Top 12 of 2012 – Art Installations in Sydney

Guest Contributor – Vin Rathod

During 2012, Sydney saw various Public Art Festivals including: Vivid Sydney (May – June 2012); 18th Biennale of Sydney (June – Sept 2012); Art and About (Sept – Oct 2012); and Sculptures by the sea (Oct 2012)

One Planet Living emphasises on reviving the local cultural heritage that is being lost throughout the world due to globalisation, by supporting and participating in the arts.

The various installations we saw this year in Sydney, both inside and outside, created opportunity for the community to interact, reflect and share the ideas, creativity and culture. Both local and global artists, by use of innovative ideas and at times high-tech technologies, presented some very fine installations lifting up the ‘spirit of art’ among Sydney-siders. The long queue at circular quay for ferry to Cockatoo Island and always full forecourt of MCA and Custom house during Vivid Sydney 2012 were among the few proofs of the success of these events. Hope all of you in and around Sydney got chance to be a part of these celebrations. If not, watch out for them in 2013.

Below are my Top 12 installations from this year’s various Art Festivals. They are in no particular order.

Fujiko Nakaya’s Living Chasm – This installation created fog-like effect using pure water. This site-specific installation converted the normal afternoon into a magical, dream-like atmosphere …

Lee Mingwel’s Mending Project – A simple yet colourful installation where visitors could participate by bringing in a garment or object that requires mending that became a part of installation.

Tiffany Singh’s Knock on the Sky Listen to the Sound – the large entry hall of Pier 2/3 was full of colourful ribbons and wind chimes. Visitors were encouraged to take a chime home, decorate as they like and return to a dedicated space on Cockatoo island. An artist’s installation was transformed into people’s installation.

Ed Pien and Tanya Tagaq’s Source – The black and white film of hand gestures was projected on floor from a ceiling mounted projector, creating interesting display right in the front of the entrance. One could walk over or simply watch the display without any interruptions, establishing a connection in their own way.

Philip Beesley’s Hylozoic series - Working with the concept of hylozoism – the belief that all matter in the universe has a life of its own – Philip Beesley creates interactive environments that respond to the actions of the audience, offering a vision of how buildings in the future might move, think and feel.

Daan Roosegaarde’s Dune - Cockatoo Island’s Dog Legged tunnel was lined with Interactive landscape, a hybrid of nature and technology made from large amounts of fibre optics which reacts to the sounds and motions of people walking by. Visitors become active participants, having a direct influence on the interactive artwork’s identity.

Light Display on MCA facade by various Australian artist from MCA and Sydney’s Spinifex Group – During Vivid Sydney 2012, the Museum of Contemporaty Arts (MCA) was transformed into a Canvas of Light. Every evening 3D colour projections and digital artistry did their magic transforming architecture into vibrant graphic art.

Li Hongbo’s Ocean of Flowers – This installation has been created by gluing piles of paper together with the honeycomb technique carved into forms resembling weapons that the artist twirls into new ‘flower shapes’. The thing that struck me the most is the scale and the intricate detail of every flower making the installation space into a huge colourful ocean of flowers.

Ken Unsworth’s No Return – The life size skeleton balancing on the pole creates an atmosphere of tension or uneasiness that gives the viewer an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s own life.

Kathryn Clifton and Martin Bevz’s Sea Grass – The strands of optic fibres changed colours as a response to human presence. As you can see, it was a big hit among kids. (This image got highly commended in Australian Photography Competition, Theme – Colour Green)

Alex Richie’s Kaleidoscope Cube – The towers of mirrors depicted urban landscape of tall buildings with curtain wall facades. The way they reflect each other resembles the current cities with sense of commonness between them. However, from certain angle, these walls merged into the surrounding being a part of natural environment. A simple yet very interesting installation.

Hilde A. Danielsen’s Upside Down Again – The most facinating thing about this installation way wooden slats were installed to create a fluid twirl-like form. The juxtaposition of rigidity of slats vs fluidity of installation attracted many art lovers.

All images: Copyright Vin Rathod.

Vin Rathod holds a Bachelor of Architecture from KRVIA, Mumbai and Master of Construction Project Management from UNSW, Sydney. He lives and works in Sydney, Australia. His photography pursuit developed during his architectural education where he developed an understanding of various design elements such as brightness and darkness, colours and shades, composition and importance of negative spaces etc. For Vin, each photograph is a design; a design for the subject, be it an art, architecture, city, or a sculpture. He thrives on creativity and imagination and is always developing new ideas. The photographs speak of his vision to see built-form as an artwork. While highlighting the essence of the subject using creative photography techniques, each image is a wonderful piece of art.  A collection of Vin’s fine art photographs are constantly evolving as seen on his website www.throughvinslens.com

