Arts / Free nosey around strangers’ living rooms

“New York Times” design critic Alice Rawsthorn… speaking at “Object Subject – the Inaugural National Design Writing Conference” in the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome on Friday, November 10.  Photo by Michael Leckie

CRASHING into a complete stranger’s living room is a popular fantasy and now DESIGN Canberra is making this idea possible in a venture called “Living Rooms”.

Sunday, November 12, is the first week of “Living Rooms” and focuses on the inner south, with an open invitation to visit Canberra homes in Red Hill, Curtin, Yarralumla and Narrabundah, all architecturally outstanding but, just for the festival, also full of pop-up exhibitions by local artists, makers and craft practitioners. It costs nothing.

Similar events on the two following Sundays will allow Canberrans to poke their noses into houses in the inner north and homes designed by women architects. All three sessions will be followed by Sunday music sessions and a roving pop-up wine bar.

Canberra’s profile as a “city of architecture” means that this art form is to the fore, with the 52nd Griffin Lecture already delivered by journalist George Megalogenis, the aforementioned “Living Rooms” venture and the popular Australian Institute of Architects 2017 Awards Bus Tour on November 17, which this year looks at Canberra modernist architecture of the ’50s and ’60s.

But it would be a big mistake to see design as confined to architecture alone, as craft project manager Craft ACT Kate Nixon tells “CityNews”.

“This has become a major outreach program to promote our member designers and to get new audiences,” she says.

The first in the Living Rooms program… 24 Pelsart Street, Red Hill, 10am-11.30am, Sunday, November 12.

Craft ACT’s director Rachel Coghlan is once more at the helm, testing her view of Canberra as “a living design laboratory” while thrusting our best designers on to centre stage.

While acting as facilitator, Craft ACT will also stage its own exhibition, curated by Julia Greenstreet, titled “Women and Design”, a subsidiary theme of the festival.

Talk is an important part of DESIGN Canberra, with visiting “New York Times” design critic Alice Rawsthorn speaking at “Object Subject – the Inaugural National Design Writing Conference” in the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome on Friday, November 10, then delivering the keynote address at the NGA the following day.

The unforgettable imagery of architect Roy Grounds’ Shine Dome inspired Canberra artist Zoe Brand as she created the festival’s inaugural “Sell Out” design auction party, at the Fitters Workshop, 8pm, on Friday, November 10. Brand’s “Sell Out” disc pendant, made especially for the event, will be auctioned on the night.

Living Rooms, 102 Captain Cook Crescent, Narrabundah, 2.30pm-4pm, Sunday, November 12.

This is the fourth year of the event, which has exploded from a modest four-day program in 2014 to a full month in 2016 and 2017. Audiences have grown from 24,000 in 2014 to more than 69,000 last year.

A glimpse at the extended program shows more than 200 separate events for this year’s DESIGN Canberra, but it’s the free and relatively modest “open studios” that have proved most popular of all. That’s where members of the public are invited into the working studios of Canberra region artists over the coming three weekends. Some of the generous artists are even throwing in a cuppa.

DESIGN Canberra, until November 26, various locations in the ACT, details of all events and ticketing at

“Living Rooms”, inner south, Sunday, November 12, free event:

  • 10am-11.30am, 24 Pelsart Street, Red Hill.
  • 11.30am-1pm, 18 Ayers Place, Curtin.
  • 1pm-2.30pm, 12 Maxwell Street, Yarralumla.
  • 2.30pm-4pm, 102 Captain Cook Crescent, Narrabundah.



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