DESIGN Canberra has announced highlights for the 2020 program that will take over the nation’s capital from 9-29 November. The festival celebrates Canberra as a global city of design and a living design laboratory, and this year’s centrepiece is a major site-specific installation by Australian multidisciplinary artist Hannah Quinlivan. Returning for its seventh year, the fast growing annual three-week festival will present more than 200 events including exhibitions; talks by industry leaders such as acclaimed architect Michael Dysart, leading social commentator and business analyst Bernard Salt and internationally renowned glass maker Kirstie Rea; tours and unique access to architectural gems including the iconic Shine Dome, a film festival, workshops and the popular program of artist open studios.

With humanity facing unprecedented challenges including climate change and a global health pandemic, DESIGN Canberra’s 2020 theme of ‘Care’ is intensely relevant. The curated program will explore this central theme and celebrate the ways that care and caring is valuable and vital during these challenging times.

CEO of Craft ACT: Craft & Design Centre, and Artistic Director of DESIGN Canberra, Rachael Coghlan said“We are delighted to present a rich tapestry of events that explore contemporary design across multiple decades and disciplines. DESIGN Canberra 2020 has been curated in response to these challenging times to create a space to value artists and creative industries, to connect with community, and embrace unprecedented opportunities to rebuild and reimagine a sustainable and more caring way of living.”

A highlight of the 2020 festival will be artist Hannah Quinlivan’s newly commissioned site-specific installation titled Desiderium, a large scale ephemeral 3D spatial drawing that explores the social atmosphere after periods of crisis including Australia’s recent red summer, the subsequent Covid19-induced health and economic crisis, and the fissures they have risen in our communities and collective mood. Building on her previous work Arrhythmia, a collaboration led by Quinlivan at the National Portrait Gallery in 2016, Desiderium features a suspended large-scale light sculpture installed at the City Walk entry to Monaro Mall that forms the centrepiece of a vocal performance by acclaimed classical vocalists as they move through the space.

Artist Hannah Quinlivan commented, “This year has brought the realisation that the slow unravelling of our ecology has gained irreversible momentum. At the same time, the viral outbreak has compelled us to face with sober senses the fragility of our once taken for granted ways of living. After a year of grief and fear, this artwork asks its audience to take time to pause, to listen and hold close our ardent longing for the futures we once possessed but that dissolved into smoke, and to find the fortitude to care for each other through the uncertain future.”

The new Design Revisited event series celebrates outstanding design in Canberra across different disciplines and decades. It offers an informal and entertaining design education with a range of talks and tours by award winning architects and designers exploring iconic architectural landmarks and contemporary design throughout the city. Highlights include:

  • Design Revisited: Michael Dysart

In this talk, acclaimed Australian architect Michael Dysart reflects on Canberra’s experimental housing developments from the 1970s including his key projects Wybalena Grove and Urambi Village. Both are significant ACT outcomes of a rare communal and co-operative approach to medium density living. Dysart explores how these designs came to be, the relationships that emerged from the experience, and what he would do differently if he had the opportunity all over again. An important architect of the second half of the twentieth century in Australia and a leading practitioner of the late twentieth century Sydney regional style of architecture, Dysart is well known for his role in the development of NSW public buildings, notably educational buildings and affordable housing.

  • Shine Dome: Behind the Scenes Tour

A small group architecture tour through rarely accessed areas of the iconic Shine Dome, designed by prominent architect Roy Grounds. This tour illustrates the challenges facing iconic buildings – protecting their legacy, understanding their design, and managing environmental impacts, such as the 2020 hailstorms. Completed in 1959 and reflecting some of the more adventurous architectural ideas of that time, the Shine Dome remains one of the most distinctive buildings in Australia.