Into the Crypt: Museum of Old and New Art

Mirrored wall on courtyard house, Photo credit: Matt Newton, Images Courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania is infamously known as a ‘subversive Disneyland’ and ‘Museum of sex and death’, and I had anticipated not liking it because of these labels. But like a visit to any Gallery or Museum, a feeling of ambiguity is perhaps appropriate because of the expected friction between truth to the art historical discipline, and galleries as vehicles of mass enjoyment and consumption. Galleries or Museums rely on daylight and careful exposure of artefacts. In contrast, MONA utilizes darkness effectively to make this a novel experience. It is a challenge to design subterranean spaces as a provocative experience. At MONA, the journey to the ‘bottom’ of the building is simple. It is perhaps akin to that of entering a crypt – a supervised meandering through accumulated treasures of a person, satisfying perhaps an unrealized archaeological fantasy.

Screen Grab, My Tour, The O

The feeling of the going into a darkened space, three levels down can be intimidating or repelling. However, the illuminated lift core formed a conduit around which the staircase is wrapped. It is point of reference, a secure tie, allowing one/me to explore the collections beyond. Ironically, the darkness felt safe as I was being guided by the mobile guide - the ‘O’ that runs on an IPod Touch, and connected with headphones which updates to provide audio guides and information on the art of works in the vicinity. Forsaking the map, I decided to go an intuitive tour of the Museum. I needed to not take notes because the O recorded the tour for me, and I am now able to take a retrospective three dimensional journey and retrace my itinerary. The darkness, the interactive devices, and the headphones separate you from your fellow visitors, compelling you to commit to becoming self focussed during the visit. The still and quiet atmosphere, with the sight of people wandering about with their ears plugged, heads bent down to look at the IPod, is also perhaps an ironic commentary on the persuasive role of technology and galleries as mass media.

Cylindrical Glass Lift Photo credit: Matt Newton, Image courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

The interior of the museum is carefully crafted to evoke emotional response. David Neustein’s essay is perhaps the best account of the physical aspects of MONA. The museum is entirely display focused, which it absolutely masters. The much rehearsed language of voids and staggered sections in gallery design is in fact effective in MONA where the desire to look down or up is not to see people (who are in shadow) but to see works of art (that are in light). However, for me, there appeared to be lack of clear curatorial direction pertaining to selecting, collating, and sequencing works of art. I found the collection somewhat Eurocentric with the old art being incompletely researched and explained. The only work by an Aboriginal Australian artist I discovered was Unwritten #8 by Vernon Ah Kee (who is of a mixed heritage that includes the Kuku Yalanji, Yidinyi, Waanyi and Guungu Yimithirr peoples), which is a profound commentary about becoming human.

Corten Stairwell & Surrounding Artworks Photo Credit: MONA/Leigh Carmichael, Image Courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Some of works I loved were Bit.fall by Julisu Popp, Untitled (White Library) by Wilfredo Prito, Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Encyclopedia by Charles Sandison, Cloaca Professional by Wim Delvoye, and Kryptos by Brigita Ozolins. But don’t depend on my views, because the O will tell you how many loved or hated the art work you loved or hated. Art is enjoyment and delight, and in current times, a form of consumption. It was a full house on a Monday in MONA, because there was art to cater to all tastes! The argument about consumption is also underpinned by numbers. I am told of the works I saw (73) and the ones I missed (501), and how many views were recorded. Given the fact that I spent around three hours in the Gallery I would probably have only noticed but not understood the works of art. The emphasis on viewing and noticing is privileged over pausing and understanding. In summary, my experience was interesting and unresolved, and not something I could classify through the Love or Hate icon in the O!

B1 walkway overlooking The Void Artworks Photo Credit: MONA/Leigh Carmichael, Image Courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

MONA Museum of Old and New Art

Women and the Other Domains of Architectural Production

Photograph of Florence Mary Taylor, Australia's first qualified female architect Author: Rita Martin, Dorothy Welding and others (created 1920-1955), Source: The State Library of New South Wales

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

The launch of Archiparlour earlier this year got me thinking of not only of women in architectural practice, issues of equity, opportunity, and visibility, but also of women’s contribution to the broader discourse of architecture. This involves the realms of curating, writing, managing, and marketing architecture. Taking a documentary strategy as opposed to historiographical one, I mapped the lived experience of my interactions and collaborations with women in leadership positions in Sydney for over a period of six months, in these other domains of architectural production.

