Material Matters Exhibition

MATERIAL MATTERS is an experiential exhibition that asks a collective of architecturally led exhibitors to present a ‘material in application’ showcasing their work as a pivotal catalyst in driving the evolution of retail space. The resulting curation, currently on display at Hanover House in South Melbourne, gives inspiring insight into the staggering potential that surrounds us.

Launched at BETA, an experimental event series exploring the future of retail, as part of Craft Contemporary's Satellite program, Material Matters brings together some of Australia’s most renowned architectural studios, artisans and designers. Their individual enquiries into the role of minerals and materials within design and the impact of mindful creation provides a glimpse into a future that is exponentially more sustainable and fascinating, offering a contemplative reflection on the substrates that form the foundation of the world around us.

Through innovative displays, visitors are able to gain profound insights into the union of art and sustainability, fostering a deeper appreciation for the importance of environmentally considered practices in the realms of architecture, craft and product design. It poses the question, “Why do materials matter?” and offers exciting and viable solutions for a more mindfully constructed built environment.

Curated by interdisciplinary designer and artist Ella Saddington, Material Matters unites Breathe, Cera Stribley, Cordon Salon, Cubic Products, DNJ Paper, Heliotope, Hempanel, Jordan James Kaye , Marlo Lyda, Oigall Projects and Other Matter. Across an entire floor plate within a former commercial building which is slated for future development, a number of installations are peppered, each contributing to the sustainable narrative to form a firm understanding that the natural world and innovation can work in tandem to drive the creation of new products that could dramatically alter the environmental impact of retail design for the better.

Upon exiting the lift on the second floor of Hanover House and entering the exhibition space, a line of breeze blocks of various designs and colours is one of the first observations. Designed by Cubic Products, the ground-breaking masonry products called Bitsa Block’s use 30% less cement than traditional blocks and provide a feasible reuse for safely managed and treated hazardous industrial waste.

Farther through, a cubical-shaped enclosure with walls of aluminium sheeting invites closer inspection. Designed by Oigall Projects, the installation explores design thinking for temporary structures, offering a system of nesting panels that can be arranged in myriad ways to provide an agile exhibition system that can store easily when not in use.

A second enclosure, this one with walls made of mycelium clasped within rebar, is softly lit from within by a Volker Haug pendant lined with mycelium and backdropped by mycelium panels grown by Flynn Williams. The ancient, versatile properties of ever-evolving mycelium are shown here by Cera Stribley to hold immense promise in reshaping the way we think about sustainable materials.

There are furniture pieces designed by Marlo Lyda and made from remnants of breathtaking fragments of stone; delicate appearing vessels formed from handmade recycled rag paper and Japanese paper known as washi, alongside pulverised denim scraps from the Future From Waste Lab located on the building’s ground floor and formed into small plinth like display blocks; immense Hempanels, an Australian Structurally Insulated Panel (SIPs) system which is slowly but surely revolutionising not only retail but also the residential sector; visually beautiful and profoundly resilient pieces realised through the resurrection of a 15th Century Italian plasterwork technique called Scagliola which could be shaped into countless forms for countless uses.

A walk through Material Matters is a lesson in creative innovation, illuminating the richness of the union between design and sustainability and the symbiotic relationship that exists between the two.

Material Matters is open from 10am - 5pm weekdays by appointment until 30th November, 2023. Words by Tiffany Jade. Photography by Pier Carthew.