Cairns Waterfront Commission

Cairns Waterfront Commission


Concept drawings for Steel sculpture


Winning proposal for Arts Queensland Public Art Competition.

This sculpture was the winning proposal for an Arts Queensland Public Art Competition for a major work for the Cairns waterfront. It was a collaboration between myself and sound artists, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth. It was terminated by the incoming conservative Queensland Government under contract.

It is a cluster,  a community of sculptural elements with multiple local references to to mangroves, nudibranches, orchids, and rainforest epiphytes. The sculpture looks both as if it is both splitting apart and growing together, growing and eroding with the changing tides.

There are three (3) major iconic primary elements surrounded by seven (7) secondary elements. All join at the high water mark in a hexagonal geometry.

The sculpture was intended to occupy the littoral zone, between water and shore, like a mangrove. Extending the sculpture to the shore, two (2) shore-based elements are embedded near the Viewing Platform area.

Emerging 12 to 15 meters from the water, the Sculpture is balanced in relation to the surrounding elements. It spans earth, water and air. Horizontal bands of water, mangrove, hills and sky can be seen through the diverse apertures of the sculpture. Its curved planar silhouettes ripple the space around it like a mirage. It has an iconic presence against the skyline and will be visible from parts of the harbour, marina and central Cairns.

The community of forms evokes the diversity of land-based, littoral and marine ecosystems that flourish around the Cairns and tropical north region of Australia.

The Sculpture has no central trunk, like some of the local figs. The base of each element is inspired by mangrove root systems where sand, mud and organic materials coalesce, eventually forming solid land.

The Sculpture is a grouping of vertical elements based partly on nudibranch silhouettes cut from perforated steel so that the striations are rendered as cutouts to maximise transparency and the view of the surrounding landscape. In plan, the nudibranch motif is folded into a series of linked hexagonal (120 degree) elements. In elevation, they are dendrite-like, reaching upwards to the sky, they suggest mangroves, coalescing into a horizontal band at the high water mark.

When the tide is low the part of sculpture between high and low water will be visible and will have marine growths allowed to flourish. Changing tidal levels reveal different aspects of the sculpture. As tidal levels fall, the attached seaweed and marine growths will be revealed in high contrast to the smooth curves above. This response to the natural rhythms of the water activates the sculpture from below.

Night time lighting further enhances the rippling effect. Light elements positioned below the low water mark cast an undulating rippling effect across the Sculptural Cluster. This active kinetic effect is naturally powered by the changing flow of the surrounding water. Ripples of light mimic the ebb and flow of the soundscape.