Wybalena Grove. Photo: 5 Foot Photography
Wybalena Grove. Photo: 5 Foot Photography

DESIGN Canberra festival guide: The design enthusiast

A design enthusiast is someone who is filled with a strong passion and enthusiasm for all things design and craft. Someone who links everything back to design aspects, and has a keen interest in the design industry. Sound like you?

The 2020 DESIGN Canberra Festival is your chance to really immerse yourself into the world of craft and design. Here is our pick of what you won’t want to miss on this year’s program:

City Sessions. Photo: 5 Foot Photography


Launch week of DESIGN Canberra is pretty jammed packed full of events, public talks and opportunities to gain loads of design inspiration. So, prepare yourself to be immersed into a design enthusiast’s paradise.

Interested in architecture? Drop in to meet an architect and find out about the design process and recently completed local projects at the ARCH-HUB on City Walk from 10am-1pm on Tuesday.

Or get the heart pumping Tuesday evening and experience the magic of the zoo single trails at twilight and lap up Canberra’s built and natural beauty on the Elevate Twilight Trails Training Run/Walk Adventure.

This week is also a great time to familiarise yourself with DESIGN Canberra festival hub in the Monaro Mall on City Walk. Here you can explore engaging exhibitions like A Common Thread, which is a contemporary and multidisciplinary collaboration between emerging makers Sam Gold and Harriet McKay, or see the works of Canberra’s artists of the future at Emerging Contemporaries, featuring local early-career artists. It will also be home to talks, workshops, events and wellbeing sessions throughout the whole festival.

Round out the working week with City Sessions at the DESIGN Canberra festival hub, from 4.30pm on Friday. Sit back, relax with a drink from the Pop Inn wine bar and take in live music from Cathy Diver against the backdrop of iconic mid-century design and architecture, complemented by a contemporary art installation by Canberra artist Hannah Quinlivan and a graphic intervention ground mural by fellow Canberra artist Hannah Gason.

And on Saturday afternoon, join Daniel Leone for an immersive clay workshop at the Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre where you will produce your own functional or non-functional vessel. Then Saturday evening from 7.30pm, artist Hannah Quinlivan will speak about her signature DESIGN Canberra installation, Desiderium, followed by an intimate performance where acclaimed classical vocalists respond to the sculptural elements as they move through the space, materialising the atmosphere of Desiderium into sound and movement.

Bernard Salt


So, with Week 01 done, what’s on the design agenda for week two of the festivities?

On Tuesday, it’s time to strap on your walking shoes again for a public art and architecture walking tour at the ANU School of Music and the Childers Street precinct, where Deborah Clark will guide you through some of Canberra’s most prominent public art.

Tuesday evening, settle in for DESIGN Canberra’s keynote talk by Bernard Salt: Suburbia’s time in the sun, looking at how the coronavirus is reshaping the narrative of Australian urban life. Bernard is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading social commentators by business, the media and the broader community. The talk will be live streamed at the Shine Dome or you can join virtually.

On Thursday night, head to the Shine Dome for Design revisited: architect Michael Dysart, and catch the premiere of a short documentary-style film interview between comedian and design nerd Tim Ross and Michael Dysart, specially commissioned by DESIGN Canberra.

Then prepare yourself for a big Saturday out. Spend the day exploring and stepping into the studios of some of Canberra’s best designers and makers with Week Two of the Open Studios. This weekend’s open studios include Kirstie Rea and Lucy Palmer, Monique van Nieuwland, Valerie Kirk and Avi Amesbury and Kindly Ceramics at Canberra Potter’s. If you can fit it in at 11am, pop into the Monaro Mall where some of the artists from the Canberra Centre exhibitions will discuss the works on display.

Then from 2pm, head to Midnight Hotel where you can experience the immersive process of mindful menu design at Immersion: Cause and Effect. Taste selected wines against individual ingredients ranging in flavour, texture, and acid profile, in search for a unique match, and the process will assist the Executive Chef with menu design and curation for future events. If you’ve still got some gas in the tank, that’s followed directly by Saturday Sessions at Midnight Bar where you can join like-minded, design lovers for a weekly design unwind over a curated cocktail or locally brewed lager.

Shine Dome. Photo: Martin Ollman


We’re into the final week but there’s still plenty on offer for the Design Enthusiasts.

Two Minutes to Midnight is a new DESIGN Canberra event series which invites designers and thought-leaders to engage in deeper conversations with the community about the spaces, places and values we need in order to survive and thrive. In Monday night’s session at Midnight Bar, the expert panel will look at how Canberra’s mid-century architecture fits in with a contemporary vision.

Fascinated by the Shine Dome? On Wednesday at 12.30pm, explore some of the rarely accessed areas of this unusual and captivating building on the Shine Dome: behind the scenes tour.

And it’s been a big three weeks, so stretch it out on Thursday at a free morning yoga session at the DESIGN Canberra Festival Hub.

And then on Friday night, round out a big three weeks with the final City Sessions at the DESIGN Canberra festival hub, where you can settle in and take in live music against the backdrop of iconic mid-century design and architecture. Grab a drink from the Pop Inn wine bar while you’re there – you’ve earned it!

 Keen for more? There’s plenty more to see, do and experience during DESIGN Canberra 2020. Head to designcanberrafestival.com.au for the full program.

DESIGN Canberra acknowledges the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas. We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. We aim to respect cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Indigenous people.