From the middle of year, the Australian Architecture Association planned the four-part talk series titled Women Take on Design that featured Archrival (Claire McCaughan and Lucy Humphrey), Caroline Pidcock, Heather Whitely-Robertson, and Annalisa Capurro. The talk series was as interesting as it was successful. It should be mentioned that Australian Architecture Association, which ‘supports discourse and the promotion of architecture in the Australian cultural milieu’, is activated by the energetic leadership of Annette Dearing (Founding Director) and Vanessa Couzens (Volunteer, Architect, Designer, Project Manager, and Editor). The Sydney Architecture Festival brought forth the women in the public life of architecture. The festival was organized, managed, delivered, and marketed by Siobhan Abdurahman (Projects Officer, NSW Architects Registration Board) and Gillian Redman-Lloyd (Events & Marketing, NSW Architecture Awards Manager). The range of talks, tours, exhibitions, and workshops aimed to engage the many interests and capacities of its collaborators and audiences. Jennifer Kwok (Manager, Customs House Sydney), is a designer by training yet a strong thinker in built and visual worlds. She has produced many architecture exhibitions such as as Form to Formless, Remodelling Architecture, Transclimatic to name just a few, and her creative direction and acumen in production was instrumental in my curatorial contribution to Inter-action, the Sydney Architecture Festival exhibition consisting of six independent exhibits. Along similar lines, my collaboration with Ann Quinlan (Program Direction for Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, UNSW) also informed the curation of BE X Section, also a Sydney Architecture Festival exhibition.

Other key contributors to the Sydney Architecture Festival included Joni Taylor, a researcher, writer, and curator focusing on the transformation of the urban environment, curated The Third Landscape at the Tin Sheds Gallery. Taylor explains: “The exhibition examines the transformative possibilities for regenerating seemingly negative landscapes of the forgotten and the blighted”. As part of the Festival, Annette Mauer, Head of Learning at the Object Gallery, organised a workshop called Building Connections, for teachers and students at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia. Mauer explained: “The aim of both the workshop and resource was to make architecture accessible to visual arts teachers and relevant to their teaching the Visual Arts syllabus”. Dearing and Couzens made a substantial contribution to the Festival by organizing the talk by Ken Yeang as well as the planned walks around key public domains in Sydney. Other contributors to the Festival included Aanya Roennfeldt (Gallery Curator, DAB LAB, UTS), who contributed curatorial insights to William Feuerman’s exhibition and talk titled The Mechanics of Visual Perception, and Imogene Tudor, whose co-directorial role in Make Space for Architecture would have been vital to the success of the event, Public Space: Private Interest. Unrelated to the Sydney Architecture Festival but coincident with it was the launch of Kylie Legge’s book Doing it Differently, a well timed publication on urban living and city making, focusing on collaborative consumption (a concept made popular by What’s Mine is Yours by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers).

This piece, which I am sure is full of omissions, suggests the possibility of a more inclusive sociology of practice, which will allow for the expansion of the definition of architectural practice, beyond what is legitimized by the legal status of the architect, such that the other ‘stuff’ that women do can become included in the ‘business’ of architecture. That this is a timely argument is evidenced by the talk recently organized at Tusculum (home of the Australian Institute of Architects, NSW Chapter), What’s your architecture, the multifaceted career path that is an architecture degree. The photographer; the journo; the artists; the builder, which unfortunately failed to acknowledge women’s contributions in this area. This piece itself is imperfect because it does not as yet include women in complementary disciplines of photography, teaching, animation, illustration, graphic design, performance, set design, and so on. Perhaps when the picture is complete, we may even discover fuller participation of women in architectural practice.

BE | X-Section Real Needs | Imagined Solutions

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

As the curator of BE | X-Section Real Needs | Imagined Solutions, the UNSW Built Environment’s Exhibition for the Sydney Architecture Festival, it was interesting to showcase student projects from a range of Built Environment discipline degree programs that demonstrate shared awareness of social responsibility, collaboration, innovation, and most importantly an interdisciplinary knowledge base. These qualities, orientations, and attitudes contribute to the making of the UNSW Built Environment design students as intrepid graduates of global citizenship who understand and engage with the complexities of working with others in seeking creative solutions to real needs and issues identified by communities.

Real World

BEOutThere! electives capture the Interdisciplinary Service Learning in the Faculty of Built Environment, as they are carried out in collaboration with community partners with the expressed aim of exposing students to challenging social issues and considerations. In 2011 and 2012, key projects included: North Penrith Plaza – Designing a Digitally Enabled Public Domain; Northcott Project; Schools Project (Crown Street Public School, Ungarie Central School, and Tullibigeal Central School). The outcome and merit of these electives is the discernible and compelling nature of the interactions and the engagement evidenced in student reflections. Likewise, the significance of real world, industry-linked projects also informs Integrated Low Carbon Living Project. Delivered as a team based collaborative project between students from BE and Faculty of Engineering students, the studio presents the opportunity to design the Material Science and Engineering Building, UNSW with attention to low energy, passive design strategies design with zero net-energy and zero net-water consumption as the goal.

