It’s such a cliché, but Canberra is often derided as a city of roundabouts.
“It’s a source of some criticism for Canberra, but actually the geometry and the city of design we’re in, is something to be incredibly proud of,” says Craft ACT artistic director Rachael Coghlan.
Our apparent love of the looping junction and plenty more will be celebrated at DESIGN Canberra 2018 as the festival explores the theme of geometry through a series of city-wide events and installations throughout November.
“We decided to turn that criticism on its head and really own it,” Coghlan says.
“It’s authentic to Canberra’s design, both in our history and in our future, but also something that’s really exciting to respond to from an artistic perspective.”
Touching on how our city’s “circularity” is more than just bitumen deep, Coghlan says it’s also at play in our relationship with design.
“The more we celebrate design and support designers, our city becomes a more interesting, livable, vibrant city we all get to enjoy.
“It’s celebrating how it all works together and is a part of our community.”
Since 2016, a facet of the festival’s celebration of community has involved appointing a local designer-in-residence, who this year is Chelsea Lemon.
A graduate from the ANU School of Art’s furniture workshop, Lemon works primarily with wood and is an emerging designer doing exciting work that’s receiving broad recognition.
“Her work is by nature very geometric and often has a relationship to nature,” Coghlan says.
“She’s amazing, she looks like a ballerina and creates these spectacular furniture pieces.
“She’s got a beautiful design aesthetic that’s all about the detail, the pattern, repetition and a beautiful love of materiality.”
DESIGN Canberra strikes a balance between providing opportunity and exposure for emerging local artists like Lemon, while also celebrating and honouring the masters of the field.
One way they will do that is via a one day symposium on Italian-born, internationally renowned modernist architect and designer Dr Enrico Taglietti on 16 November at the National Gallery of Australia.
Dr Taglietti’s profound contribution to Canberra’s design DNA includes iconic works such as The Australian War Memorial Annex, Mitchell; Giralang Primary School; the Italian Embassy and, more recently, the High Commission of Pakistan.
He first came to Canberra in the 1950s and has resided here ever since. Coghlan says she felt it was important to celebrate his work while he’s with us.
“He’s in his 90s, his mind is still so sharp and his vision is poetic and inspirational.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to reflect on what he’s contributed both to our city and to the field of architecture as a whole.
“It’s also an extraordinary honour to pay tribute to someone during their lifetime,” Coghlan says.
Now in its fifth year, Coghlan says the profile DESIGN Canberra has developed over its past few iterations has in turn seen it grow and prosper.
“Last year we got over 90,000 people to the festival, we presented over 200 events.
“Just in the three weeks of the festival last year, local artists made over $140,000 directly.
“The festival is delivered by Craft ACT, and we’re a small, local not-for-profit arts organisation, so we’ve been really heartened by the response,” Coghlan says.
DESIGN Canberra is on 5-25 November, with a host of events and installations taking place across town. Visit designcanberrafestival.com.au for ticketing and programming.