City of Design inspiring new projects in 2019

A visit to Europe by Mayor Bruce Harwood has provided major inspiration and opened up a range of possibilities for Geelong, as the city looks to make the most of its UNESCO City of Design status.

The Mayor and City of Greater Geelong Manager of Economic Development and Events, Tim Ellis attended the UNESCO Creative Cities Annual General Meeting in Poland during June 2018, alongside 180 leading cities from around the world.

Following the AGM, the pair embarked on a tour of fellow design cities Dundee, Scotland and Turin, Italy, getting a first-hand look at how others have benefited from the City of Design designation.

Mayor Harwood said the chance to promote Geelong on the world stage, and to learn from other UNESCO Creative Cities, was incredibly valuable.

“It’s amazing – you bring 100-plus nations into one room, and there’s nothing but positivity,” Mayor Harwood said.

The main reasons for selecting these cities to visit, is the similarities to Geelong. All three cities have transitioned from a traditional manufacturing background, and all are located close to other capital / major cities – Melbourne, Edinburgh and Milan. As these major cities grow so does Geelong, Dundee  and Turin and this has to be planned for.

The impacts on transport, employment, connectivity all become challenges for the municipalities to manage. Geelong can learn from the experiences and examples of how Turin and Dundee have handled these challenges and how they have embedded design thinking into their growth planning.

Mr Ellis said taking part in the UNESCO conference would be vital as Geelong works towards its vision of being an internationally recognised clever and creative city-region.

“We went for some really core reasons,” Mr Ellis said.

“We went as part of our obligation as Secretariat, and to learn from others – to see how they’re structured, what projects they do and how long it’s taken them.

“We also went to make contacts that will help Geelong and the people of Geelong, and to share Geelong’s success stories.

“We achieved all of those goals without a shadow of a doubt, and we’re now in the phase of taking those learnings, sharing them, and planning where we focus our efforts and which projects we would like to implement.

“Our immediate aim is to raise awareness of our City of Design designation and to work on how all interested parties can contribute.”

While a number of ideas picked up from other cities of design are being considered, Mr Ellis said some opportunities immediately stood out.

One is the chance for local creatives and designers to showcase their work by attending overseas design weeks, such as the major event run by the City of Shenzhen in China.

“They have sections for professional designers, for youth, and a whole range of other categories, and if you’re selected, there’s prize money,” Mr Ellis said.

“And that’s not open to everybody – it’s only open to Geelong and the other 30 Cities of Design.

“So it’s a big opportunity for our local designers.”

Another key concept, used effectively in both Kobe, Japan and Helsinki, Finland, is factoring in design thinking as a central part of planning for city services, new buildings and engaging youth in the design process.

Mayor Harwood said this type of approach could have a significant impact on upcoming major construction projects – such as the new City of Greater Geelong office building and the long-awaited conference and convention centre.

“It’s an opportunity not just to build a convention centre, but something that has that ‘wow’ factor,” the mayor said.

“It’s about thinking differently to what we may have thought we might build.”

In addition, Mr Ellis said promoting the Greater Geelong region to leaders from 180 different international cities would have major economic and tourism impacts.

“We had the opportunity to showcase Geelong to a group of international cities, many that had never even heard of us,” he said.

“There are a number of other cities around Australia that are now looking at Geelong and would love to be a City of Design.”

“Now they’ve not only heard about us, they’re amazed by the natural beauty of the region and impressed by Geelong’s transition and what we’re achieving as a clever and creative city.”

Geelong is Australia’s only UNESCO City of Design, and the only regional Australian city in the UNESCO Creative Cities network.

Other cities of design include world famous destinations such as Berlin, Montreal, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore and Mexico City.

“The designation alone has been a massive coup for the city,” Mayor Harwood said.

To learn more about the Creative Cities Network and the key learnings from the AGM, click HERE.