Behind Melbourne Design Week

In 2019, Australia’s leading annual international design event, Melbourne Design Week, will present its largest program to date, with more than 200 events – including 47 exhibitions, 16 film screenings, 81 talks, 33 tours and 18 workshops as well as more than 40 events for Melbourne Art Book Fair – across Melbourne, and for the very first time, Geelong from 14 – 24 March 2019. Celebrating the best of local, national and international design, the expanding, state-wide festival is an initiative of the Victorian Government presented by Creative Victoria and the National Gallery of Victoria.

2019 Theme: Design Experiments – How can design shape the future? As society enters an unprecedented period of urbanisation, digitisation, population growth and ecological transformation, many believe that design and architecture hold great potential for positive transformation, offering disruptive ideas as it intersects with industry, politics, history, science, ecology, psychology and more.

Embracing the past, present and future, we encourage participants to demonstrate cultural and historical awareness – to delve into social and cultural history, peel back the layers of design and articulate that the future is informed by the past.

Through this idealistic agenda, Melbourne Design Week 2019 provides an opportunity for designers to reflect on what they do, to imagine new and better ways of doing things, and share these ideas and insights with a broad audience.

The program has been curated under five thematic pillars: Reconnecting with Birrarung, which includes part of the Waterfront series presented by Open House Melbourne and explores how we can reconnect with the Yarra River; The War on Waste, which reveals the ways in which design can improve the environment; Material Matters, which looks at how designers are thinking about where materials come from and where they will end up; Possible Futures, which explores the ways in which design reimagines our quality of life – from products and services to transport and health; and Inclusive Cities, a series that interrogates the role of design in redressing the problems of the city to offer safety, equality, inclusion and respect.

1. Reconnecting with Birrarung (Yarra River)

From its source in the Yarra Ranges, Birrarung (Yarra River) flows 242 kilometres through the Yarra Valley, Greater Melbourne and the CBD before emptying into Hobsons Bay. The river was a major food source and meeting place for local indigenous peoples and has been radically altered through agriculture, construction, industry, urban expansion and pollution. This series encourages us to reconsider Birrarung – realising and nurturing its cultural, ecological and recreational value. How can designers help us to reimagine our relationship to the river, re-elevating it to its rightful place as the lifeblood of the city?

River Swim / Sun 17 Mar, 2–4pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne

Discover the past and future of Melbourne’s river swimming culture on this boat tour with Michael O’Neill (Yarra Pools), Monique Woodward (WOWOWA) and Marjetica Potrč (Kings pond designer).

Please refer to website for ticketing and venue information.

River (Re) Wild / Sun 17 Mar, 10–11.30am

Presented by Open House Melbourne

This boat tour takes in the future design aspirations for Melbourne’s 18 kilometres of waterways.

Cost $10 Adult, bookings required

Visit for meeting point.

Commuter Afloat / Sun 24 Mar, 12–4pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne

An onboard conversation about where the water in Melbourne can take us, ending at Jacks Magazine on the Maribyrnong for the exhibition Jack’s Reloaded: Material as Memory, which investigates the history of bluestone.

Cost $25, bookings required

Visit for meeting point.

Reframing Fishermans Bend / Wed 20 Mar, 6–8pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne

Open House Melbourne unpacks the process and implications of the refreshed Fishermans Bend planning framework.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands

Water Sensitive Urban Design in the City / Thu 21 Mar, 2–2.45pm & 3–3.45pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne and City of Melbourne

Join the City of Melbourne team on a building tour and talk about solving water-based dilemmas in the city.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Council House 2, 242 Little Collins St, Melbourne

Forgotten Ecologies of Birrarung / Sat 16 Mar, 10am–1pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne and Melbourne Architours

Join a 12-kilometre bicycle tour exploring the oft-forgotten ecologies of the Yarra River, stopping along the way to meet with experts for a conversation about its future. BYO bike and helmet.

Cost $35 Adult, bookings required

Visit for meeting point.

