Birrarung: Water Refuge, 2016

Birrarung:  Water Refuge is a multidisciplinary project that has integrated expertise from the arts and sciences, to develop a plan for a sculptural installation in a city space that uses renewable energy and upscaled water to create a cooling and contemplative escape for people in our hot cities. Professorial Fellow Maudie Palmer AO initiated the project which brought together MAP, Jon Shinkfield, Professor Nigel Tapper, Dr Dave McCarthy and Dr Jacek Jasieniak. 

At its heart the Art Water Refuge contributes to our civic wellbeing, offering a moment of respite for the inner city resident looking to escape a heatwave and those seeking a place of curiosity and contemplation. The Art Water Refuge collects and arranges a vital ensemble of parts to offer a self-sustaining and immersive micro-climactic experience.

Of primary concern is the idea of ecology, where sculpture, landscape and technological systems are situated and integral to the overall experience. Art Water Refuge is a dense immersive landscape, containing a ‘misting’ Tumbleweed sculpture at its core and, around the edges a collection of companion shade/solar structures with areas for rest and play.

The relative positions of the Tumbleweed and companion structures are informed through the application of a pattern of ground ripples. Each structure in the refuge generates from its base, a set of ripples that push outward to meet and reverberate off those generated by its neighbour. These reverberations elicit an opportunity to fuse the relationship between all the elements and contain and guide the formal language of the seating, hardscape and the arrangement of vegetated and soft-scaped areas. The shade solar structures are elevated portions of the ripples that orbit with a sense of magnetism around the central Tumbleweed. The dense assemblage of overlapping and interweaving wires appear fragile and unstable, yet also seem to represent an uncanny technological system or image of data. This idea of the unpredictable and unstable seeks to locate the sculpture between the binary notions of technology as saviour and its defeat in an ever increasingly volatile and destabilised global environment.

© Monash Art Projects