• , Nov 2011
  • - In design Live

Designing Our Future: Bruce Mau

Louise Martin-Chew heads to the State Library of Queensland for the Neilson Design Lecture, where Bruce Mau envisioned a new future for the state.

When Bruce Mau came to town, there was a full house in the State Library of Queensland ’s 200 seat auditorium, a screen in the Knowledge Walk for the large overflow crowd, and a vodcast for the rest of the world. There was the sense that Mau could provide something we need, urgently. And he delivered – being optimistic, visionary, stimulating.

Mau’s subject is design, applied to every facet of life, institution and society – global and local. At the core of his message is a signal change to the green, eco-friendly, sustainable paradigm as it has existed for 50 years, one riddled with guilt, pain and an intrinsically conservative opposition to innovation or change. Mau noted, “We won’t solve the problems by inflicting pain, or looking back”.

Climate change, population growth (to the current level of one million children born weekly) and world poverty – all “staggeringly difficult” problems – may be solved, he suggested, by engaging the power and creative possibilities of art and design, putting together disciplines that have been divided. Joining technology with art or science with design has the power to create a holistic trajectory that has the potential to turn traditional thinking upside down and inside out, and deliver solutions in as yet un-thought of ways.

His visit focused on leading Brisbane’s creatives toward a new future for the state, offering a challenge to the city to take up “one of the most extraordinary opportunities in history”, to develop itself as a prototype. His ambitions for Brisbane included an energy bill of zero, the opportunity to become a world leader in civic life, exporting solutions to the globe.

While civic design thinking, reinventing “everything we do” is on his agenda, his most radical innovation may be his suggestion of a significant investment in art.

“How many people would travel to Venice had they had a one per cent for art program in the Renaissance? What if Brisbane had a 99 per cent for art program and led the globe in a beautiful synthesis toward this new world?”