Cultural Flows / Mon 18 Mar, 12.30–1.30pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne, Koorie Heritage Trust and Foreground Join Open House Melbourne and Foreground in an intimate conversation with Rueben Berg, the first Aboriginal person appointed as a Commissioner for the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Federation Square, Melbourne

River Rights: Fishermans Bend / Sat 23 Mar, 2–4pm Presented by Open House Melbourne and Jane’s Walk Walk along the river to explore themes of waterfront access, development and public space in Fishermans Bend with Jane’s Walk.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Visit for meeting point

Water Regimes of Bolin Bolin: Past, Present and Future / Sat 16 Mar, 9.45–11.45am

Presented by Open House Melbourne and Melbourne Water

Hear how the Bolin Bolin Billabong is being rehabilitated for future generations on a tour of the ancient site along the Birrarung (Yarra River).

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Meet at Veneto Club, 191 Bulleen Rd, Bulleen

2. The War on Waste

Climate change, waste and pollution are some of the defining moral issues of our time, spanning geographies and scales – from whole ecosystems to individual consumer choices. Complex problems need creative solutions and disruptive new approaches. Many leading entrepreneurs and designers see these looming challenges as opportunities for a new wave of innovation, rethinking and renewal that could radically transform our cities and daily lives. This series of events celebrates the potential of design and creativity to accelerate the conversation and embrace these challenges head on.

Welcome to Wasteland Exhibition / 14 – 23 Mar, Mon–Sat, 11am–5pm

Launch: Fri 22 Mar, 5–8pm

Presented by Friends & Associates

Plates made from lettuce, a jewellery box from blood and furniture made from coffee: could you see these items in your everyday life? This exhibition of Australia’s leading designers highlights how practitioners are creatively approaching the issue of waste.


Venue: Besser Space, 15–25 Keele St, Collingwood

Toxic City? Symposium / Tue 19 Mar, 2.30–6pm

Presented by NGV, Foreground and The New York Times

As the global population heads towards nine billion, science heralds news of humans indelibly altering nature’s balance. Cities and the systems that sustain them – food, water, and energy – are major factors in climate change and the interlinked cycles of waste and pollution. As national governments argue, cities are leading the way and becoming testing grounds for a better future. This high-energy, provocative symposium brings together local and international experts to examine the scale of the problems ahead and to ask how we might build cleaner, healthier, more resilient cities, confronting the systemic problems that are poisoning them in the first place.


  • Craig Reucassel, Jury Chair, ABC’s War on Waste
  • Bonnie Herring, Director, Breathe Architecture
  • Ross Harding, Founder, Finding Infinity
  • Prof Sue Anne Ware, Head of School, Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle
  • Joost Bakker, Visionary, disruptor and environmental activist

Please refer to website for ticketing and venue information.

Victorian Design Challenge: Waste Challenge Live Pitch

With Craig Reucassel From ABC’s War on Waste / Tue 19 Mar, 9am–2pm

Presented by NGV The Victorian Design Challenge invites design professionals and students to tackle one of the great challenges of our time – waste. The Challenge aims to inspire impactful and implementable solutions that demonstrate the value of design and creativity to the creation of a better future. Join Craig Reucassel from ABC’s War on Waste and the Challenge jury as teams live pitch their design ideas. Each team will have to convince the jury that their idea is the best way to reduce, recover or eliminate waste. Who will be crowned the Waste Challenge Champions?

9am, Professional Presentations, Bookings Required

11am, Schools Presentations

11.30am, Tertiary Presentations

1.30pm, Winners Announced

FREE ENTRY, bookings required for 9AM session only

Venue: Great Hall, Ground Level, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Circular Thinking: Design your own Zero Waste Building / Thu 14 Mar, 4–6pm

Presented by Assemble Papers

How do we minimise construction waste? Join Assemble Papers and Arup in learning how to design a zero-waste house.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Arup Melbourne, 699 Collins St (entry via Sky Park), Docklands

Circular Thinking: Design your own Circular Food System / Tue 20 Mar, 4–6pm

Presented by Assemble Papers

How do we minimise food waste? Join Assemble Papers and VEIL/Open Food Services in designing a sustainable food system.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Arup Melbourne, 699 Collins St (entry via Sky Park), Docklands

Waste in Time: Exploring our Disposable Future / Tue 19 Mar, 6.30–8.30pm

Presented by Science Gallery Melbourne A panel discussion with scientists, artists, designers, researchers and more to explore the positive action humans can undertake to reduce waste.

