A Force to be Reckoned With – Melbourne Design Week In Review

Relatively Useful presented by Heide, Museum of Modern Art; John Wardle & Simon Lloyd, during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Pier Carthew

Across 11 days in March, Melbourne Design Week hummed through the state of Victoria with over 350 talks, tours, exhibitions, launches, installations and workshops at galleries, design studios, libraries, showrooms, public spaces and more. Sometimes interactive and always thought-provoking, the extensive program of events showcased work of all scales by local and international designers seeking to consider the world we live in and how we can sculpt our future through design.

“Melbourne Design Week refers to design in its expanded sense,” explains Co-curator Timothy Moore, who works closely with the National Gallery of Victoria’s Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture team – comprised of Ewan McEoin, Simone LeAmon and Myf Doughty – in bringing the event to life. “It covers a broad spectrum of disciplines – from object, industrial and product design to architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture and digital design.” He adds, “of course there’s work that’s comfortable within the art context, but I do find that designers bring a different line of enquiry, a diverse precedence, and a fresh set of tools to an issue.” This act of confronting and exploring cultural, social and economic issues through art and design lies at the very heart of Melbourne Design Week, with each year’s overarching theme intended to guide those lines of enquiry.

Relatively Useful presented by Heide, Museum of Modern Art; John Wardle & Simon Lloyd, during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Pier Carthew
Relatively Useful presented by Heide, Museum of Modern Art; John Wardle & Simon Lloyd, during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Pier Carthew

Melbourne Design Week refers to design in its expanded sense,” explains co-curator Timothy Moore. “It covers a broad spectrum of disciplines – from object, industrial and product design, to architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture and digital design.”

Installation view of Chairity by Cult Design, during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Cathy Marshall.
Installation view of Chairity by Cult Design, during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Cathy Marshall.

This year’s theme – ‘design the world you want’ – proved particularly pertinent at a time of significant climate, social and economic injustices. Separated into two pillars ‘Civic Good’ and ‘Making Good’, it asked artists and designers to conceptually consider the future and to find ways to intervene with various challenges of our time. “We were interested in a call to action,” Timothy says of the theme. “For example, don’t wait for the phone to ring; for the government to catch up; for your organisation to change tack; or for your client to make that request, because you’ll be waiting a long time. It’s really asking designers to not only solve problems but to also speculate on possible futures as well – that’s what I see with a lot of work in Design Week.”

Up to Us, which exhibited at Le Space Gallery in Collingwood, strongly encapsulated this theme. The exhibition invited 22 Australian women designers to come together and create a response to female-centred problems, considering the question, ‘what if it is up to us?’. Spanning lighting design, sound installation and more, Up to Us was a thought-provoking showcase of work that encouraged critical thinking surrounding equality and design’s role in achieving it. Similarly compelling in its offering, Holding Space, a series of conversations presented by Agency Projects, provided a platform for education and discussion around the ingenuity of Indigenous design. Conceived to promote and elevate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge in the world of contemporary design, these events sparked conversation and celebrated Indigenous creative practices.

Installation view of BARBERA STUDIO 2022 BCE – 2022 CE presented by Barbera studio as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of BARBERA STUDIO 2022 BCE – 2022 CE presented by Barbera studio as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of BARBERA STUDIO 2022 BCE – 2022 CE presented by Barbera studio as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Work by Kennedy Nolan in collaboration with Amanda Oliver, on display at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

“We were interested in a call to action,” Timothy says of the theme. “For example, don’t wait for the phone to ring; for the Government to catch up; for your organisation to change tack; or for your client to make that request, because you’ll be waiting a long time.”

