Designing for thriveability

Can good design create healing, both for our environment and our communities? MSD staff and student initiatives are uncovering the possibilities.

At the centre of these initiatives is Dr Dominique Hes, Director of the Thrive research hub: buildings, people and ecosystems.

A passionate advocate for sustainable design, Dominique recently gave a TED-style talk on the concept of ‘thriveability’ – going beyond sustainability, which focuses on limiting negative environmental impacts, to seek solutions that meaningfully improve the quality of our lives in harmony with the ecologies we live in.

Dominique explains, “We can design for the potential to thrive. I believe in being ambitious and creating a built environment that enables us, as individuals and communities, to thrive through times of change, to adapt and grow. That we, as human beings, along with our flora and fauna not only survive environmental change but find new ways to flourish.

“In summary, I define thriveability as being able to reach your potential, feeling valued and being able to positively contribute to your communities and our futures.”

Dominique’s work was recently recognised with three funding grants from the Green Cities Innovation Fund, a sub-fund from Australian Communities Foundation. These three grants will make possible:

  • An ecological assessment of a Castlemaine site
  • Running Wild: engaging and empowering future custodians of place
  • A student competition that will deliver designs for projects with positive ecological and social outcomes – the Positive Legacy Award.

Running wild

Tanja Beer

Artist Tanja Beer. Photo: Philippa Knack.

Dominique and her project partner, artist Tanja Beer, plan to employ drones, camera traps and heat-motion cameras, working with disadvantaged and migrant youth to connect with local wildlife. The project will culminate in a collaborative and interactive art installation that examines how ecological values and stewardship can be communicated through multisensory storytelling.

“Our hope is to provoke the emotional connections that enable us to connect to place, and to reveal ways of building social cohesion through positively caring for our local ecologies,” says Tanja.

A youthful legacy

Children running along a footpath

The El Guadal Youth Development Centre in Villa Rica Colombia. Architects: Daniel Joseph Feldman Mowerman and Ivan Dario Quinones Sanchez. Photo: Ivan Dario Quinones Sanchez.

The Positive Legacy Award will go to the Melbourne School of Design student whose project demonstrates the most potential to create positive social and ecological outcomes that have a ripple effect into the future.

Dominique explains, “We hope to see students showing us how their design supports nature and social healing. Does it offer a new vision for how design can contribute to a thriving future?

The Positive Legacy award offers a $2,000 first prize to the student with the best design, and publication of the five best projects.

Students must, in their work, demonstrate:

  • A contribution to local ecosystem services (including agriculture and local flora and fauna)
  • Passive design integrating local climate potential
  • A contribution to social benefit for all stakeholders
  • Consideration of materials used.

Tools that can be used to support student submissions are the Living Building Challenge and the Living Community Challenge standards. Other standards frameworks can be used – students should feel free to bring in others they feel contribute to positive social and ecological legacies.

An e-book will be produced, publishing the five best projects, which Dominique hopes will inspire students here at the University and studying at other institutions around the world.

At the end of thesis submission, submission guidelines will be published online. Students will be notified of the guidelines in Fabricate. For further information contact Dominique Hes.

Bringing land back to life

A fallen tree and debris on a shore

Photo: Dominique Hes

Dominique’s work also creates direct interventions in failing ecosystems. The development of a 680 hectare eco‚Äźcommunity in South Eastern Victoria, known as Seacombe West, links researchers with community, government and industry.

Seacombe West site is quickly being devastated by salt water incursion. Salinisation and ecosystem degradation, driven by climate change and human impact, has seen a fertile area decline in less than twenty years.

Dominique and her collaborators and stakeholders have a vision that will see the land restored and delivered to locals as an enriched place to live, play and work.

“Seacombe West has the potential for a mix of medium density housing, an ecological reserve, waterways, farmland and a golf course. We hope it will be a beautiful place to live and work that is very much driven by sustainability imperatives. I see the goal of thriveability being very much a part of this project.”

The vision for the eco-community ties in agricultural production and farming.

“In retaining part of Seacombe West for farming, and regenerating land specifically for that purpose, the project will drive greater respect and appreciation for our farming industry and the produce we consume.”

The regeneration of Seacombe West will be made possible by a Carlton Connect Initiatives Fund.