FREE, bookings required

Venue: South Lawn Car Park, University of Melbourne, Parkville

Watering the Gardens / Sat 16 Mar, 4–6pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne and Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Join landscape architect Andrew Laidlaw and curator of horticulture, Peter Symes on a guided tour around the gardens and on the lake, exploring water conservation in the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Cost $20 Adult, bookings required

Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne. Visit for meeting point

3. Material Matters

Buildings, vehicles, products and garments are made possible by vast global supply chains of materials. Some are natural, others are synthetic, but whatever their origins, all materials have consequences and implications. This series of programs reveals how designers are thinking about where materials come from and where they will end up, perhaps heralding a new wave of material thinking. In a world where it is normal to extract from the earth, animals and industry, transforming one commodity into another, how can we reacquaint ourselves with the origins of materials? Is the end in sight for materials with unwanted consequences?

Dale Hardiman: Pro-Am (Professionally Amateur) / Thu 21 Mar, 6–7.30pm

Presented by the Geelong Gallery

In this keynote lecture, designer Dale Hardiman discusses how not being an expert in a field can lead to inventive outcomes.

FREE, bookings required

Venue: Geelong Gallery, 55 Little Malop St, Geelong

Designwork 03: The Supply Chain Exhibition / 5 – 23 Mar, Tue–Sat, 11am–5pm

Talk: Sat 16 Mar, 3–4pm

Launch: Sat 16 Mar, 4–6pm

Presented by Sophie Gannon Gallery

Curated by Guy Keulemans, the exhibition considers the supply chain and materials of design. Here, designers ask: where do their materials of making come from?


Venue: Sophie Gannon Gallery, 2 Albert St, Richmond

Jack’s Reloaded: Material as Memory / Sat 23 & Sun 24 Mar, 11am–4.30pm

Presented by Georgia Nowak and Eugene Perepletchikov Travel with Open House Melbourne’s boat cruise up the Maribyrnong river on Saturday 23 March to Jack’s Magazine, a former explosives store, in order to visit an exhibition that explores Victoria’s complex histories hidden within the material of bluestone.

Cost $5, booking required

Venue: Jack’s Magazine, Magazine Way, Maribyrnong

Material Thought Exhibition / 14 – 24 Mar, Mon–Fri, 10am–6pm; Sat, 10am–5pm & Sun, 11am– 5pm. Launch: Thu 21 Mar, 6–8pm

Presented by Modern Times Material Thought showcases the work of some of Australia’s most innovative furniture, lighting and object designers, including Steelotto, Nicolette Johnson, Henry Wilson, Ebony Heidenreich, Maddie Sharrock, Alterfact, Coco Flip, and Christopher Boots.


Venue Modern Times, 311 Smith St, Fitzroy

Lee Darroch in Conversation / Fri 15 Mar, 6–7pm

Presented by the NGV NGV curator Myles Russell-Cook speaks with Lee Darroch, about her newly commissioned Possum Skin Cloak on display in Designing Women. Lee Darroch is a Yorta Yorta, Mutti Mutti and Boon Wurrung artist and community cultural worker whose artwork is inspired by the need to continue cultural, spiritual and artistic practices.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Members Lounge, Ground Level, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Green Jeans / Wed 20 Mar, 1–2.30pm

Presented by Open House Melbourne and Deakin University Hear from the team behind the Circular Denim and the denim dyed denim project, who are working on a process which could significantly reduce the environmental impact of water and energy consumption involved in denim production: tour IFM facilities and displays, and meet the researchers involved.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Nicol Drive North, Deakin University, Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

But First We Eat / Exhibition: 14 – 24 Mar, Wed–Sun, 11am–3pm

Design Dinner: Fri 15, Sat 16, Fri 22 Mar

Presented by Fluff Corp

But First We Eat is a ceremonial feast showcasing the ancient technique of baking food encased in clay, alongside an exhibition of the work of local designers including Jia Jia Chen, Claire Lehmann, Claudia Lau, Alison Frith, Andrei Davidoff, Kate Jones, Tessy King and Tobias Bolton.


