Positive Interruptions – Reflections on managing the APDL

In mid 2014 when I joined the APDL and previous manager Christian Duell passed the baton, I had big shoes to fill. I had hopes that my two-year sojourn from QUT School of Design would be a positive interruption to my academic career, paying dividends for my own learning, as well as for the development of this internationally significant initiative. 

Nearly two years on, upon reflection, my time as manager has been a whirlwind of energy and excitement every week and I can happily say we have expanded APDL’s regional Queensland reach, strengthened our international exchanges in the Asia Pacific, and moved towards a model of self–sustainability, led by the Queensland design community.


In my first blog, I invited the APDL community from industry, academia and the general public to come out to play in this sandpit for interruption; to share ideas for generating new knowledge around design in the Asia Pacific. And come out they did – in droves – to share many positive community-led interruptions and experiences. As I wrap up my time at APDL there have been so many standouts:

We have overseen the expansion of the APDL Design Lounge and shared over 15 exhibitions and eight events in the space. Through the APDL Connect project, Woods Bagot Beijing office has provided us with a fantastic interactive installation, which has attracted many new visitors of all ages to the space. We have also hosted another eight exhibitions throughout the library, including those for the Asia Pacific Architecture Forum. We have toured more than 20 groups through the Lounge, including guests from Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Singapore.

Under the banner of Design Minds we have hosted 18 design workshops for teachers, students, and kids and their parents at SLQ, and I have run another 12 design thinking workshops for educators off-site in Toowoomba, Cairns, Townsville, Melbourne and Brisbane.  Our latest collaboration with QPAC for Out of the Box in June 2016 will bring together many of the Design Minds key collaborators over the last two years.

And of course we have continued to deliver some amazing speaker events as part of our Design Pulse annual program of Think Outside and UQ Architecture Lecture Series with record audiences, and other partnered events such as AILA Forecast Festival, all contributing to the continued growth of our online community through Design Online and Design Minds.

But the most satisfying of all, has been the development of the inaugural Asia Pacific Architecture Forum (APAF), which we previewed in Singapore in November 2015 and hosted in March this year with Founding Partners Architecture Media. This event truly showcased the power, reach and collegiality of the APDL community and the value of meaningful collaboration. Created as part of the partnership, the www.aparchitectureforum.com dedicated website featured 26 events/exhibitions, 14 of which were delivered by our APDL team of four, with some help from 25 volunteers and SLQ Visitor Experience staff. This culminated in AIA Queensland President Richard Kirk awarding the Founding Partners a Queensland President’s Prize for APAF before it had even finished!


Media coverage extended SLQ APDL’s communities of interest in the Asia Pacific Region in Australia, India, Singapore, Egypt and Vietnam, and footage of the State Librarian opening the SCAF Fugitive Structures Green Ladder Pavilion in the SLQ entrance forecourt featured on Vietnam Television VTV2 News. While it was designed to be a triennial event to coincide with QAGoMA’ s APT, all partners are on board to work towards hosting APAF as an annual event for Brisbane, which is an exciting legacy!

Other personal highlights have been:

Design Minds 2 Day City Workshop for 105 primary school students and their teachers in partnership with Kelvin Grove State College as part of the G20 Cultural Program – craziness (an APDL first)!

  • Design Minds and Design Emergency workshops with Object: Australian Design Centre for the Resolved: Journeys in Australian Design exhibition at Cairns Regional Gallery
  • Workshop with Paul Pholeros from Healthhabitat as part of Think Outside 2014
  • QUT Fashion Fleet Store in SLQ Level 1 Infozone, featuring on Channel Nine News as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival (a library first)
  • Working with Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, BVN, Hutchinson Builders and architect Vo Trong Nghia and his staff to realise the Fugitive Structures Green Ladder pavilion in Brisbane (a library and SCAF first)
  • Working with the 2014 and 2015 Queensland-Cooper Hewitt Fellows and the Premier’s acknowledgement of Design Minds, as part of the resigning of the Smithsonian Institution MOU in 2015
  • Design Minds PD workshop for teachers, pre-service teachers and students in Townsville for Annandale Christian College, the StepUp project and James Cook University Faculty of Education


But of course the most valuable experience for me has been working with the very talented APDL girlpower team, meeting our inspiring speakers and guests, and collaborating with our incredibly generous external partners, as well as the many wonderful people working in various departments at SLQ. I am now much more aware of, and grateful for, the bountiful resources and world-class facilities we have at our disposal at SLQ, and feel privileged to have contributed in some way to the opportunities offered through this public institution.

Before I return to academia, I will have a short period of ‘no interruptions’ as I try to complete my PhD research focused on design thinking immersion programs in regional schools.  I would like to thank the many people who have supported the APDL over the last two years, and look forward to hearing about its next exciting chapter.