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15 creatives imagine a ‘new Australian heritage’ in Melbourne Design Week exhibition


Heritage architecture will grapple with 21st century challenges in an upcoming Melbourne Design Week exhibition.

There is a tension in the Australian design industry, according to Melbourne-based designer and marketer CJ Cornish and furniture designer and 3D artist Locki Humphrey. The desire to preserve and celebrate our heritage architecture, with its cast-iron balustrades and decorative stucco, is reckoning with a worsening housing crisis, a changing climate and the increasingly urgent call to find more sustainable ways to live. 

In a new exhibition presented by the creative couple titled ‘Overlay: A New Australian Heritage’, 15 exhibitors will reimagine heritage aesthetics to better reflect our climate and context. Architects, interior designers and object designers will explore the tension between preserving heritage architecture and the need to adapt homes for density, sustainability, community and connection to Country.

CJ Cornish and Locki Humphrey
CJ Cornish and Locki Humphrey are presenting Overlay: A New Australian Heritage at Melbourne Design Week

“Current conversations of heritage are often bound to the façade, concerned with complying to regulations,” explains Cornish, who curated Overlay. 

“Our aim with Overlay is to present a layered, more complete vision of heritage.  We see the heritage influence as one that is wrapped up in nostalgia, but also caters to a colonial history. It’s a conversation that goes beyond the façade, one that flows from the interior to the façade, streetscape and wider community.”

A cross-disciplinary exploration of Australian heritage

Cornish and Humphrey selected designers from a range of disciplines to communicate this layered approach, including architecture practices Studio Edwards and Austin Maynard Architects, alongside interior designers Studio A.mi and Chan Hung Hin, an artist, designer and craftsman.

“We included exceptional designers whose work we admired. They are designers who are innovators, creating thoughtful, contemporary ways of living with a focus on sustainability,” says Cornish. 

“Together, their exhibited pieces provide a more immersive sense of heritage and its aesthetics, and diverse perspectives on how this may transform to adapt to modern life.”

Over: A New Australian Heritage

Humphrey, who won the IDEA 2023 Object, Furniture and Lighting – Rising category for a stool made from public transport fabrics, will also be exhibiting a vignette of furniture and accessories which recontextualise classic, familiar pieces found in traditional-style homes.

“My work for Overlay takes inspiration from living in Australian suburbs, the tones and textures of old heritage houses and streets,” Humphrey says.

“The pieces I’m presenting in Overlay have a moodier edge to them than my previous work, but still retain a playful approach to the design.” 

Important dates for Overlay

Overlay will open on Thursday 23 May at 6pm. The free exhibition will be on display from Friday May 24 to Sunday May 26 at 181 Brunswick St, Fitzroy.

For the full list of Overlay exhibitors, head to the Melbourne Design Week website.

Photography supplied by CJ Cornish.


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