by Neometro

Sydney Design Festival

Design - by Lisa Cugnetto
  • Images courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney.

The Sydney Design Festival turns 20 this year making it one of the world’s longest-running design festivals. Around 65,000 people attended over 100 events that ran as part of the festival last year.  

On from March 2–8, this year’s instalment is curated and presented by the Museum of Applied Arts and Science (MAAS). The festival’s theme of ‘Call to Action’ explores the role of design in tackling complex global issues, through a broad program of workshops, exhibitions, talks, tours, events and symposiums.

The greater role of design

“Design impacts on everyday life and culture,” says Dolla Merrillees, director and CEO of Sydney’s MAAS. “In a time of rapid change design can offer unexpected solutions, yet good design can be elusive and controversial. Sydney Design Festival aims to democratise and nurture design, encouraging the interplay between the designer and consumer, the process and product.”

Merrillees notes that while the festival’s early days focus was Australian design and local issues, it has evolved over the past two decades to include trends in design processes, international debates, and innovations in design.

Speaking on the importance of design to Sydney, Tim Horton, NSW Architects Registration Board registrar, says, “In a more urban world, more of our world is designed. How well it’s designed, and what it’s designed to do becomes more important. We know great design not only solves problems, but also creates new opportunities. But most importantly design can reveal plausible futures for us to choose; something Sydney needs more than ever.”

Dates for your diary

Some events to take note of as part of this year’s Sydney Design Festival include:


A conversation about Passive House (residential)

March 3, Nirimba Green Skills Hub

An exploration of what Passive Houses are and how these healthy, low energy, and low impact houses are key to the future of building in Australia. The March 3 event will have a residential focus with a sister talk taking a commercial view being held on March 10.

David Gianotten keynote presentation

March 4, Powerhouse Museum

A Sydney Design Festival keynote talk by David Gianotten, who is managing partner-architect of OMA, the international practice behind leading architectural projects including MPavilion in Melbourne.

Locating agency

March 8, 1 Parramatta Square

Coordinated by Western Sydney University’s Architecture Program, ‘Locating agency’ will look at the densification, connectivity, and transformation of global cities. This presentation and discussion will look at the urbanisation of Sydney and the overarching role architecture has in shaping global cities and its residents’ quality of life. 

Architecture as agency: Humanitarian design

March 10, University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design & Planning

A two-part session that looks at how architectural creative solutions can be used to address humanitarian challenges. It will start with a panel discussion with practitioners currently applying ideas to local and international humanitarian projects, and conclude with a workshop.


MAAS Indigenous Design Symposium: 60,000 Years in the Making

March 10–11, Powerhouse Museum

Guest speakers – including designers, architects, engineers, urban planners and place makers – will discuss concepts and innovations in Indigenous design theory and practice, including how to introduce and reposition traditional cultural perspectives and skills into a modern context.


Common Good

March 2–December 2, Powerhouse Museum

An exhibition that showcases the responses of emerging contemporary designers from across the Asia Pacific to various social, ethical and environmental issues, including the preservation of cultural heritage and diminishing natural resources.

Mr Zhang Guo Yu, 51. He makes chinese pasta in his shop since 1988. Images courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney.

Resilient neighbourhoods

March 2–11 (excluding March 5), 107 Projects

An exhibition by the University of New South Wales’ Master of Architecture students on how to address inequality through architecture, with a focus on design that translates social, political and economic components of resilience into the urban built form.

Visit the Sydney Design Festival site for a full program of events.



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