UNITING A NATIONby Terrance Plowright
A commissioned public art piece to be installed in Australia offers a 16-meter-high depiction of the multiple cultural influences that make up the diverse landscape of the nation. In 2013, Australian-based artist Terrance Plowright was commissioned to create a sculpture to be gifted to the Australian people.
Deemed to be a “celebration of the nation”, the sculpture was to symbolically reflect the two hundred cultures that make up the country of Australia.
Commissioned by Basil Sellers, the piece was to be a private thank you to the country that had sheltered, nurtured and educated Sellers.
Over a two month period, Plowright produced a total of twelve design ideas, which, after a number of rigorous discussions, was whittled down to one before being given the green light to proceed. The final design was entitled Uniting a Nation.
Once a budget was designated and a warehouse big enough in which to build the proposed 16m-high sculpture was found in the Blue Mountains, creation of the sculpture was set to begin. It took two months to set up, find, purchase and establish the equipment needed, as well as find staff, metal material suppliers, engineers and other firms that would all play a role in the overall fabrication of the large-scale design.
The first hurdle to construction came when the engineers hired to calculate a fabrication process that would allow the piece to be safely displayed in a public space, could not find a viable solution. The second firm asked to look in to the problem had better luck. With the help of a Professor of Engineering at Hanoi University in Vietnam, after a lengthy process and a number of compromises, a solution began to emerge.
Drawing upon drawing was done of the sculpture, its sections and varied pieces, in order to map how the overall structure would hang together. A substantial amount of planning ahead of construction was needed so as to be able to build the piece without frequently running into problems that would mean time delays and budget blow outs. The design of Uniting a Nation is highly diverse, with not one straight line in the entire sculpture. The complex shapes and compound curves intertwine to form a sinuous yet balanced form, all of which added to the difficulty of fabrication and construction.
The entire sculpture is made up of nine sections. The largest piece, a giant 16m sail, was made as one piece that could be divided into two sections in order to facilitate its establishment into the centre of the sculpture. The use of a 150 tonne crane and a 16-metre capacity cherry picker were needed to lift the giant sail onto the base before being welded and
bolted into place.
As the engineers were concerned the sail structure, being 16m-high, would act like a true sail on windy days and have to bear a huge load at the base of the sculpture, Plowright was required to establish five buttresses to provide strength and stability.
As the finished sculpture required sign off from an engineer before it could be installed in a public space, a number of compromises were made along the way between overall structure and design aesthetic. Due to some clever engineering, the completed piece can now handle the strain of weather extremes and will stand tall for over 100 years.
All in all, the project team consisted of boiler makers, welders, sheet metal workers, general hands, laser cutters, engineers, crane drivers, painters, lighting experts, with Plowright as the driving force in the role of artist, designer and project manager.
Finished in 2015, Uniting a Nation took over two years to complete. Due to be installed in 2017, the development of Uniting a Nation is an incredible journey of creation that is to become the feature of a full-length documentary by Inkwell Films, narrated by Jack Thompson. Representing the indigenous and multi-cultural influences of a vast nation, Uniting a Nation promises to be a spectacular addition to public art in Australia.
Client | Basil Sellers
Title | Uniting A Nation
Artist | Terrence Plowright
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