Canberra is a future UNESCO city of design Design canberra / THINKPLACE / november 2018

Montreal, Buenos Aires, Bilbao, Helsinki, Beijing… all are among the world’s most stunning cities. And all are recognised as UNESCO cities of Design..

Why not Canberra?

20 November, 2018

DESIGN Canberra, the primary outreach of Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, initiated an invitation-only workshop to bring together key stakeholders, thought-leaders and likeminded individuals to explore the possibility of Canberra being listed as a UNESCO City of Design.

Since 2014, and as part of its overall strategic planning, Craft ACT has had a long term ambition to pursue the listing of Canberra as a City of Design amongst the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The DESIGN Canberra festival itself was conceived to gain international recognition of Canberra as a global city of design.

ThinkPlace, a valued gold partner of the DESIGN Canberra festival, was invited by Craft ACT to facilitate the 2018 workshop and prepare a report to share the ideas and insights which emerged. ThinkPlace was perfect for the role: they are Australia’s preeminent design consultancy, were founded in Canberra, and work with companies and government organisations who want to create positive change in the world.

Themes that came out of the discussion

As the conversation flowed we captured ideas using post it notes and butcher’s paper. Looking at the themes emerging from the broad array of ideas, we saw some key areas of change and improvement that might help up be designated a City of Design.

The overwhelming consensus was that Canberra is more than qualified to be a City of Design already, but also that we were excited by the possibilities of how Canberra could evolve when we have been designated.

Here are the themes we captured in a little more detail.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of Inclusion

An opportunity to increase our efforts in cultural inclusion by using design thinking to improve our systems.

Recognition through design of the whole eco-system of our city. This is not only about the arts. This is about how a designedly mindset can lead to a better world.

We need to look at new ways to overcome complex challenges that are playing some in our community in vulnerable positions. Social inclusion will benefit from creative practices that challenge the current state.

Improved visibility of linkages that exist both physically and virtually to connect Canberrans with local, national and international cities through the creative cities network.

Designing human centred approaches to engagement practices that inform policy and governance.

Creation of inclusive, diverse and safe spaces for citizens of Canberra to explore and experiment with options and solutions to overcome issues.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of Authenticity

Being designated as a city of Design will support the depth of design transcending beyond the physical aesthetic and into the ethos of Canberra.

Canberra is one of the great cities of the world that has been created by design, having been realised through an international design competition; it seems very appropriate for us to join this global community.

This is the opportunity to formalise the design heritage of our city and create a legacy for future generations.

Its time to recognise the unique city of Canberra and the design culture that exists. We want to support the growth of good design and strengthen our position as world leading designers though the designation.

Canberra is uniquely positioned as we have a single level of governance: City and state (Territory) is one. This provides an amazing opportunity to build momentum and design facets of our city.

Being designated at a UNESCO city of design can strengthen the integrity of Brand Canberra. It brings a depth of culture and a desire to embrace design.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of Governance

Engages the community in deciding how we want to live in the city

Considering Canberra as a leader in participatory democracy, while it also hosts Australian representative democracy.

Increase co-design practices to see cross industry interactions and innovations.

Design in policy matters to everyone. We want to realise the aspirations of the community though the governance process – hear the voice of community in our policies.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of Identity

Canberra has long been told who to be and been perceived merely as the seat of Government in Australia. The UNESCO designation offers the opportunity for Canberra to step up and have a voice. To lead the narrative. To share with the world the strong design culture and talent that has emerged from this creative city. Its time for Canberra and Canberrans to define our own identity.

It's finally time for Canberra to tell the world who we are.

This could be the vehicle to disrupt conformity

Pride of place, pride of community, more than ‘we are CBR’

Being designated is a strong sign of maturity – it is a tool to lift our collective ambition for the city.

Builds confidence in our city – design becomes the essence of Canberra

International connection

The ideas and comments related to the theme of connection

Provides an international introduction allowing us to share our voice, our uniqueness, our design acumen with the global community.

International positions of Canberra as a destination

Bolsters the role of the national cultural institutions.

Formalises Canberra’s heritage and its place on the global stage

Increases to tourism – providing economic support for the arts and creates a self sustaining environment.

Positions Canberra within a network of other cities of design for collaboration and inspiration.

Enhances many of the relationships that exist through the embassy networks. Offers opportunities for increased exposure to the world.