Southern Cross Packaging Awards, Musa Noor

Social Inclusion

Student works in the Socially Responsible Packaging demonstrate a range of approaches to packaging – the liminal and the most intimate threshold between the user and the product. The projects address contemporary issues of safety, convenience, and access by synthesizing aesthetics, functionality, and ethical response. Inclusive Architecture progresses a similar argument that inclusive design (also known as universal design, design for all, user-centred design, human-centred design) “is no longer a niche or unimportant endeavour”. Student projects which suggest inclusive redesigns of key twentieth century buildings demonstrate that architectural merit is not irreconcilable with these goals.

Sydney CBD, Local Government and Shires Associations Photo Database Project

Urban Orientations

The Intersection: Redevelopment of the SEU School of Architecture Building and its Landscape brings together students from three programmes (architecture, interior, and landscape) to make sense of the tectonic, landscape and interior conditions of the Southeast University and the School of Architecture as a cultural and historical phenomenon, to inform redevelopment proposals. In contrast, it is the post traumatic urbanist lens that informs the Landscape Urbanism for the Shattered Garden City: Christchurch. The fractures caused by natural disasters insert not only irreconcilable ruptures but also the opportunity for the new. Fittingly then, the students explore possibilities for city’s open space system and for vitalizing that with the proposals for an urban arena with sport or performance facility, facilities for both having been extensively damaged across the city. Interior projects in the City of Sydney need to maintain an orientation to urbanism. Taylor Square Bicycle Hub is one such project, and the student projects demonstrate unique and meaningful approaches that seek translations of the figure of the bicycle as 1) a mechanical assemblage and meticulous orchestration of parts; 2) bicycle as generative of movement systems, motion, travelling, and energy; and 3) bicycling as a social sport that not only activates the urban area but also highlights the uniqueness of the site.

Dust rising from collapsed buildings immediately after the earthquake

Generated by students in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, the exhibition demonstrates shared commitment, knowledge systems, and capabilities. BE | X-Section reveals that unlike the technological, formal ingenuity and production orientation enabled and rewarded in many architecture and design schools across the globe, socially responsive design and architecture in its attention to authenticity emerges out of vital creative engagements between built environment designers and many people – it emphasizes intent over form, process over outcome, shared knowledge over individualistic expertise and action over representation.

Interactive Surfaces and Modelled Environments: Sydney Architecture Festival at Customs House in Sydney

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

This year I have had the chance to guest curate Inter-Action – the Sydney Architecture Festival event at Customs House Sydney, opening on 24 October 2012. The exhibition builds upon Customs House’s profile in nurturing explorations in the fields of digital visualization and technologies evidenced in past exhibitions such as Form to Formless, Remodelling Architecture, Transclimatic, and the Green Void, to name just a few. However, Inter-Action is not one but six exhibitions – Hypersurface Architecture [Redux] by Bachelor of Architectural Computing Students and Staff; Sydney from all Angles by Tim Vyse and Sam Westlake of Jane Irwin Landscape Architect; Virtual Warrane II by Brett Leavy; Real/Virtual by Peter Murphy and Real Serious Games; Model City by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia, and UTS; and Open Agenda featuring winning proposals by Sibling, Tina Salama, and Robert Beson.

Draft Design of Euphonious Mobius Wall with Customs House in the Background: Rebekah Jo Araullo, University of New South Wales

The focus is on many disciplines (beyond architecture) that contribute to the making of the built realm. These include architecture, performance, art, and installation (Open Agenda, Hypersurface Architecture), architectural computing (Hypersurface Architecture), landscape architecture (Sydney from all Angles), web interface design (Sydney from all Angles), urban design, (Model City), digital visualization, and virtual environments (Virtual Warrane II, Real/Virtual). The curation of the exhibitions needed to attend to the agendas and practices shared by these different disciplines. What emerges as the key strands are: 1) Collaborative creation of knowledge, space, and experience; 2) Response to the city and its urban environment; 3) Crafting spatial and formal representations, both physical and virtual. The six exhibitions engage these strands in distinctive ways.

Hypersurface Architecture [Redux] is the design of an interactive media wall installation (composed of two walls – Halo Wall and the Euphonious Mobius) based on physical pixels, working thereby between the virtual and the real, attempting to generate an ‘infusion of form with media and media with form to work between the two’. The interactive aspect in Sydney from all Angles is achieved by embedding QR codes into a graphic map of Sydney highlighting recently designed key public domains, linked to a website, which allows a continual and democratized engagement with as well as the curation of the experience of the public realm. Virtual Warrane II uses gaming techniques and technologies (complemented by solid archival research) to provide a way of inhabiting the past and participating in the landscapes of the Gadigal people, demonstrating constructed and built occupations prior to and underlying European settlement.

