You may think you’ve been to Melbourne Design Week, but actually, this is its first year. Similar events have been floating around the city’s annual calendar since 2004 – going by similar names such as Melbourne Design Festival and Melbourne International Design Week – but so far, nothing has stuck. This year – and for at least the next four – these disparate events will finally coalesce into a single, 10-day program, run by the NGV in collaboration with Creative Victoria.

The guiding concept of the inaugural 2017 program is Design Values. “It’s an open-ended theme,” says Ewan McEoin, the senior curator in the NGV’s Department of Contemporary Design & Architecture. “It asks what designers value at this moment in time – whether that’s gender equality, immigration, urban ecology etc. – but also how the community values or undervalues design.”

The program covers design of all scales: from single chairs to residential apartment blocks. Although the NGV will be a hub for many of the talks and exhibitions, the festival will open up the city and invites you to participate in unearthing its design foundations.

With more than 100 talks, walks, events and exhibitions to choose from, here are some of the highlights.

EXHIBITIONS
Designwork 01
Designwork 01, presented by Sophie Gannon Gallery, brings design into the context of a contemporary art gallery. “We’re very excited that Sophie has started to look at design as something she might offer to collectors,” says McEoin. “It isn’t yet something that’s common practice in Australia.” The exhibition features acclaimed designers from different fields, including furniture designers Ash Allen and Dale Hardiman, jeweller Kyoko Hashimoto and ceramicist Lucile Sciallano.

Entry is free. Thursday March 17 to Saturday March 25 at Sophie Gannon Gallery (2 Albert Street, Richmond). More info here.

Creating the Contemporary Chair
The NGV has collected chairs for decades, but this exhibition signals “a whole new approach” to the gallery’s collection. An event two years in the making, Creating the Contemporary Chair features 35 iconic chairs from around the world that set a new agenda for what the NGV collects and why. “This isn’t your typical chair exhibition,” says McEoin.

Entry is free. Runs Friday March 17 to Sunday March 26 at NGV International.

26 Original Fakes
In this exhibition, 26 Australian designers are invited to “hack” a copy of an iconic design item. “They’re inviting designers to ‘copy’ the Jasper Morrison HAL chair and to make it ‘better’, then to sell the ‘better’ design at the same price,” says McEoin. Intended to provoke, 26 Original Fakes explores the idea of copying and inverts the program’s theme: this is an example of a way in which design is de-valued.

Entry is free. Runs Thursday March 17 to Sunday March 26 at Piccolina Gelateria (296 Smith Street, Collingwood).

The Found Object
What do designers collect? The Found Object gives you a glimpse into what some of Australia’s foremost designers have collected and treasured over their lifetimes. Featured designers include photographer Trevor Mein and architect John Wardle.

Entry is free. Runs Thursday March 17 to Sunday March 26 at Piccolina Gelateria (296 Smith Streer, Collingwood).

International Design Project: Catenary Pottery Printer
You’ve heard of 3D printing, but what about pottery printing? In this exhibition international guests from Chilean design studio gt2P showcase their one-of-a-kind Catenary Pottery Printer, built in collaboration with RMIT’s Industrial Design Department. “They’re doing some very interesting things at the intersection of digital and analogue,” says McEoin. As part of the exhibition in the NGV atrium, you’re invited to mould your own clay using the “printer’s” fabric sling.

Entry is free. Runs Tuesday March 21 to Sunday March 26 in the NGV Federation Court atrium.

TALKS
Does Blak Design Matter?
“This is an important topic in our city right now,” says McEoin. “How do we get Indigenous design to become more embedded in our built environment?” Covering everything from product design to town planning, this panel discussion will examine what Indigenous design means, how it is received, and why it matters.

Tickets $5. Friday March 24 from 6.30pm–7.30pm in the Clemenger BBDO Auditorium at NGV International.

Urban Ecology: City as Living Systems Symposium
Progress isn’t always progress; cities are living systems and as more land is cleared, the environment and human health suffers. Led by Foreground, this discussion will address pollution, water shortages and urban spaces, addressing how to enhance the ecological diversity of the city.

Tickets $20. Tuesday March 21 from 9am–1pm in the Clemenger BBDO Auditorium (NGV International).

WALKS
Open State
Open State is a new program by Open House Melbourne in collaboration with Melbourne Design Week. In what McEoin describes as “an inverted business conference” companies and businesses across the city will invite you behind the scenes, demonstrating the different ways they depend on design. ACMI, Bombardier, Modscape and the Australian Islamic Centre are just some of the businesses participating in the event.

Times and locations differ. Participation is free but bookings are essential.

EVENTS
Art Book Fair
This year, for the first time, Melbourne’s annual Art Book Fair – the largest in the Asia-Pacific region – will take place as part of the Melbourne Design Week program. Over one weekend 100 stallholders will gather in the NGV Great Hall and transform it into a celebration of typography, graphic design, zines and publishing.

Thursday March 16 to Sunday March 19 in the NGV International’s Great Hall.

2017 Victorian Architecture Awards
Some of Australia’s most prominent architects will present their projects for consideration at the Australian Institute of Architects Presentation to Juries as part of the 2017 Victorian Architecture Awards. The awards span 11 major categories of architecture and feature some of the country’s most innovative buildings. As part of the presentation, contenders must personally address the judges and participate in a Q&A, offering insight into their inspiration, projects and processes. A must for architecture enthusiasts.

Entry is free. Saturday March 25 from 9am–6.30pm at the Melbourne School of Design (The University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus).

Melbourne Design Week runs from Thursday March 16 to Sunday March 26 at the National Gallery of Victoria and various partner venues around Melbourne. Full program and more information available here.