DINNER: $60, bookings required Venue Long Division Gallery, Schoolhouse Studios, 81 Rupert St, Collingwood

Elasticity Exhibition / 18 – 24 Mar, 10am–4pm

Launch: Thu 21 Mar, 6–8pm, Bookings Required

Presented by Alt. Material

An exhibition and auction of design experiments from leading Australian design studios responding to the theme of elasticity.

FREE, bookings required

Venue: 408 Smith, 408 Smith St, Collingwood

4. Possible Futures

Design is all around us, shaping nearly every aspect of our lives. From products and services to transport and health, design informs our quality of life and the wellbeing of communities and ecosystems. The only thing certain about the future is that things will change. The role of design is to make these changes as positive as possible. This series of programs explores some of the ways designers are working at the intersection of science, technology, governance, culture and creativity, and are reimagining the future.

Toxic City? Symposium

Keynote – Daan Roosegaarde: Landscapes of the Future / Tues 19 Mar, 4:45-5:45pm

Presented by NGV, Foreground and The New York Times Virtual floods, smart highways and smog-sucking towers; Roosegaarde pulls technology out of the screens to examine and activate solutions to improve daily life in urban environments. In his interactive talk, Roosegaarde will explore the social role of design and the importance of ‘Schoonheid’ (a Dutch word meaning both beauty and cleanliness), along with his vision for the future.

Please refer to website for ticketing and venue information.

Telstra Creativity & Innovation Series Keynote – Refik Anadol: In the Mind’s Eye / Wed 20 Mar, 6.30–7.30pm

Presented by Telstra and NGV

Turkish born, LA-based media artist Refik Anadol is best known for creating visually stunning and immersive digital experiences, and transforming architectural surfaces into canvases for media arts. Using advanced methods of visual design, data compression, algorithmic processing and machine learning, Anadol’s work pushes boundaries and foresees the future. His thought-provoking visual and intellectual feasts weave together threads from art, science, design, architecture and technology to explore data, memory, consciousness and dreams. In this talk, Anadol will examine how machine intelligence is reshaping his world and the world around him – imagining a near future where superintelligent machines that learn will redefine our places, relationships, economies and broader lives.

Ticket includes entry to Escher x nendo | Between Two Worlds following the talk.

Cost $28 NGV Member / $35 Adult / $32 Concession, bookings required

Venue: Great Hall, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Future Design Tools / 14 – 16 Mar, Thu–Sat, 10am–7pm

Presented by IBM

IBM Cloud Garage’s Future Design Tools exhibition provides an opportunity for visitors to explore how emerging technologies such as data, AI and ML will impact the future.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Ground Level, 333 Exhibition St, Melbourne

The Future of Death and Ageing in Australia / Fri 22 Mar, 8–9.30am

Presented by Portable

A discussion on how design thinking can transform death and ageing.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Portable, 5 Easey St, Collingwood

Working Between Cultures / Wed 20 Mar, 6–8pm

Presented by Parlour Join Elisapeta Heta, Sarah Lynn Rees and Shaneen Fantin for a conversation about the opportunities, complexities and necessity of working across and among cultures.

Cost $10 Adult / $5 Concession, bookings required

Venue: City of Melbourne Bowls Club, Flagstaff Gardens, West Melbourne

Deep City: Future Scenarios for Golden Square and Bendigo Creek / 14 – 23 Mar, Mon–Fri, 10am– 5pm & Sat, 12–5pm

Launch: Fri 14 Mar, 6–8pm

Presented by Monash University Department of Architecture

Monash University Masters of Architecture and Master of Urban Planning and Design students present ideas for the intensification of Golden Square in Bendigo.


Venue: MADA Gallery, Monash University Caulfield Campus, Building D, Ground Level, 900 Dandenong Rd, Caulfield East

Film – Australian Premiere – Relics of the Future / Lido: Fri 15 & Wed 20 Mar, 7pm Classic: Sun 17 & Tue 19 Mar, 7pm

Presented by Melbourne Design Week and curated by Richard Sowada

Relics of the Future is a documentary featuring internationally renowned photographer Toni Hafkenscheid as he explores the hidden stories behind iconic architectural structures considered ‘visions of the future’ in the 1960s.

