The Exchange at Knowledge Market was a unique urban living lab situated in Victoria Harbour, in Melbourne’s Docklands, a major urban regeneration project at the edge of the city’s central business district. Over the course of two years, an interdisciplinary team of design and ethnography researchers from RMIT University partnered with Lendlease, developers of the Victoria Harbour precinct, to activate an empty shopfront retail space.

This activation involved the development of a series of projects that investigated the cultural and spatial dynamics of Victoria Harbour and formulated design propositions responding to a range of social and environmental issues encountered within the precinct.

The project was staged through four interdisciplinary themes that directly addressed the inhabitation and liveability of the urban environment in the twenty first century: Carbon Neutral Futures; Social Diversity; Digitally Enabled Infrastructures; and Urban Memory and Imagination.

At various times the space was organised into a lecture theatre, public forum, design studio, creative making space, and gallery. This accommodated the program of regular public talks, exhibitions of design projects and community workshops.

During the 'activation' of the site, undergraduate and postgradaute RMIT students from multiple disciplines - Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Fashion Design, Communication Design, and RMIT’s Master of Design Innovation and Technology - developed projects that used the specifics of the Victoria Harbour site to design for urban futures more broadly.

Throughout the life of the project, The Exchange hosted public talks by people engaged in the shaping of the urban environment. The project also saw the opportunity to develop the conversation about Victoria Harbour through collaborations with Melbourne’s many cultural festivals, such as the Melbourne Design Week, the Sustainable Living Festival, Melbourne Knowledge Week and Melbourne Fashion Week.

Through the various studios, lectures, exhibitions and public events held at The Exchange, we were able to bring together the different views and agendas of governments, corporations, developers and the community and create a forum for the exchange of ideas about the urban environment. Such an open, participatory and collaborative approach ignited a robust discussion around the nature of the city and inspired the creation of innovative and original design proposals.

To view the video chronicling the goals and outcomes of The Exchange go to: