Aerial view of the Innovation Precinct in Fishermans Bend, approx. four kilometres from the CBD (digital render). Artists impression year 2050.
Aerial view of the Innovation Precinct in Fishermans Bend. Artists impression year 2050. Source: Development Victoria
Past Event

Designing For Complex Futures: The Legacy And Future Of Design In Fishermans Bend

Presented by City of Melbourne


Wed 24 May 5:00pm - 6:30pm


Free, booking required


The Greenhouse 191 Salmon St, Port Melbourne VIC 3207, Australia
191 Salmon St, Port Melbourne VIC 3207, Australia


Accessible bathroom Low sensory / relaxed Seating available Wheelchair accessible

As we look to the future of design in an increasingly complex era and the transformation of the former Holden site, what are the lessons we can draw from the legacy of design in Fishermans Bend?

For nearly 60 years the General Motors Holden design studio in Fishermans Bend was one of the most successful industrial design studios in Australia. Globally recognised, a strong community of practice and both a competitive and highly collaborative culture were crucial to Holden’s success as a powerhouse of automotive design, engineering and manufacturing. Today, the transformation of the former Holden site into the Fishermans Bend Innovation Precinct is a key part of Australia’s largest urban renewal project. It will be the heart of what is envisaged to be ‘an internationally renowned centre of innovation in advanced manufacturing, engineering and design’, including the University of Melbourne’s new design and engineering campus.

Join the City of Melbourne for this panel discussion to learn how stories from the past are shaping design for the future of Fishermans Bend. This discussion is followed by light refreshments.



Dan Hill

Dan Hill is Director of the Melbourne School of Design, the graduate school in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. A designer and urbanist, Dan’s previous leadership roles include the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova, Arup, the Finnish innovation fund SITRA, Fabrica, Future Cities Catapult, and the BBC. Dan is also a Professor at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Practice and founder member of the Council on Urban Initiatives, a joint venture between UN HABITAT, LSE and UCL. His books include ‘Dark Matter & Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Playbook’ (2012) and ‘Designing Missions’ (2022).

Matthew Mackay

Matthew is a Director for ASPECT Studios in Melbourne. He is an accomplished landscape architect and urban designer who has delivered many significant landscape design and public realm projects across Australia. These complex, research-driven developments have created new industry standards while highlighting his unmatched passion for green infrastructure and living architecture. Working in both public and private sectors, Matt has led complex urban projects and strategic master plans for large precincts including his work on the Fishermans Bend Innovation Precinct.

Passionate about the sustainable development of our cities and communities, Matthew is a strong advocate for Country Centered Design. He is committed to exploring meaningful processes for engagement with and representation of First Nations communities in design projects.

Leanne Hodyl

Leanne is the founder and Managing Director of Hodyl & Co, a research and urban design consultancy focused on creating cities people love. Leanne has 20 years of experience delivering a wide range of projects including urban renewal, housing, arts and infrastructure strategies and public realm projects. Her company has launched a not-for-profit initiative, Cities People Love, which creates and curates urban research that can engage and empower communities and influence policy. Leanne is the current President of the Urban Design Forum Australia.

Dr Norm Darwin

Norm is the President of Automotive Historians Australia Inc, a member of the Society of Automobile Historians and the Royal Victorian Historical Society. In 1969 Norm began working at GM-Holden Engineering at Fishermans Bend, progressing to the company’s sourcing coordinator by 1980. In 1983 the first of nine automotive history books were published. Norm was accepted into the RMIT University doctoral research program in 2014 and commenced writing a doctoral thesis on early Australian car design. He was awarded a PhD in 2018 and is the second Australian automotive historian to do so.

Harriet Edquist

Harriet Edquist is a historian and curator and founding director of RMIT Design Archives (2007-2020); she also established and edited the RMIT Design Archives Journal from 2012 to 2023.  Harriet has produced pioneering studies and exhibitions on subjects as various as the Arts and Crafts Movement, émigré architects and designers, and automotive design. Recent exhibitions include Melbourne Modern: European Art and Design at RMIT since 1945 (with Jane Eckett, 2019) and Radical Utopia: An archaeology of a creative city (with Helen Stuckey, 2023).

Michael Blancato

Michael Blancato brings over 15 years of industry experience working at design-focused practices in the United States and Australia. Before joining Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA) in early 2018, Michael worked as an Associate and team leader at Hassell, delivering several large complex projects from schematic design into construction. He is a key part of the KTA team working on the new Fishermans Bend campus for the University of Melbourne. Other projects Michael has worked on include the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

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