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Shine dome. Photo: Martin Ollman
Shine dome. Photo: Martin Ollman


DESIGN Canberra 2019: Utopia

4-24 November

DESIGN Canberra 2019 employs the concept of utopia to harness the power of imagination to shape the future of design – in Canberra and the world. Derived from the Greek ou-topos meaning ‘no place’ or a place that doesn’t exist, Thomas More’s vision of a perfect imaginary world has spawned debate and inspiration among artists, designers and thinkers ever since.

Canberra is the perfect site for an examination of utopia – and dystopia – in 2019. Canberra might be best known in design circles for the Griffin’s vision of an ideal utopian city of democracy which would embody a bold, radical and big vision for a young nation. Perhaps less well known but more significant beyond a western lens is the local Ngunnawal People’s culture of invention, which has been in motion for more than 75,000 years. Ngunnawal ‘s positive engagement with each other contextualises the utopian lifestyle in the way they lived as one with country, environment, relationships and with all living things. The very first words spoken in this region were Ngunnawal words.

Utopian ideas are also expressed in Canberra’s iconic modernist architecture of the 1950s and 60s, experimental medium density developments and infrastructure and renewal programs today. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the iconic Bauhaus design movement which redefined what design could do for society and reflected the utopian ideas of its time, DESIGN Canberra celebrates our city’s Bauhaus connections and enduring legacy.

Inevitably, attempts at utopia can succeed and fail but a spirit of experimentation endures as we pursue the promise of a better tomorrow. Canberra has been – and will always be – a living design laboratory and DESIGN Canberra 2019 looks forward to exploring responsible, sustainable, creative, equitable, kind and inspirational opportunities for the future.

How can I get involved?

Submissions for the 2019 program have closed but if you have an idea for 2020, we would love to hear from you and are always happy to have a chat.



DESIGN Canberra acknowledges the Ngunnawal People, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and work, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.