An interdisciplinary team of design based-researchers from the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra.
Dickson Living Rooms

Supported by the ACT Government under the City Renewal Authority’s Dickson Grants program.

November 2020

Design Canberra 2020

Iain [Max] Maxwell,
Ben Ennis Butler, Sam Tomkins,
Lyn Norton,
Mikaela Danvers
Dickson Living Rooms is a physical and digital heritage project that seeks to expose the lived-experiences of Dickson residents through the decades: 1960s-2020s.

Dickson is an eclectic area comprising buildings of various shapes, sizes and uses with people from all walks of life. It is a place where things are happening: people are learning, living and growing; decisions are being made and lives changed. These are all moments of urban life that contribute to the conceptual reading of the city as a cultural artefact. We see many opportunities in considering how we can bring the embedded memories of residents and visitors to the fore, where we can learn from them, reveal insights and understand elements of our cultural identity.

The project consists of two key public engagement elements: an interactive cultural map and a physical pavilion.

Interactive cultural map

An interactive web-based cultural map of Dickson. The map draws together artistic imagery developed specifically for the project that captures domestic life in the inner north suburbs through the decades 1960-2020. The images span multiple topics: domestic technologies; furnishings and decor, local institutions, as well as significant local cultural and news events. 

Selected elements within the images serve as search paths to archival information (news, real estate and interest stories) sourced from the National Library of Australia’s digitised collection of The Canberra Times, held within Trove. The result is a compelling ‘deep dive’ into the cultural history of north Canberra. We hope all Canberrans with a relationship to Dickson’s rich history will interact with the map and share their stories with the creative team.

The project is available at:


A temporary pavilion constructed in the old Dickson shopping precinct (opposite the Dickson Post Office). The pavilion, an abstract representation of an “ex-govie” house will host formal and informal events ranging from roundtable conversations to a scavenger hunt for kids. Members of the public are invited to share their experiences in person or via custom postcards available at the pavilion.


Housing Canberra: A conversation with Canberra architects on current and future housing
Wednesday, November 18th, 1200-1400

Discusion with leading Canberra architects:

Facilitated by Max Maxwell, Ben Ennis Butler and Lyn Norton

Heritage Canberra: The role of the digital in revealing Canberra’s history
Thursday, November 19th, 1200-1400

Artist talk with Dr Ben Ennis Butler.

An audience with the public
Friday, November 20th, 1800-2000

A chance for the community to learn more about the Dickson Living Rooms project and to share their stories with the curatorial team during late night shopping.

Project Team

Iain [Max] Maxwell, Sam Tomkins, Ben Ennis Butler, Lyn Norton and Mikaela Danvers (all UC).

Collages created by: Anneke Blatch-May, Felicity Coonan, Jessica Denham, Rebecca Sturt, Andrew Parish (all UC Architecture students).


Slavich, K. (2020). Dickson through the decades: experiential installation from UC researchers. UC Newsroom

Win News, 6pm bulletin, 16 November 2020

Canberra Design Lab


Who we are

Iain [Max] Maxwell, Dr Ben Ennis Butler and Sam Tomkins. Our profiles →.

An interdisciplinary team of design based-researchers from the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra.