HALE W18 Masthead

DESIGN Canberra

Wendy Johnson

It’s so good when Canberra stands tall and confident.

We should. We are, after all, a highly liveable city, strong with character and full of talent. This talent includes design talent, which is what every corner of the capital will be celebrating from 21 to 29 November when the annual DESIGN Canberra Festival rolls out its exciting program.

DESIGN Canberra is the ACT’s most significant design event. In 2015, the festival will be bigger and better. It will run across nine days – including two weekends – and includes close to 70 activities involving more than 750 participants.

Many events and activities are free and there’s something for everyone, including the kids. It can’t get better than that.

The festival puts you in direct touch with Canberra’s creative excellence. It shines a spotlight on the capital’s talent through a program that sees you connect, create and collaborate with designers and artists.

Handmade tableware by Alison Jackson. Image: Christine Pobke

Handmade tableware by Alison Jackson. Image: Christine Pobke.

DESIGN Canberra is managed by Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre. As with last year—the first time the festival was held—the variety of what’s on offer is mind boggling.

Events will pop-up at heaps of places in Civic and surrounds, with drop-ins welcome for many. DESIGN Canberra is also teaming up with cultural institutions, arts centres, museums, galleries, universities, design centres, studios and workshops.

So here’s how it works. The 2015 Festival is divided into five event streams:

ACTivate—Explore an ACTivated Canberra CBD through pop-up exhibitions, installations, studios and shops featuring the diverse work of some of the capital’s most innovative designers.

Capital of CULTURE—See Canberra in a whole new light through exclusive guided tours of architectural and cultural landscape around the city, led by designers, architects and artists.

DESIGN Buzz— Engage in vibrant discussions on big ideas, creative thinking, design for social change, and Canberra’s urban future through a unique conversation and lecture series.

 Living Artists— Gain exclusive insights into the innovative work of some of Canberra’s best local artists and design firms through tours of their inspiring studios and working spaces.

 Exhibitions— Experience exciting art, craft and design through exhibitions hosted in Canberra’s premier galleries.

design canberra feature

It’s challenging to pick highlights since all activities are worth their weight in gold, but here’s a taste of how amazingly diverse the 2015 festival calendar is.

The kid’s will go nuts over a special workshop hosted by Tom Skeehan, which will open up exciting visual journeys into the world of design drawing (eight to 12 years of age).

Tom is a Craft ACT Accredited Professional Member and directs the industrial design brand ‘Skeehan’.

Kids will also get a kick out of playing on the interactive lighting display and jumping on pushbikes as part of the electrical generating display at ‘Pedal Power’, hosted by Affinity Electrical Technologies.

ACTivate Maddison Jayne—bolsters with hand-printed fabrics. Image: Anna Sutherland.

ACTivate Maddison Jayne—bolsters with hand-printed fabrics. Image: Anna Sutherland.

If you’re keen on how creative Canberra is with recycling, make sure you visit the exhibition by boyandgirlco at BMW’s showroom. With their focus on celebrating the use of unwanted materials, the team behind boyandgirlco will design and build bespoke pieces of furniture inspired by the story of BMW.

They’ll use the humble wooden pallet, sample leather bits and even car parts to design their work, highlighting the beauty of what some would call waste. BMW decided to be DESIGN Canberra’s major sponsor to support design and innovation in our national capital.

You’ll be able to visit open studios of a diverse range of local designers to meet them, chat about their work and see where and how they create their fashion, jewellery, glasswork, homewares and more … like Claudia Owen, Lazy Sunday Home, Alison Jackson, Daniel Hadiwibawa, and many designers who operate from Canberra Glassworks.

Canberra Airport. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Canberra Airport. Image: Rodrigo Vargas

Special exhibitions include ‘Iconic Design’ by Designcraft, featuring the stunning work of Charles and Ray Eames, who are among the most important and iconic designers of the 20th Century.

You can visit DVANT Designs, which will officially launch during the festival, with industrial designer Rohan Thomas showcasing his unique materials, all designed with a twist.

Why not attend a community workshop at Red Hill Lookout by architects Karina Harris and Neil Hobbs and have your say about a new design concept for the area, involving improvements, safety issues and even waste management?


Or take a tour of some of Canberra’s special spots led by Australian Institute of Architects, Cox Architecture, Guida Moseley Brown Architects and others? Or explore the architecture of the National Portrait Gallery and visit behind-the-scenes at our award-winning Canberra Airport? See how the list goes on and on?

Capital of CultureArchiSchools—Image: Pavilion X

Capital of CultureArchiSchools—Image: Pavilion X

Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre is a key cultural arts organisation in Canberra. It has an international reputation for delivering world-class national and international exhibitions and public programs and has been operating in the capital for more than 40 years. DESIGN Canberra is no exception.

The DESIGN Canberra website is being updated with info on this year’s festival activities in the next week or so. Also, keep your eye out for the distinctive pink and yellow DESIGN Canberra program that will be distributed for free through Canberra’s best cafes, shops and cultural institutions.

Take time to study the full festival calendar and check off all that you want to explore. Some events and activities are open every day of the festival, others are open select times and some are not-to-be-missed, one-off events.

the essentials 
What: DESIGN Canberra
Where: Various locations around Canberra
Cost: Free
When: 21 to 29 November
Web: designcanberrafestival.com.au

Feature image: Alchemy Silk Scarf. Image: Claudia Owen.

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author