Apr 6, 2015

The National Science Museum - Melbourne Landmark & City Square

The office disaster has had a few benefits - it encouraged/forced me to sort through my papers, photos and sketch books.......and.......prompted this post about unrealised projects.

My favourite is pictured above, and is taken from a sketch book. In second half of 1987 I was asked to come up with a concept design for a sculpture for The National Science Museum (Canberra), my notes remind me that I referred to science by having four different sections in the work. A traditional central column made from or covered with metals that corroded or oxidised, copper, brass, zinc and silver (plated); it aimed to show the effects of phenomena on elements. A triangular stainless steel support was supposed to be a metaphor for the human aim for perfection. Another support was designed to be "living" and was covered with a hardy creeper and the crowing glory was to be a massive prism, 2.5M long by 1M high that would break light into its spectrum and bathe the museum forecourt and visitors with rainbow colours. I even thought that it may be possible to create a "coloured" sun dial by placing little frosted glass makers strategically in the paving that lit up when struck by the prism colours. The sculpural work would have been H 4M x W 5.3M x D2.5M.

But there was more......I'd noticed that, when I drove over my garden hose, water would squirt out, nothing revolutionary about that but it prompted the idea to have a series of "speed humps"on a nearby road that pumped water whenever vehicles drove over them - so in effect the waste energy of traffic kept the living column alive - an idea I liked a lot.

So why didn't it ever get made? The answer is simple - it was ferociously expensive, just the prism on its own would have cost over $250,000 back then!

Well if we're talking unlimited amounts of money this next bunch of drawings surely take the cake.

In 1978 there was The Melbourne Landmark Ideas Competition, I know I thought about it quite a bit but can't find any record of me having actually submitting a contribution, but finding the old drawings has been quite entertaining, especially given the way architecture has changed since then! The site was roughly where Federation Square is now. My approach was to imagine my sculptures of the time converted to a truly architectural scale. The one pictured here would have been a solid lump of mild steel transformed by an irregular oxy-acetylene cut, the original would have been no bigger than 400mm in its largest dimension.

One of my big leggy steel sculptures from the 70s re-imagined at almost skyscraper scale.

This last one was actually quite practical. In 1976 the young and new firm of Denton Corker Marshall (DCM) won the Melbourne City Square Competition, in December 1977 DCM invited Ron Robertson-Swann (the commission winner with Vault aka Yellow Peril), David Wilson and me to submit designs for the City Square sculpture, my contribution Port shown above. Our brief was fairly aggressive in that the key criteria was that it should compete with both the Town Hall (shown in background) and the nearby cathedral in either scale, colour or both, which is exactly what Robertson-Swann's work did.

The repercussions of the City Square commission had a profound effect on both my own sculpture and the way I approached large projects, as the ideas in the National Science Museum concept quite clearly show.

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