Public Art Commission for City of Sydney (Sustainable Sydney 2030)
The pool building in the park has been designed to ‘disappear’ under a ramped grass roof. The tri-generation plant requires 12 large chimneys to protrude through the grass roof, thus giving the game away, and potentially detracting from the park landscape. The engineers had designed several very large metal plant rooms to house the chimneys, which formed massive visual and physical barriers across the grass roof.
My approach was to celebrate and reveal the chimneys as part of the park and city infrastructure. I suggested that the chimneys were trying to be more like trees, part of a cyclical energy exchange, and were therefore worthy of standing in an historic city park. Most of the design work for the project had already been completed at the time I was asked to make a proposal for the chimneys. I felt it was very important to make the chimneys part of the family of infrastructure already in place. I did not feel it was appropriate to turn the chimneys into a stand alone ‘art work’.
I was enchanted by the simple and playful new infrastructural elements called the Follies, which include lamp posts, seats, shade structures and a wonderful hot air balloon. Made of metal and dipped in colour, they are utilitarian and joyful at the same time. Here was, already, a perfect language, almost waiting for a chimney project – because if anything can be utilitarian and joyful without even trying, it is a chimney!
However… Unlike the elegant lamp posts and swing sets, the tri-generation chimney enclosures were short, stout and massively over scaled. I removed the enclosures to reveal each individual chimney. I made them taller and more shapely and gave them faces and families to belong to.
I have been very careful to allow the chimneys to remain themselves, whilst simultaneously making them become more like the park, and more like the Follies. The chimneys are serious creatures who have dressed up for a gathering in the park. They are not intended as a destination point in the park. They are something to be noticed obliquely, in passing. Some thing curiously playful but obviously functional.
The art here is the art of the double act – of mimicry and diversion, of appearing and disappearing, of being part of a building and part of a landscape, of being part machine and part plant, or part chimney and part sky. In the resolution of the concept, form, materiality, composition, reflectivity and colour will be explored and refined to achieve these aims and to reflect the systems and processes at work in the tri-generation plant.
Externally, the lower chimney sections are metallic silver, and like the lamp posts – industrial, functional and robust. They have a proper job to do and they make no apology for that. But every worker needs recreation time, and the chimneys have come to the park to socialise, gaze into the distance, and blow some hot air. They don green hats, and push blue faces to the sky, trying to be like trees, trying to be much more civilised than their coal fired counterparts in remote places. Trying to be green.
The upper sections are painted in many shades of green. The palette of greens is derived from the place itself – the park’s fig trees. In this simple way the chimneys become visually connected to the tree family, as well as to the ‘colour-dipped’ infrastructure family.
A light blue painted interior and vermin mesh connects the chimneys to the sky and to the pool. Blue signifies water, vapour and air. Blue is a connecting theme in the park, and alerts us to the hidden pool within its folds.
The title of this project is Shades of Green.