Waterfront Wrap Up!

Posted Sat 24th Apr 2021 | Adelina Onicas

Thank you to everyone who took part in Waterfront 2021 – our large-scale public program curated to explore, inspire, challenge and reveal new ways of considering our collective relationship with Victorian waterways.

As citizens – and as architects and designers – our collective understanding of what constitutes good design in the built environment is rapidly expanding beyond a focus on the built form. Increasingly, water-responsive design sits at the centre of this movement as we recognise that the health and sustainability of our waterways is crucial to a thriving future for everyone.

Responding to the impending impact of climate crisis and the rapid increase in density of our cities, suburbs and regional centres we are learning to listen to the deep knowledge of Indigenous culture and explore new ways of approaching design practice from a more inclusive and non-human-centred perspective. In response we are learning that we must ask ourselves the following question: how can we design with water rather than against it? This fundamental question drove our thinking and guided us in curating this year’s program.

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

Working closely with a vast and highly valued range of partners and producers, the Waterfront program was the largest to date, with over 30 events being hosted and offered across the city and in regional locations. Over ten interactive days, over 2,500 participants kayaked, boat toured, discussed, ate, floated, walked, talked and shared experiences of living and working with waterways across Victoria.

Below we highlight key events from this year’s program.

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

Working with key partners such as the Birrarung Council, Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Fed Square, we hosted a multi-part series including a workshop, film screening, panel discussion and boat tour exploring bi-cultural design approaches for the Great Birrarung Parkland – a vision for the river as one great living entity. We also invited our audience to board a boat and take part in an interactive workshop about the invasive impact of sea urchins on our bays presented by food researchers Long Prawn with designer, researcher and scuba-diving instructor Pirjo Haikola.

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

On a cold yet clear Monday morning, we invited people to take part in a wading tour to think about ‘soft’ infrastructure design approaches to coastal defence. We hosted a tour on Country of the ‘Bolin Bolin’ billabong site in Bulleen led by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Dave Wandin with Commissioner Rueben Berg from the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and representatives from Melbourne Water. And, on a busy Saturday morning at Fed Square, we offered the opportunity to tour Joost Bakker’s inspirational sustainable pop-up home for the future, aptly titled futurefoodsystem.

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

[Photo: Keelan O’Hehir] 

Additionally, for the first time, Waterfront offered over 50% of the program in regional Victoria with a focus on East Gippsland, particularly the Gippsland Lakes. Here, we worked closely with the East Gippsland Shire Council, GLaWAC (Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation) and regional arts collective the School for unTourists to develop a diverse range of programs ranging from experiences such as kayak tours with a floating orchestra, to a sustainable seaweed dinner, a boat tour of the original Lakes Entrance, a design-focussed radio show hosted by ABC Gippsland and a series of talks on design and creative entrepreneurship.

[Photo: Keelan O’Hehir]

Many of these tours, workshops and events had an educative, hands-on or participatory focus designed to embrace and respond to the opportunities and challenges that lie before us and advocate for good design’s role in working with water to support a healthy, sustainable and inclusive future for our waterways. Because, as they say, the power of learning is in the doing!

[Photo: Keelan O’Hehir]

[Photo: Keelan O’Hehir]

Special thanks must go to our curatorial collaborators for the program in East Gippsland – the School for unTourists (Andrea Lane and Lichen Kelp) – along with all of our highly valued event collaborators and co-presenters across the greater Waterfront program. We particularly acknowledge the support of GLaWAC, Birrarung Council, Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and all Indigenous and Torres Strait Peoples across the state for generously sharing their knowledge of Country.

[Photo: Tobias Titz]

Waterfront would not have been possible without the generous support of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Creative Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the East Gippsland Shire Council.

Thank you!!

[Photo: Keelan O’Hehir]

We’re really looking forward to seeing you all again in July for the inaugural Open House July Weekend! Expressions of interest are currently open for the new hybrid program Reconnect: OHM JULY 2021, and we encourage you – our built environment community – to join us as we re-imagine our future and reconnect with our city.

Waterfront was presented by Centre for Architecture | Open House Melbourne as part of Melbourne Design Week—an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.


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