Donnell Davis

On an afternoon of design and innovation at Swinburne

An interesting thing happens when someone like Donnell Davis asks a bunch of people at a roundtable at Melbourne’s University of Swinburne University of Technology to fill in some time lines of what they expect will be the big picture markers of the future.

The roundtable is to discuss potential strategic frameworks for 2020 for the Centre for Design Innovation, opened by the university in November last year.

The dates at the top of big white sheets of paper are: 2016, 2020, 2030-35 and 2060.

The first thing you notice is it doesn’t take long to dispense with 2060.

“If we don’t get the rest right we won’t have to bother with 2060,” quips one of the round table delegates Delwyn Jones, who turns out to be a scientist with three decades in materials research for BHP, “trying to protect materials from hostile environments” as she puts it.

Some of the items the delegates pen are the usual good news stories around technological advances and hopeful developments such as net positive buildings and cities, but the bad news stories, such as failing food security and water wars, are not slotted in at 2035, they’re appearing under the 2020 heading. Just over four years away. That’s startling enough. The date is somehow the big psychological marker that we know we must not miss.

D Day is here.

Davis who is facilitator for the session and a long time expert in South East Asian development also points out that Australia had better prepare for a potential two billion climate refugees on our doorstep.

Realising that a few people on boats have caused such political hostility and thinking for a second what might happen when climate change ramps up, is even more sobering.

Here we are in the property and cities space arguing about a few more million people living in Sydney and Melbourne and how developers and governments can politely get the community to agree to higher density, when Davis points to the bleeding obvious.

It’s a sobering wake-up call, even for The Fifth Estate, which is periodically asked why it doesn’t tackle the elephant in the room of sustainability and climate change – population.

(And do what, exactly? we ask. Advocate a one child policy? Forced sterilisation? No-one has put forward a humane answer that beats improvement in women’s education and better urbanised quality of life for all.)

Davis mentions that Australia’s north has already been pinged as the big untapped resource. Geography and changing climate just might ramp up that agenda.

As well as academic leaders at the university, delegates at the roundtable include Tim Horton, these days Registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board and with a formidable background in design in South Australia as Commissioner for Integrated Design, Carolyn Ingvarson of Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and convenor of Lighter Footprints a climate change community group with 1000 members in the immediate area around Swinburne (and sister to Professor Peter Newman) and Jo Kellock, director of Kellaborate and a former CEO of the Council of Textile and Fashion industries of Australia.

The idea for the group is to find synergies between the big picture global trends, how they might impact on Australia and how best Australia can capitalise on the opportunities. It’s in these areas that CDI rationalises it could best concentrate its strategic development.

Already CDI seems to have some formidable expertise on materials recycling under the stewardship of Professor Geoff Brooks Pro Vic-Chancellor (future manufacturing). In a world of shrinking resources and environmental pressures, certainly one brilliant opportunity to develop outstanding capacity.

Another seems to be 3D mapping and 3D printing.

We’ve already taken a tour of the ground floor “factory of the future” with its big wide windows open to the street and community. Nearly every piece of equipment in the factory has been designed to be mobile and highly flexible, in order to be as responsive to innovation as possible.

We’ve also been ushered into “The Cave”, a darkened room, where we’re asked to don 3D glasses. Also, if we’re a bit funny about heights. The reason soon becomes apparent as we see ourselves standing in a room but then feel we are suddenly flying up over the house and street outside. Suddenly we dive back down into the bathroom and are standing in front of the bathroom cabinet admiring the finishes.

It’s taking a trip from inside the video fly-through. You can change the layout, furniture and colours. You can stand at the window and see what the view is like. A developer’s dream.

The 3D printing machine is just as impressive.

We’ve already taken a tour of the ground floor “factory of the future” with its big wide windows open to the street and community. Nearly every piece of equipment in the factory has been designed to be mobile and highly flexible, in order to be as responsive to innovation as possible.

