MPavilion (24 01 24)

MPavilion 10 Unity Lab Commission

MPavilion 10 Unity Lab Commission




Unity Lab, curated by Ilianna Ginnis, a researcher at Monash University and an architectural designer, has a profound mission: to raise awareness and advocate for individuals who communicate non-verbally and have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This commission is more than just a project; it’s a catalyst for meaningful change. The Unity Lab offers an array of transformative programs that transcend conventional modes of connection and engagement. The program includes artists who champion the inclusion and active involvement of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as individuals on the autism spectrum, or with diverse cognition and communication.

Join us at the Pavilion across 5 days in January 2024 to experience this year’s Unity Lab program, commissioned for MPavilion 10 as part of MStudio. Every Unity Lab event is meticulously crafted with the understanding that everyone deserves a voice. Initiatives are thoughtfully designed to cater to a wide range of needs and abilities, ensuring that every individual, irrespective of their background, is not just seen but truly heard.

In addition to special events and daily quiet time, there will also be Communication Cards (developed by Scope Access) and a collection of books centred around the topics of inclusivity and disability (selected by Ilianna) available to visitors in the Pavilion.


Tuesday 16 January

  • 10am – 11am: Quiet Time
  • 2pm – 3pm: Music Therapy

Wednesday 17 January

  • 12pm – 1pm: Quiet Time
  • 2pm – 3pm: Empathy Workshop with Ilianna Ginnis

Thursday 18 January

  • 10am – 11am: Quiet Time
  • 2pm – 3pm: Music Therapy

Friday 19 January

  • 10am – 11am: Music Therapy
  • 2pm – 3pm: Quiet Time

Saturday 20 January 

  • 10am – 11am: Empathy Workshop with Ilianna Ginnis
  • 12pm – 1pm: Quiet Time

For individual bookings for Music Therapy, please click here. For individual bookings for the Empathy Workshop, please click here. Group bookings can be made by contacting Ilianna at

For access enquiries, please visit our Accessibility page or contact us at  

Q&A With

Tell us about this year’s Unity Lab Commission. What prompted you to begin this project?

The Unity Lab Commission is a research-led initiative that considers cognitive and communicative diversities within the MPavilion. In 2021, Dr Kanvar Nayer and I conducted an empathetic workshop which aimed to get multidisciplinary audiences to understand the lived experiences of people living with dementia and intellectual, developmental and communication disabilities.

The workshop was successful as it brought together designers, students, researchers, therapists, parents and people with lived experience under one roof to bring their expertise and understand the lived experiences of these individuals. Therefore, in 2022, I developed a series of communication access cards to promote the inclusion of communication disability in public spaces. These events, therefore, built the foundation of what is now the Unity Lab.

You are a current PhD Candidate within the Design Health Collab at Monash University. Can you tell us a bit more about your research?

My research aims to develop design principles for the inclusion of people with severe and profound intellectual and developmental disabilities in both design processes and outcomes.

As the individuals in the research are non-verbal communicators, the research uses methods which are not conventional to design to build an understanding of the non-verbal communicators’ spatial needs.

The principles aim to support spatial designers and architects when working with individuals who have diverse cognition and communication in design processes and outcomes.

Your commission encompasses two workshops: a Music Therapy workshop and an Empathy Workshop. What are your intentions and goals with these workshops? What do you want participants to gain?

The music therapy workshop aims to get people with disabilities involved in the MPavilion. Conventional workshops and talks make it difficult for this group to actively engage, therefore, the music therapy workshops engage professionals with years of experience to provide a service usually provided within the community. The aim is to create a collective experience and support the participation of the non-verbal communicator and their support workers.

The empathy workshop, on the other hand, is an experience for individuals from different backgrounds to come together and begin to understand the lived experience of someone with an intellectual, developmental or communication disability. Through a variety of activities, the workshop uses the individual senses to understand how non-verbal communicators may experience different situations.

For this commission, you worked with Scope Access to develop Communication Cards, which will be available to all visitors at MPavilion 10. What did the process look like? 

The process was very hands-on, the team at Scope first looked over the terminologies and vocabulary from our communication access last year. Together we cleaned up phrases and developed more specificity around some words. This was then tested by users with lived experience. The feedback from the users was recorded and used to develop the final draft of the communication access cards. Myself and MPavilion then approved the final design and Scope finalised the communication access cards.

During the development of the cards, the team at MPavilion participated in training to understand how to assist someone with a communication disability and how to use the communication cards in a variety of contexts and with different possible users.

How does the Unity Lab Commission respond to Tadao Ando’s design? How do you see it enriching this community space?

I believe the Unity Lab responds to Tadao Ando’s design as it begins to connect people and challenges neurotypical forms of communication and participation. The Unity Lab falls under the theme “craftmanship” for the MPavilion 10. This theme begins to create programs and facilitate communication which can bring diverse audiences to the MPavilion and public space.

Finally, can you tell us about your own experiences of MPavilion? Do you have any standout memories?

I love the MPavilion and am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the incredible program. I have attended many MTalks and workshops and have been able to see diverse groups of audiences come together and share their ideas and voices.

For me, the MPavilion is a stage for the community to use their voice, share their ideas and teach each other through words and/or workshops. I have had many great memories at the MPavilion and I have met many people whom I still communicate with today.

Encounter this year’s Unity Lab Commission from 16–20 January 2024. For individual bookings for Music Therapy, please click here. For individual bookings for the Empathy Workshop, please click here. Group bookings can be made by contacting Ilianna directly at

Wominjeka (Welcome). We acknowledge the people of the Eastern Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which MPavilion stands. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present – and recognise they have been creating, telling stories and caring for Country for thousands of generations.

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