Logo

Stainless Afloat

Synergy of Lightness and Strength


Posted 9 December 2011

Artist Wendy Mills’ interest in an ancient Sumerian myth helped bring her vision to reality for a stainless steel sculpture at Willoughby City Council’s new cultural centre.

Described as the cultural home of the North Shore, The Concourse (Chatswood, NSW) incorporates a concert hall, theatre, library, outdoor urban screen, restaurants and retail stores.

Council worked through Pamille Berg Consulting to commission Ms Mills to create an artwork for the library’s water court, which is located below ground level. The 6.1m sculpture, fabricated by ASSDA Accredited Fabrications Australia, is visible from above as well as from within the library.

Fabrications Australia fabricated the sculpture from 50mm x 50mm x 3mm square hollow sections of grade 316 stainless steel and applied a mirror polish. The joins were TIG welded and carefully ground smooth to ensure a high quality finish.

The sculpture is mounted on a ‘blade’ made from 12mm grade 316 plate that was painted to reduce visibility within the water, so the sculpture appears to float on the surface. As the support structure is bolted into the floor immediately above a carpark, extensive water proofing was required.

Ms Mills said the sculpture was more than 2 years in the making from when it was first conceived. Fabrications Australia and Consulting Engineer, Bernie Davis from Opus, worked together with her design to overcome challenges such as the structural support and ensure a proper balance of geometry, constructability and aesthetics.

Mr Davis said it was the team focus on this total balance that ensured a happy client.

Fabrications Australia Director Shannon Molenaar said the project was a true collaboration that evolved over time. Key issues for the fabrication team were structural integrity and long-term durability.

Ms Mills said she chose to work with stainless steel because no coatings were required. She wanted a mirror finish as it requires very little maintenance and it reflects the environment, making the artwork seem lighter.

For this piece, she envisaged a form of transport halfway between a plane and a boat that would sit lightly on the surface of the water as if it is about to take off, yet from above it would appear like a winged insect that has just landed. Her goal was to create a ‘stillness’ – a space for reflection, transition and transformation.

She said her initial concepts of a sky boat and transition tied in beautifully with the Sumerian myth of Inanna and the location within the library water court in the cultural precinct. According to the myth, Inanna (the queen of heaven) travels in her sky-boat to visit Enki (the lord of wisdom) who lives in a watery abyss and gives Inanna divine decrees to transform her city into a new centre of civilisation and culture.

The end result of this successful collaboration is an artwork that purveys a sense of peacefulness while showcasing the versatility and durability of stainless steel in a water environment.

Images courtesy of Wendy Mills.

This article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 50, Summer 2011/12.

Lissel Pilcher