Once you’ve exhausted all the roundabout jokes you have in your system, it’s high time you reacquaint yourself with Canberra – yes, our Nation’s Capital – as both a design destination and a feat of design in its own right. Walter and Marion Burley Griffin’s so-called Garden City, designed along the lines of its wide boulevards, privileging of outdoor spaces and predilection for symmetry, is a quiet marvel. Many of the additions made in the years since Burley Griffin, an American architect and the original designer of Canberra, won the Federal Capital Design Competition in 1911 are inspired examples of significant architectural movements, from Brutalist to Bauhaus, midcentury to sustainable modernism. Design in Canberra, however, is not strictly limited to the buildings that house our bureaucrats. The city is host to a litany of creatives making substantial contributions to the world beyond state lines, many of whom are contributing to the annual DESIGN Canberra Festival, festivities for which commence today and will continue for much of the month of November.

Above and below, explore a selection of programming highlights from an offering including over 100 events, exhibitions, talks, tours, markets, artist studios and open homes that will be showcased as part of the DESIGN Canberra Festival.

Kengo Kuma’s NAMAKO
Kengo Kuma is one of the world’s eminent architects (expect to hear a lot more about his work in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – he designed the incredible stadium). For DESIGN Canberra’s inaugural ephemeral architecture commission, Kuma’s studio has designed a 12-metre-long installation, inspired by a sea cucumber (‘namako’ in his native tongue), composed of a steel rod frame structure and mesh made with bio-acrylic rods woven together by zip-ties. A prototype is pictured above, with the finished structure estimated to be as much as three metres in height.

Enrico Taglietti: A celebration
Italian-born and trained, the architect and designer Enrico Taglietti’s contribution to the city and global design is significant. His singular sense for line, material, aesthetics and of place have shaped the capital, a city that’s home to some of the most ambitious and most successful examples of twentieth century urban planning in Australia. Now 92, Taglietti’s work will be celebrated in a number of events, including a furniture exhibition, an exhibition of new portraits commissioned of Mark Mohell, another of his work and another that sees contemporary practitioners respond to his legacy, as well as tours, poetry and open homes. Perhaps most significant of all will be a symposium wherein international and national architects and designers, architectural historians and scholars, and some of the many people who have been touched by Taglietti’s inspiring work.

going once…
The studio-produced designs of internationally lauded local practitioners like Tom Skeehan (whose Hoshi Chair is pictured above) will go under the hammer at DESIGN Canberra’s opening party and auction, held on the festival’s first weekend and featuring works by a number of the city’s most promising young talents, including Alison Jackson, Elliot Bastianon and Rene Linnsen.

let there be light
The American light artist and designer James Carpenter has worked at the intersection of art, architecture and design for close to five decades. With a practice based in New York, Carpenter is widely recognised for his distinctive use of natural light as the foundation of his design philosophy, and will discuss as much across several events, including in a conversation with light artist and visiting 2018 Stephen Procter Fellow, Niko Dimitrijevic.

all aboard
A series of four architecture tours over three weekends will take their cues from DESIGN Canberra’s guiding theme, ‘geometry’. The annual Australian Institute of Architects awards tour will open the doors to a selection of this year’s ACT Architecture Award residential projects including the stunning Swan house, winner of 2018 Malcolm Moir and Heather Sutherland Award for residential architecture. A separate tour will also celebrate the work of Enrico Taglietti.

Eat, Drink, DESIGN
Canberra is home to some of the most unassuming and celebrated producers in Australia across both food and design. It’s this crossover that the critically-acclaimed chef behind Aubergine, Ben Willis, will celebrate by curating a one-night-only design dinner devoted to celebrating the best of both worlds.

Tim Ross: the 2018 Griffin lecture
Australia’s most visible Modernism aficionado Tim Ross will present the 2018 Griffin Lecture, the Australian Institute of Architects’ annual event celebrating achievements in design.

get to work
Chelsea Lemon, whose parquetry-laden Serrated Table is pictured above, is the designer in residence at this year’s DESIGN Canberra festival. Her studio and many others like it will be opened to the public as part of a series of craft and design workshops, with Lemon leading one on parquetry. Also participating is the ceramicist Richilde Flavell from Girl Nomad Ceramics, whose tactile works in clay straddle the divide between utility and art object.

Tile image: Jenny Wu/Courtesy of DESIGN Canberra Festival
Cover image: Larissa Dening Photography/Courtesy of VisitCanberra and DESIGN Canberra Festival

thoughts?