Sydney from All Angles Draft of Graphic Maps: Tim Vyse and Sam Westlake, Jane Irwin Landscape Architect

The theme of modelling is explored further in Real/Virtual which compares miniaturization (city model), wire frame visualization, and stereo videos and panoramas of the city, highlighting technologies of visualization and different ways of creating navigable worlds. Model City is a display of physical models of key public precincts (under construction) in the City of Sydney, and it allows people to interact with the emerging public domains. Open Agenda (initiative of the School of Architecture, UTS) is an ‘annual competition aimed at supporting a new generation of experimental architecture. Open to recent graduates, Open Agenda is focused on developing the possibilities of design research in architecture and the built environment’. The winning entries this year by Sibling, Tina Salama and Robert Beson explore other ways of conceptualizing architecture from participation to performative spatiality to the architectonics of atmosphere.

What started off as a challenge (bearing the risk of becoming eclectic), worked out to be a genuine opportunity. Inter-action sustains the identity of each exhibition, allowing the spatial opportunities inside Customs House to suggest rather than emphasize synergies. In deploying different forms of interactive installations; modelled realities, pasts, and futures; and the speculation of the futures of architectural thinking, Inter-action celebrates the anticipation of the post-disciplinary in architectural thought. This is the emergence of new ways of knowing and doing, which is more than a simple convergence of different disciplinary knowledge systems.

For more information see: www.sydneyarchitecturefestival.org

Imagining Other Cities: Super Sydney

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

Super Sydney, a project launched by Tim Williams and Andrew Burns, examines metropolitan challenges for the city by collating and interpreting the visions and aspirations of the community by conducting video interviews of about twelve interviewees from each of the forty one local councils in Sydney. The organizers note: ‘Through the democratization of Sydney’s voice, we will build a Metropolitan consciousness’. The findings and collated video interviews will be presented at the Sydney Architecture Festival in October. The process of hearing, understanding, and re-telling hundreds of individual narratives will build metropolitan consciousness and relevance as well as reveal the wealth of knowledge that is contained in the imagination of the citizens at large. A few things than can be said about the events and ideas surrounding this project are as follows:

Super Sydney, Tim Williams 2012

The first point is the variety and the number of people who are involved in the project. Besides the working group, which includes Sydney architects Tim Williams, Andrew Burns and Adam Russell, as well as Eva Rodriguez-Riestra, Gillian Redman-Lloyd from the Australian Institute of Architects and Penny Craswell, Editor of Artichoke magazine, there are volunteer animators (architects and designers from all over Sydney) who are conducting these video interviews, not to mention the Council members. In addition, the animators are being assisted by about forty architecture students from the Masters studio at the University of Sydney (Coordinator: Lee Stickells; Tutors: Anuradha Chatterjee, Tom Rivard, and Tim Williams). In other words, Super Sydney is firstly (and lastly) a collaborative and collective undertaking.

The second point is the speculative dimension to this project. Historically, studio projects (in addition to schemes for design competition and other unbuilt projects), have been the experimental ground for imagining urban utopias. University of Sydney architecture students have engaged in detail with ten councils to discern specific opportunities and challenges for housing, working, cultural experience, sustainability and transport. Students are then expected to synthesize these directions with the findings from the video interviews to present concept proposals for urban initiatives. The emerging suite of projects are as exciting as they are varied, and they include community markets, bridges and crossings, urban farms, new transport networks, virtual communities, affordable housing, programming parks for inclusive use, foreshore revitalizations, temporal and pop up urbanism, and so on.

Screenshot from Ted Talk Ellen Dunham Jones

The third point is that the focus on the ‘suburban’ domains as opposed to the City and Inner City is long overdue, refreshing, and well timed. Not only is Super Sydney informed by the recent success of The Future of Penrith, Penrith of the Future and the union of Councils in Paris called Paris Métropole (both utilizing the involvement of Tim Williams), but it is also coincident with trends in the US. Ellen Dunham Jones’s TED talk and her book Retrofitting Suburbia advocates densifying as well as adapting to new uses those areas which are severely underperforming. Dunham Jones discusses the need to redirect lot more of our growth into existing communities, build up and re-inhabitation of underused parking lots, and adaptation of dead malls as universities, nursing homes and so on. International Making Cities Livable Conference has just announced a similar premise with invitations to exhibit: ‘Successful Designs for Reshaping Suburbia’.

In Sydney, not only there is the real need to think along these lines (now that we have somewhat come to terms with the full extent of urban sprawl and lifeless suburban landscapes that promise no optimism or opportunity for public life), but there is a real opportunity. Each council area is marked by complex history, topography, cultural mix, geographical boundaries, and proximities, revealing issues and concerns that demand urban intervention, repair, or augmentation. It is this innate, endemic, and located opportunities for urbanism that Super Sydney aims to tease out. The lasting influence of Super Sydney, I suspect, will also be in providing a revised context for judging merit of architectural merit – as the sophisticated and thoughtful articulation of broader urban aims, and not mere formal and technological sophistry, or banal programmatic delivery.