  • Architecture Strolls

Visitors can join intimate group tours providing unique access and insight to key mid-century architectural projects throughout Canberra including acclaimed Sydney architect Michael Dysart’s Wybalena Grove (1974-77), internationally renowned architect Harry Seidler’s Edmund Barton Building (1970-74); the suburb of Aranda which features multiple examples of outstanding projects by notable architects such as Ernest Munns, Roger and Anthony Pegrum and  Enrico Taglietti; as well as notable residences in the inner suburb of Campbell designed by architects Theo Bischoff and Neville Ward.

  • Contemporary Architecture: Small Tours

Small group tours of recent award winning contemporary architecture including Lemon Wedge House designed by Sarah Truscott for Philip Leeson Architects (the 2020 Malcolm Moir and Heather Sutherland Award for Residential Architecture’s ACT House of The Year) and recently announced national winner of the 2020 HIA Australian GreenSmart Multi Dwelling Development, The Village by Light House Architecture and Science.

The festival’s This Is Suburbia thread is a timely opportunity to explore Australia’s values for living in the 21st century through a series of talks and exhibitions including:

  • Suburbia’s Time in the Sun: Keynote address by Bernard Salt

In this keynote address, one of Australia’s leading social commentators and business analysts Bernard Salt will explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers and workers to rethink the way of work and reinvigorated the suburbs via the work-from-home social experiment. This live streamed event considers a future where the primacy of the CBD is diminished, and the suburbs emerge as places of energy and opportunity.

  • Davey Barber: This Is Suburbia

This new DESIGN Canberra signature exhibition by Canberra photographer Davey Barber explores what suburbia in the nation’s capital means, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In 2020, DESIGN Canberra will present the inaugural series Two Minutes to Midnight, inviting designers and thought-leaders to engage in deeper conversations about the spaces, places and values we need in order to survive and thrive in a post pandemic world. Hosted by an industry insider and thought leader, each of the three panel discussions will unpack questions and case studies from one of the festival’s core strands:

  • Design revisited

Using the Civic and Cultural Precinct proposal as a case study, this panel discussion will explore how adaptive re-use principles can be implemented to reimagine iconic mid-century buildings and create resilient, sustainable and adaptive places that remain sensitive to their design beginnings but become fit for purpose to serve our contemporary communities for years to come. Speakers include cultural strategist Kate Brennan and architect and academic Annabelle Pegrum.

  • This is Suburbia

This panel discussion considers the uncertainty and opportunity of 2020’s rapid changes in relation to the suburban environment and the role of caring design in future suburban developments as we adapt to a post pandemic world.  Speakers include architect and urbanist Shelley Penn and Green the Street founder, urban designer and place maker Catherine Simpson.

  • Meet The Makers

Arts, culture and creativity are integral to everyday life and provide extensive economic, education, mental health and tourism benefits to local communities. Financial viability in the arts is essential to maximise the ability of artists to develop rigorous and sustainable creative practices, yet the COVID-19 crisis hit the arts hard. This panel discussion looks to find ways to support and sustain the creative community in Canberra, as well as Australia more broadly, in the wake of the global health crisis. Speakers include former NAVA Executive Director Esther Anatolitis, and A New Approach Program Director, Kate Fielding.

In response to the challenges and uncertainties of our time, DESIGN Canberra 2020 will expand opportunities for artists to sell their work, forge marketplace connections, develop new work and build visibility for their craft. The Meet The Makers program features a range of activations and collaborations including the new designer-in-residence commission, the popular open studio events, maker demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and a host of exhibitions showcasing leading contemporary craft and design. Highlights include:

  • Design Revisited: Kirstie Rea

Talk by DESIGN Canberra 2020 Designer in Residence and internationally celebrated, Canberra-based glass maker Kirstie Rea about her practice and new commission responding to the festival’s 2020 theme of care. Composed of her signature glass blankets, balanced in a threshold, Rea’s new work, With care, uses folded glass blankets ‘as a generic symbol for comfort and care, with an obvious fragility and asks us to consider our relationship with concepts of care as we move back into a world altered by the current health crises.

