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Here-Say: State of Design Re-Cap

(photo by Tobias Titz)

We partnered with the Department of Counter Culture to bring you 'Here-Say': a speakers forum during the State of Design Festival in July. In case you missed out, video footage of the program will be available on the website soon, but in the meantime, we've got the following summary of the week for you, a smorgasbord of inspiring contributions from practitioners addressing socially and environmentally conscious design in various ways.

Professor Kim Humphrey officially opened the program by speaking of extreme consumerism and how the fashion industry has the opportunity (and a responsibility) to counteract the habit of consumers to buy and discard possessions haphazardly, with little consideration of the sacrifices made by people involved in making the product or for the natural environment – and all for the sake of appearing “fashionable”.

Three particular designers who stood out include Kate Luckens with her clothing exchange program; Kate Ashworth with her passion for unique products that are produced from recycled materials; and Grace McQuilten, founder of the Social Studio, a group that is empowering newly arrived refugee immigrants through design workshops.

In regard to food production and the power of beautifully created meals, Shanaka Fernando and Rebecca Scott spoke of the ways in which they are re-shaping the food world. Fernando is the founder of Lentil As Anything, a socially conscious restaurant that has its roots in simply giving people a fair go and more importantly, giving people the chance to show their generosity through a “pay as you feel” program. Scott is the founder of Streat – a food program that helps to train homeless youth in food production, design and presentation.

As for public art, Anthony McInneny took his audience on a journey – literally from the Melbourne CDB to Frankston and highlighted many of the stories which are told on tollway and freeway journeys, yet often go unheard. Anthony's work accepts the inevitability of free/tollway commutes as an immediate concern related to suburban sprawl, and asks us to consider the psychology of road travel, the spatial and aesthetic qualities of the journey, their influence on transitory occupants and on our city as a whole.

On the closing night of the Counter Culture series, Soumitri Varadarajan spoke of his somewhat unorthodox design strategy to address the serious and profoundly complex issue of maternal deaths in Assam, India. His is a slow-burn approach, involving spending time living and moving about in the region, developing an understanding of local practices and attitudes and gaining the trust of communities, to build a framework from which possibilities might then emerge. Not necessarily design solutions, however – or not obviously so. In fact, he consciously avoids using the terms 'problem' and 'solution' – staples of the average designer's vocabulary – in favour of an open-minded and discursive approach about 'aspiring' rather than 'problem solving'. At the end of a week of challenging mainstream consumption practices, Soumitri outlined a compelling alternative model for participatory design as a collaborative process of change-making.

As a final mention and of high significance to Architects for Peace, was of course the launch of our first book, IntentCity – the political city, edited by Beatriz C. Maturana and Anthony McInneny. The book is a compilation of the papers and art projects presented at a public forum in 2004 that was instrumental in our formation as a group, to discuss the ‘political city’ – the public space that affects us all, the built environment, ecology, citizens, as well as addressing our involvement as a society in war and what can be done to prevent it. The launch was an opportunity for us to celebrate our roots and to acknowledge those who helped us establish a platform of critical dialogue within the built environment profession. Many thanks to Hugh O'Neill for launching the book with aplomb and saying some very nice things about Arch Peace! Hugh has been a long-standing supporter of Architects for Peace and has much wisdom to share with us all. The book will be available online soon – stay tuned!

All of the speakers involved with the State of Design Counter Culture Here-Say Program are making a real difference within an industry that is not often associated with socially and environmentally pressing issues and it was a real treat to see so much innovative and exciting work being produced here in Melbourne.

Architects for Peace:
State of Design:
The Clothing Exchange:
Citizens of Elysium:
The Social Studio:
Melbourne Craft Cartel:
Lentil as Anything:
Soumitri Varadarajan:

Opening night (photo by Tobias Titz)

IntentCity book launch (photo by Beatriz C. Maturana)

IntentCity book launch (photo by Beatriz C. Maturana)


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