Work by Khai Liew, on display at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Work by Pascale Gomes-McNabb, on display at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy. Work by Edition Office in collaboration with Alexi Freeman, on display at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Alongside his role as Co-curator of Melbourne Design Week, Timothy is also Director of Sibling Architecture and a lecturer of architecture at Monash University. As such, he naturally gravitated towards events and exhibitions related to the built environment. “There were a lot of projects looking at buildings that make people feel part of a community,” he reflets, citing two talks presented at MPavilion, Designing the Nightclub and The Design of the Salon, as clever formats for considering architecture’s role in creating a sense of place and belonging. Sophie Dyring, Director of Schored Projects, and Samantha Donnelly, PhD Candidate in the XYX Lab at Monash University, launched their book A Design Guide for Older Women’s Housing, bringing the topic of rapidly increasing homelessness in women aged over 45 to the forefront with a constructive, research-based presentation. Reflecting on the extent of issues explored at various events, Timothy says “these are all huge ethical and moral questions, and I feel that as leaders in the creative and design industries, they’re things we need to be interested in, engaging with, and taking on.”

Many of the events and exhibitions explored environmental concerns from compelling perspectives. “We can talk speculatively about these ideas, but it’s important to have tangible examples,” Timothy notes. He adds, “there were lots of exhibitions within ‘Making Good’ looking at material practice and reusing environmentally conscious materials, for example Jessie French’s use of bioplastic algae for Craft Victoria.” Also within this realm was Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda at Villa Alba Museum with artwork and sculpture curated by Otomys. Marlo Lyda’s capsule collection of tables crafted from stone offcuts were elegant examples of discarded materials with newfound purpose, and Álvaro Catalán de Ocón’s rugs made from recycled plastic debris depicted aerial images of the planet’s most polluted rivers.

Installation view of Modern Times presenting works by Ashley Corbett-Smith of Corbet, Ash Fischer of Fischinc, Zachary Frankel, Emily Hamann of Ignem Terrae Ceramics, James Howe, Nicole Lawrence, Dean Norton, Ebony Russell, Kenny Yong-soo Son, Bettina Willner, Henry Wilson of Studio Henry Wilson, Steven John Clark of denHolm on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of Craft Victoria presenting works by Jessie French, Anastasia la Fey, Vanessa Lucas, Jessica Murtagh, Yoko Ozawa, Caro Pattle, Owen Rye, Kenny (Yong-soo) Son of Studiokyss, Belle Thierry, Danielle Thiris, Dean Toepfer, Lisa Waup, and Misseu on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of Design Tasmania presenting works by Laura McCusker, Brodie Neill, Scott van Tuil, Jane Bamford, Lillian Wheatley and Belinda Winkler on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of design works on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Reflecting on the extent of issues explored at various events, Timothy says “these are all huge ethical and moral questions, and I feel that as leaders in the creative and design industries, they’re things we need to be interested in, engaging with, and taking on.”

Installation view of design works on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of design works on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Melbourne Design Week 2022 also heralded the inaugural Melbourne Design Fair, bringing together emerging and established local designers to celebrate innovation and investment in quality, collectible design. The brilliant showcase featured two exhibitions – PRESENT and SELECT – the former encompassing presentations from thirteen of Australia’s leading commercial galleries, design organisations, agencies and studios, the latter showcasing pieces from over 35 Australian designers curated by NGV’s Hugh Williamson Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture, Simone LeAmon.

Among other highlights, Cult’s Chairity Project returned for its fourth edition, with 18 creatives from a cross-section of industrial design, architecture, interiors, art, scent, ceramics and graphic design reimagining HAY’s iconic Result Chair. Volker Haug Studio hosted After Hours for the second year, showcasing creations by designers exploring artistic projects outside of their primary work. Marsha Golemac’s Light the World You Want at VBO Australia illustrated the Viabizzuno lighting philosophies through collaboration with local creatives; Stylecraft presented the Australian Furniture Design Award, featuring the work of shortlisted finalists Ashley Eriksmoen, Chris Connell, Elliot Bastianon, Danielle Brustman Studio and Trent Jansen; and John Wardle and Simon Lloyd presented a survey of works in timber and ceramic at Heide Museum of Modern Art titled Relatively Useful. Friends & Associates presented Self Portrait featuring 22 self portraits by Australian creatives. Encouraged to consider their personal and professional selves, this concept cleverly inspired both self-reflection and forward thinking from participants and visitors alike.