Ambition will spur the city on to better design in the future.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of attractiveness

Creates purpose and reason to ‘be’ in Canberra. The ability to attract and retain creators

As the liveability of Canberra is enhanced through good design, the loveability increases seeing Canberra flourish as the heart of a Nation…for the right reasons.

Canberra becomes more visible and people can see what is possible and what the city is capable of. As we become more and more visible, there are greater opportunities, building resilience, adaptability and creativity.

As a city of design there is opportunity for growth and enhancement in the delivery of our existing education offerings at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) to create the design leaders of the future.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of innovation

This will create opportunities and an openness to things we can't yet conceive. Become a breeding ground for new and emergent industries.

Helps embed and authorise ‘design thinking’ approaches within broader society, including governments

Greater awareness and collective focus on design will see an overall improvement in the quality of design process and the resulting outcomes. We will see an elevation in the practice of critical thinking skills within our community.

Contribution to creating an environment of ambition and experimentation.

Connect different spheres of policy – territory, local, national and international

As a playground for breaking and emergent trends our people are encouraged to take risks – we build confidence and become world leaders in innovation.


The ideas and comments related to the theme of economy

The designation will see an increase in the attractiveness of Canberra. As tourism generates dollars, some can be directed back into the Arts, strengthening our culture, creating more vibrant communities that are inclusive and confident. This becomes a self sustaining economy with great potential for growth.

Canberra has $29 Billion in assets, a net worth of $19 Bilion and a $6 Billion annual turnover. The government has a staff of 25,000. Being a UNESCO city of design offers great benefit to the community. It opens trade markets, improves liveability, encourages investment and offers security.

Liveability & lifestyle

The ideas and comments related to the theme of liveability and lifestyle

Living in well considered and well designed communities offers increase in wellbeing and happiness. We see Canberra as an attractive place to live and an attractive place to visit. We want to lead the narrative for Canberra and share the design culture that exists.

Greater opportunity for idea exchange to support improved quality of life for all citizens realised through design methods and practices.

Explores how our natural and built environments shaped the thinking of the community; linkages between open space and open mind.

Raises the bar on place making and the built realm

Improve connectivity of all within our community through physical and digital innovations.

Creative approaches to improve health care for all.

Overall summary

Being a UNESCO City of Canberra means:

  • Canberra becomes a more appealing creative city, and is connected to a global community to other design focused economy’s
  • Goods and services that originate in Canberra are known for their design authenticity and quality
  • It strengthens our sense of community by giving a common mindset that can unite us all
  • We can demonstrate confidence and tell the nation who we are
  • The overall community sees and increase in wellbeing and community pride, having taken ownership of Canberra’s identity
  • The ripple effects of increased economic activity generated through international trade and tourism of benefit for all.

Next steps

What happens next? It is up to the ACT Government to put in the application to UNESCO to consider Canberra as a future City of Design. The next round is 2019, and the following is 2021, and we hope we can apply in one of these rounds.

Arts ACT are currently preparing paper for Minister of the Arts discussing a proposal for Canberra to proceed with an application for designation

Show of support and willingness for partnership with ACT Government to achieve designation would strengthen the paper

There is a list of criteria Canberra would need to satisfy in order to qualify. Here is some documentation from the UNESCO website if you want to know more about what qualifies a city as a City of Design.

What can I do though?

Keep the conversation going! Talk to you friends and family about what it might mean for Canberra to have the title City of Design. What changes in infrastructure, lifestyle and education/mindset would there be? How might it improve your families quality of life? What opportunities could it open up? Would your workplace improve? What does the future city of Canberra look like to you?

Showing your support and willingness for partnership with ACT Government to achieve designation would strengthen the paper. If you are interested in contributing to Canberra's application please contact Craft ACT to discuss.

Thank you!

To share your ideas with us please get in touch with ThinkPlace! ThinkPlace is Canberra's own preeminent design consultancy, we work with companies and government organisations who want to create positive change in the world.


Created with images by Social Estate - "Parliament House" • Linda Xu - "untitled image" • Almos Bechtold - "untitled image" • Mikael Kristenson - "untitled image" • Noah Buscher - "untitled image" • skeeze - "hurricane frances international space station 2004 clouds" • savannasherstad - "open house sign aboard house property estate" • Skye Studios - "untitled image" • takahiro taguchi - "untitled image" • Toa Heftiba - "untitled image" • simon peel - "Looking Out"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.