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Design Capital efforts must not be wasted


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It was disappointing to learn last month that the State Government had abandoned Adelaide’s bid to be the World Design Capital in 2018, even though I am sure there were legitimate reasons for the decision.

It is unfortunate not only because of the significant effort many people had put into the preparation of the bid, but also because it had been backed by industry.

Peak bodies representing the design sector, including the Australian Institute of Architects (for which I am SA Chapter president), had thrown their weight behind the bid, so we had high hopes for its success.

The thousands of men and women working in the design sector, in a diverse range of activities, were looking forward to both the domestic and the international engagement and profile that the WDC title would bring.

To many of these supporters, it was seen as an integral part of reinvigorating the state’s economy, one of the greatest challenges and threats to the survival of our businesses.

Designers contribute significantly to South Australia’s economy, and are a crucial group in the delivery of many of the state’s strategic aims around smart cities and advanced manufacturing.

Both, at their core, are design challenges.

We have long been a city of firsts, experimenting and piloting and proving new ideas before they are adopted elsewhere. We are able to take advantage of the intimacy of our scale and business relationships to design our transition to a new economy.

And as I have been explaining to our Chinese audiences in Shandong during the SA trade mission over the past week, our world-renowned liveability has not simply come about by accident – design has played a key part.

After all, design is not just an aesthetic pursuit – it is something that all of us interact with every day, from the moment we get out of bed. And good design is good business.

Design has a pivotal role in our transition to a knowledge-intensive and advanced manufacturing economy. The products and processes in this new economy are design-intensive.

The design sector is a diverse group of industries, and we participate early in the value chain. Whether it be city planning, buildings, furniture or an advanced piece of medical equipment, we guide and influence many core decisions.

Designers will reveal the hidden gem that no one else has thought of, either through their own input, or by critically reinterpreting the ideas of others around us; this is what we are trained to do.

It is in our DNA to pilot new things, to seek out new solutions. As an economy, we are at a crunch point, and we all recognise the need to find new ways of doing things. Here, design is a key enabler.

Industry has a key role in driving this agenda in collaboration with government, a partnership we look forward to strengthening.

So if the World Design Capital bid is not proceeding, we must now harness the thinking, and the collaboration, that went into it to create an alternative trajectory and be a world-leading design city.

Working in silos is business-as-usual, but it’s no longer an option.

– David Homburg is the President of the SA Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects and an Adelaide based Principal at design practice HASSELL

Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

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