  • Open Studios

Returning in 2020 across three weekends is the incredibly popular Open Studios program that allows the public to visit the studios of Canberra’s best designers and makers, discover the secrets of artistic practice and purchase contemporary handmade ceramics, furniture, textiles, glass and more directly from the artists.

  • Workshops

A series of hands-on workshops with some of Canberra’s leading makers ranging from ceramics and glass through to floristry and Japanese Riso printing.

  • Graphic Interventions

Since 2017, the popular DESIGN Canberra graphic intervention project has transformed our city centre every November. In 2020, the program will be bigger than ever with three new installations across Canberra. A graphic intervention is an opportunity for designers to develop site specific works to transform large-scale public spaces and show them in a new light, from new perspectives. In turn, the project enriches an artist’s practice, bringing new and diverse audiences to their work.

In 2020, new graphic interventions will be presented across Canberra by Hannah GasonChelsea Lemon and Kayannie Denigan.

  • Exhibitions

The 2020 festival presents exhibitions featuring over 90 artists showcasing leading contemporary craft and design. Highlights include two signature exhibitions by Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre: HOME:MADE, which features a curated selection of new furniture, homewares and jewellery by leading early-career designers and makers from across Australia, and c/o Craft ACT: 2020 Annual Members exhibition which will showcase current trends in contemporary craft and design,  illustrating how care underpins a maker’s commitments.

Other highlights include From An Untouched Landscape by multi-disciplinary contemporary visual artist James Tylor that sheds light on the contemporary absence of Aboriginal culture within the Australian landscape. And Designed in Italy, Made in Australia: the Australian work of Pier Luigi Nervi which offers unique insight into the 15 year collaboration between acclaimed architects Harry Seidler (1923–2006) and Pier Luigi Nervi (1891–1978) that took place between Italy and Australia including iconic buildings such as Australia Square, the MLC Centre and the TGO Edmund Barton Building.

  • Auction

The annual DESIGN Canberra auction is an opportunity to celebrate experimental, small scale or one-off pieces from leading designers. The auction will be one of the most high-profile programs in the DESIGN Canberra festival 2020. The campaign will run throughout the festival and the auction will take place at the closing event.

For the first time DESIGN Canberra will present Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival that explores our relationship with materials and making. The program features 28 short films from around the world including documentaries, maker profiles, music videos and hand-crafted animations that celebrate craft in all its facets.

Other festival highlights include the return of the annual BMW Twilight Drive where visitors have the opportunity to test drive new BMW models while touring iconic design destinations throughout the national capital. The cars will feature the four winning designs of the DESIGN Canberra x BMW car wrap competition, a new canvas for designers and artists.

For more detail about the 2020 DESIGN Canberra program please see the festival website:

DESIGN Canberra is implementing the physical distancing, capacity limits and increased hygiene measures outlined by the ACT Government. DESIGN Canberra appreciates that due to the global pandemic, many design enthusiasts will be unable to travel to Canberra during the festival. To connect with audiences who can’t physically make it to Canberra during the festival, DESIGN Canberra is curating a DESIGN anytime program. This new program will include self-guided tours of iconic architecture and contemporary design throughout Canberra, as well as online exhibitions, videos and interviews. This will promote and celebrate Canberra as a global city of design every day of the year.

At Craft ACT, like so many other arts organisations, we have used these challenges to find new ways to support our artists and deliver on our mission: To embed contemporary craft, making and design at the centre of everyday life in Australia’s capital, a global city of design. Although the design sector is known for its very slick public image, Craft ACT supports the sector from the ground up. This is a very significant point of difference to the work that we do. When we support the sector from the ground up, we help artists at every stage of their career develop and build sustainable practices, forge collaborations, and to feel part of a community,” said Rachael Coghlan, CEO Craft ACT.

Featured image : Artist Hannah Quinlivan Courtesy the artist and DESIGN Canberra