Director Rob Lindsay

Duration 62 mins

Please refer to website for ticketing and venue information.

Championing the City of Design / Thu 21 Mar, 6–7.30pm

Presented by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect

Melbourne Design Week expands to Geelong in 2019 with over twenty events that will explore the city’s design DNA – in light of its recent designation as a UNESCO City of Design. This event hosted by the Victorian Government Architect’s asks: What kind of design champion do great cities need?

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, 51 Little Malop St, Geelong

5. Inclusive Cities

More people live in cities than ever before and the 21st century has been called ‘the urban century’. Cities offer profound economic, social and cultural opportunities: they are where cultures, ideals and beliefs collide and combine. Locally and internationally, the benefits of cities are often under-realised, misaligned or unevenly distributed. Design increasingly takes on the role of redressing the problems of the city and proposing new ways to accelerate how citizens can access the positive potential or the urban realm. This series of programs investigates how to maximise the empathetic potential of the city to offer safety, equality, inclusion and respect.

Form Follows Finance: The Changing Faces of Housing A Robin Boyd Centenary Address by Oliver Wainwright / Fri 22 Mar, 6–8pm

Presented by NGV, the Robin Boyd Foundation and the Australian Institute of Architects Every major city in the world now faces a housing crisis. The UN calculates that 68% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050, but where and how will they live? The 21st century has seen the relentless financialisation of housing: homes are no longer just places to live, but places to park capital, commodities to be bought and sold on the global stage. What effect is this having on our cities, and what are the solutions? Join one of the world’s most influential architecture critics, Oliver Wainwright, as he traces how form follows finance, and examines housing from diverse perspectives. Who controls the housing market? How do different societies solve their own housing conundrums? What is the role for architects is addressing the housing challenges ahead?

This address marks the centenary year of Robin Boyd’s birth. Throughout his career Boyd was deeply committed to the design of affordable housing that challenged the status quo – as the first Director of the Institute of Architects’ Small Homes Service, Boyd championed a design-led housing revolution. His legacy can still be felt in Melbourne today.

Cost $10 NGV Member / $15 Adult / $12 Concession, bookings required

Venue: Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, Ground Level, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

How Do We Build the Next Generation of Affordable Housing? / Fri 15 Mar, 6–7.30pm

Presented by MGS Architects Hear environment professionals at NGV’s Clemenger theatre put forward their visions for how to create more affordable housing in Melbourne, which is essential if the city is to continue to be liveable.

Cost $5, bookings required

Venue: Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, Ground Level, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Future Acts: Land, Treaty and Property / Sun 24 Mar, 2–3pm

Presented by Survival Guide and Future Method Studio Lidia Thorpe, Libby Porter and Jana Perkovic discuss how urban planning, development and policy can recognise the sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Venue: Testing Grounds, 1–23 City Road, Southbank

More than Bathrooms: Gender Diversity in Architecture / Wed 20 Mar, 6.30–7.30pm

Presented by Simona Castricum and the University of Melbourne Simona Castricum hosts a panel with stakeholders in Melbourne’s LGBTIQA+ community to talk about their experiences creating queer, sexual and gender diverse spaces.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Malaysian Theatre, Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne, Masson Rd, Parkville

Re-Imagining Affordable Eco Housing / Fri 22 Mar, 12.15–4.30pm

Presented by Geelong Sustainability This event will challenge a diverse group of stakeholders and citizens to re-imagine a new model for affordable eco-housing.

FREE ENTRY, bookings required

Venue: Eastern Hub, 285A McKillop St, East Geelong

Melbourne Architours: Experiments in Living / Sat 23 Mar, 10am–4pm

Presented by Melbourne Architours

A field trip to explore recent experiments in living which offer a glimpse of our potential housing future. Cost $50 Adult / $40 Concession, bookings required Venue Meet in North Melbourne.

See for details

Experiments in Public Housing / Mon 18 Mar, 6–7.30pm

Presented by Melbourne School of Design

Architectural historian and theorist Karen Burns explores the Victorian experiment in public housing of 1979–1989 followed by a conversation with housing expert Tom Alves.

FREE, bookings required

Venue: Members Lounge, Ground Level, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

More green updates