Beci Orpin & Ella Reweti, ‘Hear, hear’, On display at Up to Us presented by Sally Piskuric & Alison Lasek during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Ying Ang.
Evi O. HERS. On display at Up to Us presented by Sally Piskuric & Alison Lasek During Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Ying Ang. Kate Stokes & Amanda Dziedzic, Andromeda. On display at Up to Us presented by Sally Piskuric & Alison Lasek during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Ying Ang.
Jo Hook & Adele Winteridge. Making the invisible VISIBLE. On display at Up to Us presented by Sally Piskuric & Alison Lasek during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Ying Ang.
Installation view of ‘Self Portrait’ presented by Friends and Associates during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Work by John Goulder and Makiko Ryujin on display at ‘Self Portrait’ presented by Friends and Associates during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy

The annual Melbourne Art Book Fair once again proved its relevance and substance from the NGV’s Great Hall, with in-person stallholders selling publications, launching books and engaging with the industry through print. Satellite events also took place at bookshops, libraries, community centres, rooftops, public gardens, design studios and more across metro Melbourne and regional Victoria. Among the many events and exhibitions, Timothy says it has been particularly enriching to have increased involvement from showrooms and brands in Melbourne, as well as strong programs in parts of regional Victoria including Castlemaine, Ballarat and the Gippsland area.

Timothy believes that “designers are amazing people who solve problems on all scales – from the scale of the balustrade or door handle to the scale of the city or the world.” Considering the exceptional breadth of designers whose work collectively formed the Melbourne Design Week program, it is well placed to proceed as an event that not only celebrates the cultural and aesthetic value of design but one that acts as a larger enquiry into social, economic, and environmental concerns – presenting innovative and creative solutions to such issues in the process.

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Marlo Lyda at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Innate 2.0 Dining and Bedside tables by Jon Goulder. Artwork on the wall by Sofia Szilagyi represented by Otomys Gallery Melbourne. On display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Greg Penn curated by Otomys and Ton Tall lamp by Fiona Lynch in collaboration with Volker Haug Studio on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy
Greg Penn sculpture curated by Otomys on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Greg Penn sculpture curated by Otomys on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Broached Commissions on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Broached Commissions on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Álvaro Catalán de Ocón’s, Plastic Rivers Rug on display at Futures Collective presented by Spence & Lyda during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Installation view of Danielle Brustman’s Meteorite on display in the Australian Furniture Design Award presented by NGV and Stylecraft during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Tobias Titz.
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Relatively Useful presented by Heide, Museum of Modern Art; John Wardle & Simon Lloyd, during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Pier Carthew
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Installation view of Chairity by Cult Design, during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Cathy Marshall.
Installation view of Chairity by Cult Design, during Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Cathy Marshall.
Installation view of BARBERA STUDIO 2022 BCE – 2022 CE presented by Barbera studio as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022 from 17-27 March 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Work by Anna Varendorff for ACV, on display at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of work at ‘After Hours’ presented by Volker Haug during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of Broached Commissions presenting works by Broached Commissions and Trent Jansen on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of Jam Factory presenting works by Connie Augoustinos, Clare Belfrage, Selinda Davidson, Liam Fleming, Susan Frost, Calum Hurley, Duncan Young, Noah Hartley, Ayano Yoshizumi and Duncan Young on display at Melbourne Design Fair from 16 – 20 March, presented by NGV in collaboration with Melbourne Art Foundation during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
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Crystal Fong & Lily Gloria. If you’re______________and you know it, clap your hands. On display at Up to Us presented by Sally Piskuric & Alison Lasek during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Ying Ang.
Works by Anna Varendorff for ACT Studio, and Elliat Rich on display at ‘Self Portrait’ presented by Friends and Associates during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy
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Work by Steve John Clark, on display at ‘Self Portrait’ presented by Friends and Associates during Melbourne Design Week 2022. Photo: Sean Fennessy.