” he says, highlighting that the Melbourne Design Week event on the top of 130 Little Collins Street was not an exhibition, but actually a sales pitch for individuals, the private and public sectors “to unlock the $100 billion transformation” of Greater Melbourne and usher in a new era for the city.

This strategy and implementation plan for the future of Greater Melbourne was prepared by:

Finding Infinity

In collaboration with:

Electrify Architecture by Clare Cousins Architects

Electrify Cars by Grimshaw, Green Shoot Consulting, and Greenway

Welcome to the Valley of The Sun by Ha

New Suburban Street Typology by NMBW

Replace Me by Dreamer

Electrify Trains by Foolscap Studio

Energy Storage by Hassell

Water Unlimited by Openwork

Cathedral of Circularity by Edition Office

Creating Space Through Solar by John Wardle Architects in collaboration with Ash Keating Studio

Organic Waste to Energy Sauna by WOWOWA

Mandatory Energy Efficient Retrofits by Fender Katsalidis

Net Zero Architecture by Kennedy Nolan

Organic Waste Powered Cinema by Six Degrees Architects

New Construction by Fieldwork

Published 10 April, 2021
Photography  Kristoffer Paulsen
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