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Michael Alvisse, IDEA 2024 sustainability judge, on delight and designing for the future

Michael Alvisse, IDEA 2024 sustainability judge, on delight and designing for the future


Michael Alvisse, co-founder of award-winning design studio Schamburg+Alvisse, will take on the role of sustainability judge in this year’s IDEA jury panel. He will join Brooke Lloyd, Melissa Bright, Davina Bester and Graham Charbonneau on the jury of the 2024 Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).

Early bird entries to IDEA have now closed, but you can still enter your project until 12 May.

Michael Alvisse has more than 30 years of experience designing across large-scale interiors and products. From airport megastructures through to designing award-winning products for leading commercial furniture manufacturers, Alvisse is a designer known for his philosophy of “talking less and listening more”.

From this thoughtful, observational vantage point, Alvisse has established himself as a leading voice for sustainable design and a co-creator of designs that centre the wellbeing of others, helping to solve social and environmental challenges with designs that are life-affirming.

Stop playing with yourself puzzle chair

It is this quiet, deeply considered approach that has no doubt contributed to his success, which includes his iconic ‘Stop playing with yourself puzzle chair’ being held in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. As a former adjunct professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, Alvisse plays an active role in shaping the future of sustainable design in Australia.

His eponymous design studio, co-founded in the early 1990s with Marc Schamburg, remains at the forefront of sustainable design locally and globally.

“When we started to think about designing furniture, we were determined to design products that were aesthetically beautiful, exceptionally well crafted, at the same time as being environmentally conscious,” Alvisse says.

“As we worked through the process, doing all the research into materials and manufacturing processes, we realised that there was so much more that we could be doing, that the industry could be doing… It took the industry decades to get to the point that it’s at now in terms of awareness about non-toxic materials and sustainable manufacturing processes, and we can always collectively do better.” 

Marc Schamburg, Left, and Michael Alvisse, Right at a JAC product event for Zenith

Alvisse’s passionate commitment to sustainability and his highly attuned awareness of both the macro and the micro elements which synergistically create an aesthetic experience, led to him being honoured by Sydney Morning Herald as one of the 100 most influential designers in 2009, where he exhibited in Milan at the Triennale Museum and in the San Jose Museum of Art in the US.

At the time of writing, Alvisse has just returned from a trip to Asia, where he was invited to LAAB design studio in Hong Kong. LAAB describe themselves as a “laboratory of art and architecture for social and sustainable innovation” and according to Alvisse, who is clearly no stranger to innovative, ground-breaking design, he was “blown away by LAAB’s profound understanding of what makes people want to enter, explore and deeply engage with an interior”.

“[This includes] how an interior can offer different layers of delight and surprise that unfolds over time and through exploration, and the capacity for design to transcend trends to offer an experience which people value for years to come,” he says.

What will Alvisse be looking for in the IDEA Sustainability category this year?

It is these aspects which so impressed him at LAAB, together with a focus on treading lightly on the earth, and genuinely caring for the health and wellbeing of people and the planet that Alvisse will be looking for in entries. 

JAC by Schamburg+Alvisse for Zenith

“I’m interested in a design that’s sensitively attuned to people and the planet while simultaneously delivering delight,” Alvisse says. “Good design has to help us move towards better health and well-being for all the people touched by the design. It has to foster rich engagement with others.”

From a materials perspective, Alvisse will also be considering the extent to which a design has attempted to reduce energy use by utilising renewable materials, and placing value on durability and repairability.

JAC lounge chair, Schamburg+Alvisse for Zenith

He says it is not enough however to just have exceptional green credentials. “Joy is vitally important,” Alvisse adds “Joy means different things to different people, but in the context of design, for me joy is about the degree to which the design attracts people to enter, explore and deeply engage with the space or the product, encourages exploration and transcends any sense of being of the moment.”

Lead image photographer Emma Brittenden, Christchurch.

All other images provided by Michael Alvisse courtesy of Zenith unless otherwise stated.

Enter IDEA 2024 here.


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