Video: Super Sydney on Vimeo

Sources:
www.mca.com
www.twarch.com
www.supersydney.org
www.livablecities.org

Hovering Immaterially: Halo in Chippendale Green, Central Park Sydney

Halo, Simon Wood, Photography

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

Halo is a new public art designed as part of the Chippendale Green within Central Park, Sydney’s new ‘downtown’ destination. It is designed by artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford, in collaboration with specialist engineers, designers and fabricators lead by Jeremy Sparks of Partridge Event Engineering, and commissioned by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia, the developers for Central Park. The work, notes Turpin, is an ‘extraordinary integration of art, science, and engineering acting in collaboration with the natural environment’ (source). Halo consists of a yellow ring (12 meters in diameter) attached to a sliver arm (6 meters long), aligned off centre and placed on top of a 13 metre high pole. Made of carbon fibre, the entire weight of the ring and the arm balances on a tiny ceramic bearing the size of a small glass marble. The ring moves with changing direction and gusts of wind. The artistic expression is indebted to the history of the site and the old brewery. Crawford notes that the ‘beautiful circular supports for the enormous old brewing vats inspired Halo’s form and a desire to reference the tipsy effects of beer resulted in the ring’s precarious balance and off-centred tipping and turning’ (source).

Halo Opening, 14 August 2012, Photo: Anuradha Chatterjee

Halo is interesting because whilst the concept is meaningful and its execution minimal and precise, it does nothing except demonstrate kinetic motion, but in doing little, it achieves a lot. Public art by its very nature is spatial, and its experiential dimension provides the programming of the public space it is placed within or against. Halo is placed at the end of the sloping path (and cascading water feature) that leads down to the Chippendale Green, designed by Danish landscape architect Jeppe Aagaard Andersen with Turf Design. Halo forms an imperceptible canopy connected to the trunk and firmly rooted to the ground. It provides also a scalar element to the space, which would otherwise be lost amidst the towers under construction. Like a canopy, it is ever present, seemingly protective, and moving with the breeze. It materializes the immaterial element, wind. It also frames the sky – not just as the figure of nature (cloudscapes) but also as the figure of the urban, through the framing of the rising towers around the Green.

Harriet F. Senie argues that ‘the best time to write about public art is not when it is first installed but after it has ‘settled in”, which would make this review a bit early (source). However, the public viewing of Halo on the 25 August 2012 (the Green formally opens in December 2012) demonstrated an enthusiastic public occupation. Installing a ‘fragile’ environment and artefact (Halo and the Chippendale Green) within its harsher surrounds (construction of the towers) is perhaps an ironic but a sensible move. This way, the public art and the space will, I suspect, invite emotional and associational investments from the public, allowing it to become a part of local memory and identity. Halo provides an interpretation of the site and its history in its form but at the same time it provides an aperture and a conduit for the appreciation of the urban environment, and the reason to inhabit the surrounds. No doubt this will be assisted by the return of the posters that tell the story of Halo‘s design and construction. Already, for me anyway, daily glimpses of Halo from Broadway provide another kind of orientation, towards the new future for Chippendale, and the inner city.

Two short films about Halo can be viewed here and here.

Building Sites: Weiss/Manfredi’s Utzon Lecture at UNSW

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

Weiss/Manfredi (led by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi) – a New York City based multidisciplinary design practice known for their integration of architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape design – delivered the Utzon Lecture Series Talk, Inhabiting Topography. Weiss/Manfredi has been awarded North America’s ‘Emerging Voices’ by the Architectural League of New York and the New York City AIA Gold Medal of Honor. Opening the talk by acknowledging the debt to Romaldo Giurgola’s scheme for Canberra (gained through Manfredi’s experience at Mitchell/ Girugola in NY), they introduced the key idea underpinning their work: “Sites are not given but made”, topographies are invented to foster public life; and that there is no such thing as the ideal site. The creation of the public realm then goes hand in hand with thinking of systems of drainage and flood patterns or highways and railways, thus giving rise to their approach – infrastructural topography.

Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Photo: Shuli Sadé Studio

Through the presentation of ten projects – Women’s Memorial and Education Centre, Museum of the Earth, Smith College Campus Center, International Retreat, Barnard College Diana Center, Hunters Point South Waterfront Park, Taekwondo Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, Sylvan Grove, Seattle Art Museum: Olympic Sculpture Park – Weiss and Manfredi presented the following approaches to crafting the public realm: Building as landscape and hence consisting of floor plates that slip in and out, over and under, to engage the peripheral vision of occupants; Juxtaposition of interior, exterior spaces, and in between spaces; Façade design that registers on the exterior surface the changing quality of light during the day as well as deflects, transforms, and draws into the interior the light through glass walls, vertical mullions, shaded walkways and skylights; Introduction of a theatrical quality of seeing and being seen as the essence of occupying the landscape of urban life; and Sustainable strategies for combining aesthetic form of the ground and roof cover with its ethical performance by introducing water harvesting and solar panels.

Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Utzon Lecture Series: Inhabiting Topography 22 August 2012, University of New South Wales, Photo: Faculty of Built Environment, UNSW

Weiss and Manfredi close the talk by discussing the Seattle Art Museum, which was a complex and dynamic re-crafting of three disconnected sites (industrial site at the water’s edge) through a process of folding back and forth down to the waterfront. The journey through the landscape stitches the fragmented sites together to provide the experience of sculptural art. What comes through very clearly in the presentation of their body of work is the blurring of disciplinary boundaries. Their work is committed to simultaneous agendas of ecology, infrastructure planning, urban design, landscape, architecture, and interior. It is not a box ticking exercise, as all these commitments are filtered through community, identity, and local history, which gives the projects their civic orientation. The experiential dimension of their projects, notes Manfredi, is underpinned by a cinematic quality. This highlights not only the element of surprise and discovery, but also the dynamic, layered, and grafted quality of urban experience. Composed entirely a monochrome palette and forms that hark back to High Modernism, Weiss/Manfredi’s projects are perhaps deliberately low on visual delight, as they provide the backdrop as well as the terrain for the performance of civic life, which is what animates their architecture.

Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Utzon Lecture Series: Inhabiting Topography 22 August 2012, University of New South Wales, Photo: Faculty of Built Environment, UNSW

Weiss and Manfredi’s brief but meaningful contribution in Sydney and UNSW is well timed because Sydney (as well as design studios in the city’s various Universities) are engaged with challenges and approaches pertaining to the crafting of public realms, the urgency of which is observable in the development of Central Park, now under construction (www.centralparksydney.com); launch of the Green Square Library & Plaza Design Competition (www.greensquarelibrary.com.au); Design Parramatta, a collaborative project between Parramatta City Council and the NSW Government Architects Office (www.designparramatta.com.au); and more recently, Super Sydney that taps into people’s vision of Sydney from the city’s 41 council areas (www.supersydney.org).

Weiss/Manfredi’s works are published in Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Weiss/Manfredi: Surface/subsurface (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008); Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Site specific: The work of Weiss/Manfredi Architects (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000).

Wearing it around Your Neck: Sydney Jewellers Craft their Impressions of Architecture and the City

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

Walking along the Historic Rocks precinct in Sydney, I was lucky to come across a lovely exhibition titled Architextural, at the Gallery of Arts and Crafts NSW (31 July-19 August 2012). Curated by Mike Ripoll, the exhibition is of jewellery based on architectural inspirations, featuring works by jewellers/artists Carolyn Delzoppo, Val Aked, Ksenija Benko, Beth Spence, Maret Kalmar, Rosanne Antico Hall, Mike Ripoll, Margaret Conway, Robin Phillips, Laura Haszard, June Higgs, and Ruth Kerrison. While the connection between architecture and fashion, and more recently wearable art has preoccupied design publications, jewellery holds a precious position in its relation to architecture. Architects love and wear jewellery as well as partaking in designing and making it. It is the tactility, the craft value, and the alchemical properties of materials afforded by the object that holds the attraction.

Maret Kalmar; Ksenija Benko, Elements (sterling silver, 9ct gold, rubber), Photos: Michael Rippol

The collaboration between Frank Gehry and Tiffanys and Co is well known. Other examples include HK+NP studio, a Vancouver based jewellery design studio that ‘utilizes techniques and forms derived from the architectural backgrounds of the partners, Hiroko Kobayashi and Neil Prakash’ (source) and Sydney-based collaborative, Venerari. What is sometimes absent though is the designer/maker’s commentary of the built world. Ute Decker’s Architectural Jewellery exhibited in the London Festival of Architecture 2012 explores the ‘relation of ethics and aesthetics in artefacts and the built environment’ and the concept of ‘social beauty’ in her work with recycled silver, fair-trade gold, and bio-resin (source). Put in this context, Architextural is a great discovery – perhaps as yet an undiscovered event in Sydney.

Mike Rippol, curator and jeweller, notes that while nature has served as the source of metaphors and inspiration for jewellers/artists, surely the everyday occupation of constructed and interior worlds informs the artistic imaginary. Conversation with Rippol strengthens my initial view on the connections between the disciplines of architecture and jewellery making – both involve careful material selection, precise processes of joining materials with specific chemical properties, and finish. The exhibiting jewellers/artists adopt distinctive approaches that acknowledge international architectural icons, historical buildings, city, room, home, and gardens, as well as narratives and experiences connected to the built environment. Hence, it is not the copying of forms of iconic buildings but the acknowledgement of the unconscious, incidental, trivial, and experiential dimensions of the built environment that informs these jewellers/artists.

