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NIDA design student selected for Australia-Denmark Utzon exchange

Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student Aislinn King is one of five Australian students chosen to carry on the Utzon Design Principles in the Sydney Opera House’s 2019 Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (MADE). She will go to Denmark in January 2020.

Aislinn King selected for Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange

NIDA design student Aislinn King selected for Sydney Opera House’s Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (MADE) program

NIDA Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student Aislinn King has been selected as one of five scholars to represent Australia in ‘MADE’, the Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange, a unique exchange program established at the Sydney Opera House’s 40th anniversary in 2013.

Each year since MADE was established, five students from Australia and five students from Denmark are selected from the field of architecture, engineering and design. The exchange then entails a six-week built environment focused program, in Denmark and Sydney Opera House respectively.

Winners of the 2019 Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange

Winners of the 2019 Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (LR): Bobbie Bayley, Irene Clark, Aislinn King, Muthu Kumaran. Not pictured: Stephanie Palmer

After an extremely competitive selection process, Aislinn became the inaugural NIDA scholarship recipient, and the first recipient from the field of performance design. Aislinn is a graduate of NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance), and is currently undertaking the Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance).

Aislinn’s selection was officially announced at a presentation hosted by Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron on Friday 16 August. Her fellow winners are Bobbie Bayley, Master of Architecture, University of Newcastle; Irene Clark, Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) and Bachelor of Design in Architecture, University of Sydney; Muthu Kumaran, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Mechatronics), Western Sydney University, and Stephanie Palmer, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Diploma in Professional Engineering Practice, University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange MADE alumni and winners

2019 winners and previous MADE alumni. Photography: Jaimi Joy

The anticipation is that by 2023, the year of Sydney Opera House’s 50th Anniversary, the MADE alumni will comprise a network of 100 students, who will be able to continue and extend the international and interdisciplinary links, first forged by Jørn Utzon, into new generations of architects, engineers and designers, and keep the Utzon Design Principles alive.

Jørn Utzon is world-renowned as the Danish architect who won the design competition to create the now world-famous Sydney Opera House.

When asked what drew her to the opportunity, Aislinn explained, ‘I saw it by chance on the Sydney Opera House website right before the closing deadline. It struck me that it combined all of my interests, so I knew it was something I’d really like to do.

NIDA Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student Aislinn King in her studio

Aislinn King in her studio at NIDA

‘I had to submit a written application detailing the aspects of design I was interested in, describe how I responded to Utzon’s design interests, and suggest what I could bring to a collaborative, multidisciplinary project.

‘The written application got me shortlisted, after which I went into Sydney Opera House for an interview, in which I had to present a portfolio of projects, sketches and photographs that demonstrated my design sensibility and interests.

‘I presented [NIDA production] pool (no water), and spoke about the whole collaborative experience and my design concept going through the stages from concept to realisation. NIDA’s really prepared me for that type of highly collaborative and multidisciplinary work, which has been great– and they were really interested in that.’

Aislinn King's design for 2019 NIDA student production 'pool (no water)

Aislinn King was the production and costume designer on 2019 NIDA student production, pool (no water), pictured.

pool (no water) was one of the five productions featured in NIDA’s 2019 June Season of Student Productions, for which one MFA (Design for Performance) student is the production and costume designer on each different show.

When the selection panel asked what she could bring to the project, Aislinn was able to offer her unique design sensibility:

‘What I bring is a sensibility for ephemeral qualities that I carry into each project: movement and light and people interacting with the space, and the interactive and enlivening spatial quality of performance.

‘The interview panel was particularly drawn to my costume designs for Swan Lake, [exhibited as part of EXPONIDA 2018] where I interpreted the geometry of the Opera House undercroft and translated it into my designs.’

Aislinn King's costume designs for 'Swan Lake' ballet inspired by Sydney Opera House, exhibited as part of EXPO NIDA 2018

Aislinn King's costume designs for Swan Lake, inspired by Sydney Opera House, exhibited as part of EXPO NIDA 2018

Aislinn explained what the Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange would entail:

‘They place us with a host architecture or engineering firm in Denmark, so you get a lot of mentoring as part of the exchange, and they create a brief for us based on our five different areas of interest. We then have six weeks to come up with the concept and present it together.

‘Prior to the start of the project, we have the great privilege of spending one week residing in Utzon’s summer house ‘Can Lis’ in Mallorca, to experience Utzon’s sensibility for designing with local materials, and craftsmanship drawn from place. I am so excited to see the way light enters the space! That will be our first week together, the five of us in Can Lis!’

NIDA student Aislinn King and Head of Centre for Design Practices Dr Julie Lynch

NIDA Director Centre for Design Practices, Dr Julie Lynch and Aislinn King before the MADE presentation ceremony

‘One of the most amazing parts of it is that it’s not just a six-week program. I met with MADE alumni at the presentation ceremony, and I’ve already gained entry to an international network of like-minded design thinkers in Australia and Denmark. I am already being exposed to new opportunities from these connections.’

When asked about her long-term goals around performance design, Aislinn says, ‘I never thought I’d work strictly within film or strictly within theatre. I enjoy the multidisciplinary, in-between realm and I think the work that I make in the future will be crossing over into many disciplines and many mediums.’

Aislinn King's design for 2019 NIDA student production 'pool (no water)

2019 NIDA student production pool (no water), designed by Aislinn King.

Feeling inspired? Applications for NIDA in 2020 are open now. Visit

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