We’ve also been ushered into “The Cave”, a darkened room, where we’re asked to don 3D glasses. Also, if we’re a bit funny about heights. The reason soon becomes apparent as we see ourselves standing in a room but then feel we are suddenly flying up over the house and street outside. Next we dive back down into a bathroom and are standing in front of the cabinet admiring the finishes.

It’s taking a trip from inside a video fly-through. You can change the layout, furniture and colours. You can stand at the window and see what the view is like. A developer’s dream.

The 3D printing machine is just as impressive.

Back at the roundtable we are also looking for connections between these amazing technological design possibilities and the needs of the modern world. There’s a lot of talk about Australia’s failure to seize the opportunities from its creative and innovative nature.

With her background in design Jo Kellock is interested in the potential to connect designers and new materials. She talks about an idea that was partly funded and then abandoned.

It’s based on the virtual “wheel” that you spin on an Iphone to work out the date and time for a reminder. Instead of dates it would show photos of potential new design materials. It sounds brilliant. How could someone not want to fund this… all the way to the bank?

There is much talk about how to get an earlier nexus between designers, engineers and materials creators, which could just change the game because designers might dream up completely different ideas if they could influence the raw materials they have to play with.

We spend a total of five hours in the school and come out with some inspirations fired by the enthusiasm in the room and the talent we’ve glimpsed downstairs with the students and staff.

Davis later sends through the results of the global creativity index by Richard Florida, Charlotta Mellander, and Karen King published earlier this year.

It’s maybe not so surprising – Australia takes the number one ranking, supplanting Sweden. The three key criteria are talent, technology, and tolerance. So let’s keep this very interesting piece of news top of mind as so many of us fall about complaining about the agitated stock markets and our picaresque national politics.

Here are the remaining rankings in the GC,I along with some notes from the authors:

Creative Class: Luxembourg has the largest share of the creative class (54 percent)?—?which spans science and technology; arts and culture; and business, management, and the professions. Bermuda is second (48 percent), Singapore third (47 percent), down from first in 2011. Switzerland (47 percent) is fourth and Iceland (45 percent) is fifth. Australia makes it to the top 10.

Technology: South Korea is first, Japan second, Israel third, the United States fourth, and Finland is fifth. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore, and Denmark round out the top ten.

Talent: Australia leads in talent. Iceland is second. The United States and Finland are tied for third with Singapore in fifth. Denmark, Slovenia, Belarus, New Zealand, and Sweden round out the top ten.

Tolerance: Canada takes the top spot, measured as openness to ethnic and religious minorities and gay and lesbian people. Iceland is second, New Zealand third, Australia fourth, and the United Kingdom fifth.

Creativity, Competitiveness, and Prosperity:

“Global creativity, as measured by the GCI, is closely connected to the economic development, competitiveness, and prosperity of nations, the authors say. Countries that score highly on the GCI have higher levels of productivity (measured as economic output per person), competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and overall human development. Creativity is also closely connected to urbanisation, with more urbanised nations scoring higher on the GCI.

“The GCI is associated with higher levels of equality. Nations that rank highly on the GCI also tend to be, on balance, more equal societies. There are two approaches to balancing creative economic growth and inequality. A high road path, associated with the Scandinavian nations, combines high levels of creative competitiveness with relatively low levels of inequality. The low road path, associated with the United States and the United Kingdom, combines high levels of creative competitiveness with much higher levels of inequality.”

  • Images from the roundtable and “factory of the future”

One reply on “News from the front desk: Issue No 260”

  1. Imagine if we had a true goal of land care and sustainability and compact liveable cities that fed themselves and did not drain every drop of blood from their hinterland and ocean. Imagine if we had only one “tax”, being flat rate land rent with no exemptions, and how all the best talent in the world that creates lasting value from real work and innovation would be beating a path to live and work here while being as efficient as possible with their land footprint. Imagine if we imposed a Fee ( just like we charge a fee at the land rubbish tip) on carbon at source ( mine, port or pipe) and distributed 100% of it back to all the households to either compensate or change. Its time. Its way past time. It isnt even “ethics”. It is simply rational self interest.
    Thanks for the GREAT work.

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