Michael Rippol, Lonely Terrace (in sterling silver, copper, and ebony); Robin Phillips, Walt Disney Concert Hall 1, Frank Gehry (sterling silver), Photos: Michael Rippol

Site Lock Up and Wrecking Ball 1 by Kalmar (and number of other pieces, most of which are versions of necklaces) is a re-telling of her partner’s experience of construction sites, as destructive, volatile, and unstable territories. Kalmar’s Birds that Lost their Tree is a story of the removal of the bird’s nest, containing within it a profound commentary on biodiversity. Rippol’s After Mackintosh focuses on the recognisability and scalability of the motif. His Lonely Terrace (in sterling silver, copper, and ebony) is a reflection of the MCA façade as the Fallingwater, a take on the overlapping planes by Frank Lloyd Wright. Other recognizable icons are featured in other works such as the Robin Phillips’s Walt Disney Concert Hall 1, Frank Gehry (sterling silver). Rippol’s City of Man presents the cityscape as overlays as do other works like Laura Haszard’s City. Benko’s Elements are a play on the geometric forms that must be negotiated in architectural compositions containing within it also the element of perspectival distortion. Rippol’s Room with a View is also about forced perspective. My interest in Architextural is underpinned by the spoken and unspoken commentary on the built world by other disciplines and frameworks of imagination and it is really encouraging to discover this hidden body of work.

Additional Sources: Please also read Melissa Cameron, ‘Examining the connections between architecture and jewellery’, Craft Australia Library series: Conference presentations (14 May 2010)

Immersive Space of Imagination: LAVA’s ‘Other Worldly’ Martian Embassy

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

The Martian Embassy designed by LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, led by Chris Bosse) is the home of the Sydney Story Factory in Redfern Street, Sydney. Led by Catherine Keenan (co-founder and executive director), ‘the Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in inner Sydney. Volunteer tutors help students to write and publish stories. Free programs target young people, from marginalized, Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, but are open to everyone. It was inspired by 826 Valencia, a creative writing centre for young people started by novelist Dave Eggers in San Francisco in 2002′ [Press Release]. The concept of the Martian Embassy is possibly informed by the flights of fancy that must underpin the act of transcending reality to enter the realm of imagination and fiction, where the encounter of the new, wonderful, and bizarre suggest endless possibilities.

Martian Embassy (View from the Embassy toward the Classroom), Photo: Brett Boardman Photography

Largely a pro bono project, the Martian Embassy was a collaboration between LAVA, Will O’Rourke (production), and The Glue Society (creative directors, and an independent creative collective located in Sydney and New York), who developed the Martian concept, involving also Berents Project Management (Project Manager), ARUP (lighting and acoustic design), Redwood Projects (builder), Philips (lighting), Syntec (sound), and Avatar (oils). The ‘kits of parts’ (both material and intellectual) donated generously by the project’s multiple partners is stitched together effortlessly in the creation of an immersive interior that houses the Embassy, the Shop, and the Classroom.

The layout of the Martian Embassy is therefore akin to an ‘intergalactic journey – from the embassy, at the street entrance, to the shop full of red planet traveller essentials, to the classroom. By the time kids reach the writing classes they have forgotten they are in school’. Constructed entirely out of CNC-cut plywood (1,068 pieces), the interior consists of a system of repetitive spatial ribs that undulate in three dimensions to mould a fluid organic space. The spatial distinctions in the Martian Embassy are imperceptible, and the transitions between spaces are indicated subtly by the protrusion of fixed furniture and shelving, which are extensions of the skeletal system of the ribs. The skeletal ribs are not structural in the conventional sense of the word but they are spatio-structural. They structure or organize the occupation of the interior, highlighted also by the lines on the floor that follow the ribs. The three and two dimensional articulation of the fluid geometry prompts the body’s rhythmic movement through space.

The Martian Embassy, Photo: Peter Murphy

The concept of fluid space makes the most of what could have been a narrow, deep, and dark space, devoid of daylight and dynamism. But at the Martian Embassy, the entry through the door in fact leads the eye through the interior to the sunlit backyard. The daylight filtering in is complemented by the changing LED light sequences that make different parts of the ribs glow in different colours at different times. It is as if the interior were suffused with self sustaining life. This demonstrates LAVA’s interest in the synthesis of the organic and the technological. Hence, whilst they claim to derive the concept of the Martian Embassy from the ‘fusion of a whale, a rocket, and a time tunnel’, they also admit indebtedness to the technologies from the ‘yacht and space industry’ for the creation of the timber ribs. The hybrid imagination of LAVA is clearly the perfect conduit for a creative writing centre. LAVA’s expertise in working across scales, materials, typologies, and budgets (from the design of a lamp, a bookshelf, city planning, and towers) also informs the successful conceptualization and execution of the Martian Embassy.