After a month-long residency in September 2022, design-legends Bruce Mau and Aiyemobisi (Bisi) Williams have left their mark on UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture (ADA) through a unique collaborative initiative, Massive Action Sydney, which took place at the Centre for Massive Action on our Art & Design campus in Paddington.

The Massive Action Sydney design sprint involved 75 staff and students from across ADA forming five renaissance teams in the areas of powerhealth and climate, to lead Massive Action through the concepts of acceleration and translation.  Translating Mau’s 24 Massive Change principles into tangible, real-world actions the collaboration resulted in 12 project proposals that were presented to the wider UNSW community and public through an evening showcase and exhibition that has seen over 400 visitors since opening on 28 September 2022.

September also saw a busy schedule of engagements and events featuring Mau and Williams, including a kick-off keynote for future students at UNSW Sydney Open Day and exclusive lecture at Sydney Design Week, to a special public performance of Design For All the Senses at UNSW’s Roundhouse.

Massive Action Sydney – a unique collaboration

Massive Action Sydney is the first initiative of a larger global movement seeking to solve urgent issues of our time. It was led by ADA’s Innovation Hub and formed an important pillar of the faculty’s foundational strategy, ADA2051.

“The fact that Bruce Mau has selected UNSW ADA to collaborate on the Sydney chapter of Massive Action is significant and special,” says ADA Dean Professor Claire Annesley.

In their recently published book MAU: MC24, Mau and Williams distilled 30 years’ of design experience into 24 Massive Change principles, known as MC24. These principles are based on a life-centred design methodology and draw on fact-based optimism to inspire and create change.

UNSW ADA brought excellence from a range of academics and students working in the arts, humanities, education, design, built environment and creative disciplines to the unique collaboration. These teams worked with Mau and Williams and using the MC24, collectivised their diverse knowledge and experience to tackle the immense task of designing change on a societal level.

The collaboration resulted in the five Renaissance teams producing 12 ambitious concepts for change, ranging from Caring for Country leave to the bottom-up revolution for our healthcare system. The proposed concepts were showcased at the Centre for Massive Action at the UNSW Art & Design campus, where the public engaged with the proposed project ideas.

“Real change is challenging, confronting and difficult, so when faced with the task of designing change for Massive Action Sydney, ADA staff and students were essentially in an incubator, utilising their knowledge from across diverse disciplines,” says Prof. Annesley. “The resulting concepts from each team are innovative and ambitious, and each concept has laid the foundations for future adaptation.”

Learn more about the concepts produced during Massive Action Sydney.

Making Massive Action at Sydney Design Week 2022

UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture were pleased to bring Bruce Mau to Sydney Design Week at the Powerhouse for 2022.

In his keynote, Making Massive Action, Mau set the stage for the Massive Action Sydney collaboration, answering when asked ‘what gives him hope?’, in the context of the future of designing our cities, ‘have you met the people of UNSW?’

Massive Change Network / Julie Kauffman

Design For All the Senses – performance at the Roundhouse

As part of Mau’s residency with UNSW, ADA’s Innovation Hub delivered a special co-created performance of Design For All the Senses. In this Australian first, the performance brought the MC24 principle, ‘Design For All the Senses’ to life at UNSW’s Roundhouse. Directed and narrated by Bruce Mau, the performance explores how powerful design can be when it engages all of our sensory organs, not just the visual – but also scent, touch, taste and sound. This is the first time Design For All the Senses has been performed outside of its premiere at SXSW, Austin, Texas in 2019.

Taking place in the Roundhouse, audiences were blindfolded as Mau’s live narration led them through an immersive experience that guided a rediscovery of their sense of taste, smell, touch and sound.

Audience members not only heard Mau’s message of designing for all the senses, they experienced it. Once blindfolded, the collective rustling of everyone’s programs, anchored all in the auditorium.  

A live composition by ADA’s Alister Spence and UNSW musicians accompanied Mau’s narration.

Together, the audience of 300, savoured their sense of taste, ignited their sense of smell and rediscovered the power of touch in a production like no other.

Design For The Senses was a meditative experience, which asks audiences to pause the auto-pilot of our dominant sense of sight and remember the possibilities that our other senses offer.

Massive Change Network / Julie Kauffman

Massive Action Sydney was a culmination of the work of ADA’s Innovation Hub, an interdisciplinary problem-solving initiative at the heart of UNSW’s diverse Arts, Design & Architecture faculty. Established in 2021, the ADA Innovation Hub brings together our unique mix of expert knowledge from across six schools, six research centres, and multiple other labs, studios and galleries to solve problems, respond to opportunities, and facilitate positive change.

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Listen to and read through all of the activities of Massive Action Sydney here:

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