The Fibonacci spiral and the intersecting spines of a nautilus shell have inspired an impressive 23m high stainless steel sculpture at Kangaroo Point Park overlooking Brisbane's river.
Designed by UK public space artist Wolfgang Buttress, Venus Rising features 10,790 individual welds and over 7km of grade 316 and 2205 duplex stainless steel tube, pipe and round bar supplied by ASSDA Sponsor, Sandvik.
Having worked with stainless steel for over 25 years, Buttress said that the material’s strength, ability to look good over time with minimal maintenance, and the flexibility of finishes works well both practically and aesthetically.
“The variety of finishes which can be achieved with stainless steel through polishing, glass blasting and heat treatment is great. The material needs to be strong, resilient and look as good in 50 years as it does on installation,” Buttress said.
Initial fabrication works took place in the UK before being transported to Brisbane for final assembly. D&R Stainless, an ASSDA member and Accredited Fabricator, continued the fabrication of the 11.5 tonne spire-like sculpture over a period of six weeks. It used the artistic vision of Buttress, as well as renders and 3D models to guide the assembly of the sculpture.
The central design of the sculpture was to create a piece of artwork that was visibly prominent and exemplified strength, elegance and weightlessness. The sculpture features a criss cross ladder-type construction with heavy wall pipes that gently twist to create a hollow spiral. Visitors can enter the sculpture at the base level and gaze up at the sky through an opening at the top.
“I wanted to make connections between the Brisbane River and the sky above. It was important to me that the sculpture works on an intimate scale as well as being seen from afar,” Buttress said.
“Visually, the most challenging part of the project was to try and maintain harmony between form and sculpture. I wanted the piece to have a delicacy but also be strong.”
The main structure of the sculpture features 2205 duplex stainless with cladding tubes at the bottom of the structure starting at 12mm, ascending to 8mm and 10mm tube through the middle and 6mm and 8mm solid round bar at the top. Tubes were supplied in 6m lengths and welded together to create continuous lines of tubing for the stretch of the sculpture.
12mm thick stainless steel tubes in the skeleton of the structure extend about half way up and were heat treated in a stress relieving oven. This transformed the colour of the steel into a golden hue to create a contrast effect in the sculpture.
“We cut 30 to 40 small lengths of stainless steel at various thicknesses and baked them at different temperatures from 100˚ C up to 400˚ C. After comparing the various shades and hues, I chose the golden colour in the end which required heating to around 300˚ C,” Buttress said.
Grade 316 polished stainless steel tubing was used for the middle cladding on the exterior of the structure.
Stainless steel rings were laser cut from LDX 2101 plate in various thicknesses from 20mm down to 3mm, and welded to the body of the sculpture to create an intricate lace-like effect.
The main structure was bead blasted to create a uniform finish and all tubes were chemically cleaned.
Both TIG and MIG welding processes were used, with both solid wire and flux cord used in the MIG welding technique. Di-penetration testing was conducted offsite on the welding of the body of the sculpture to ensure structural integrity.
D&R Stainless director Karl Manders said that while fabricating stainless steel was familiar territory, the application was different and stimulating.
“We found the project intriguing because while we were producing a delicate structure, the core components of the fabrication were quite complex. Our business focuses on heavy industrial applications, and the materials we used for Venus Rising are those used in the heart of the mining and petrochemical industries,” Manders said.
“The experience of this project was intense but satisfying. We made Wolfgang’s vision come to life.”
Buttress said D&R Stainless was a perfect fit for the project and they will also be on board for an upcoming sculpture for The University of Canberra.
“Their understanding of the properties of stainless steel was second to none and their craftsmanship exemplary. It was great to witness such pride in their workmanship,” Buttress said.
Commissioned by the Queensland Government, Venus Rising was selected in a public vote as the winning design from over 60 submissions and was unveiled in late January 2012.
Photographer: David Sandison. Images courtesy of The State of Queensland, Department of Housing and Public Works.
This article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine, issue 51.