Lack of gov’t support sabotages Sydney’s bid to become 2020 World Design Capital 2020

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The Parramatta Square public domain by James Mather Delaney Design, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and Gehl Architects.

The Parramatta Square public domain by James Mather Delaney Design, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and Gehl Architects. Image: Supplied

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Johnson Pilton Walker’s competition-winning design for 3 Parramatta Square.

Johnson Pilton Walker’s competition-winning design for 3 Parramatta Square. Image: Courtesy City of Parramatta

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The interactive digital carpet in the Parramatta Square public domain by James Mather Delaney Design, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and Gehl Architects.

The interactive digital carpet in the Parramatta Square public domain by James Mather Delaney Design, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and Gehl Architects. Image: Supplied

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1 Parramatta Square by Architectus

1 Parramatta Square by Architectus Image: Bryan Siebel

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Paddington Reservoir Gardens by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer with JMD Design and the City of Sydney.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer with JMD Design and the City of Sydney. Image: Brett Boardman

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At its general assembly in Turin the World Design Organization (WDO) has announced that the northern French city of Lille will be the World Design Capital (WDC) in 2020, beating out Sydney’s bid.

“As a strategically located metropolis in the heart of Europe, Lille is an intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic and creative hub of significance to the sub-region and beyond. Their bid references their creative traditions and rich heritage whilst showcasing the catalytic benefits of embracing human-centred design thinking at cityscale,” said WDO president Mugendi M’Rithaa.

Five cities placed bids for the title, with Sydney and Lille announced as the two final contenders in July

In a statement, the WDO said, “Sydney […] mounted a compelling bid, with the hopes of using the WDC program as an open platform to engage, collaborate and design a new model of social impact for an increasingly urbanized world, one that […] engages not only its citizens but also people around the world.

“While they were unable to secure the relevant government support, their bid clearly set in motion a collaborative design movement that continues to resonate in their city and has served only to deepen their resolve as they set their sights on 2022.” 

The World Design Capital title is awarded every two years by the Montreal-based WDO to a city that advances design-led innovation to progress its economic, social, cultural and environmental development.

The selected city then stages a year-long program of design-led events. Sydney’s proposed program, titled “Inclusive, Resilient”, would have sought to “embrace the land and connect to the climate, engaging citizens, policy makers, and design professionals.” The program would have also placed an emphasis on Sydney’s fast-growing “second CBD,” Parramatta.

A group of WDO assessors visited Sydney in September. The team behind Sydney’s bid was told to secure “more support from governments at all levels where design leadership and innovation in policy is needed most” before the evaluation panel arrived. 

“We not able to secure the relevant government support needed to proceed with confidence this time,” said Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia, which was one of more than 40 private sector and not-for-profit organizations, institutions and agencies that comprised the consortium behind the bid.

“We know that the bid has started something that Sydney and Australia can build on.”

Timothy Horton, registrar for the NSW Architects Registration Board and a proponent of Sydney’s bid, said, “We congratulate the city and the people of Lille, France. Competing for this designation teaches a city much about itself and its creative and design community. 

“We see the passion and support that Lille generated over the last 12 months to support their bid and we are inspired by what they have achieved.”

First launched in Italian city of Turin in 2008, the World Design Capital has been awarded biannually to Seoul (2010), Helsinki (2012), Cape Town (2014) and Taipei (2016). Mexico City will assume the World Design Capital mantle in 2018.


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