Making Art: Inside the Vivid Build

Street Furniture Australia has helped two young architects from CM+ with the design and build of colourful, immersive artworks for Sydney’s annual festival of light, music and ideas.

The 23-day festival attracted 2.25 million visitors in 2018, with similar numbers expected for 2019. Vivid Light, a series of sound and light installations, comes to life after dark throughout the city.

An enveloping snowflake storm, Let It Snow by Jing Li, and an interactive musical tree, Harmony by Rod Tan, opened to acclaim on Friday May 24 and are set to delight audiences till June 15, 2019.

Angus Easthope, industrial designer with Street Furniture Australia and project lead for the Vivid build, shares insights into the design and installation of more than 1.5 tonnes of aluminium and steel for the two works.

“Working on Vivid has been a really interesting experience. To be given the opportunity to deliver something this large, for an event that is attended by millions of people, is exciting,” he tells StreetChat.

Let It Snow – immersed in a snow storm

Let It Snow is installed in Hickson Road Reserve, against a backdrop of incredible views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

It was listed in Timeout’s 11 most exciting things on at Vivid Sydney.

Jing Li designed a storm of snowflakes featuring thousands of lights on strings of different lengths, that react to pedestrians moving through the space and the weather.

“The space feels turbulent and tempestuous when the wind blows and lots of people are playing, wandering and running through the lights. On quieter evenings with little to no breeze, it feels calm and gentle,” says Li.

Five individual structures stand 4.5 metres tall, connected by spokes that make up a hexagonal canopy. Made from steel, together the five weigh around 1277kg.

“Elevating the height was very important to Jing, to replicate the experience of snow falling from the sky. So a lot of work went into ensuring the safety of these tall structures, so we could achieve that 4.5 metre canopy,” says Easthope.

“Both Vivid designs went through a series of iterations, with industrial design, engineering and production teams all involved.

“Each module is made from steel, for stability, and we added gusset plates at the base, large bolts and longer legs – which meant decking was required to avoid trip hazards. Destination NSW kindly provided funding for the deck, and each leg is weighed down with 300 kg of ballast hidden underneath.

“The installation for Let It Snow was completed ahead of schedule. We are really happy with this result.”

See the location map for ‘Let it Snow.’

Rigging the lights.
Working into the night.
Jing completing final touches before opening day.

Harmony – an interactive musical tree

Rod Tan’s Harmony, a tree structure installed in the Royal Botanic Gardens, brings joy to children through music and interactive play.

Six pressure pads are connected to the lights and musical tracks. When pressed at the same time, a mesmerising display activates and the instruments play as one, in celebration of social unity.

As a recent migrant, arriving in Australia less than a year ago from the Philippines, one of the first things Tan noticed was the city’s multiculturalism.

“Each person seems unique, yet an open-minded commonality holds the fabric of society strong. The inspiration for Harmony came from the CM+ office, where people from different backgrounds work together and communicate well,” he says.

The trunk was pre-assembled and welded together offsite, then brought to Street Furniture Australia’s factory in Western Sydney for powder coating.

“The trunk was so long it couldn’t run through the whole powder coating line, but had to go halfway, stop and turn around to finish,” says Easthope.

On site the edges of the heavy, light-laden net were lifted from the ground to the canopy via cherry-picker, and each corner fastened to the structure with ropes. It was “all hands on deck” to hoist the net up onto the underside of the frame.

See a location map for ‘Harmony.’

Kids playing with Harmony.
Weaving lights through the net.
Rigging the net.
Rigging the huge trunk onto the powder coating line at the factory.

For more images, follow Street Furniture Australia on Instagram, and the #vividsydney hashtag on all social media. For further information and maps that show where to find the installations, visit the Vivid Sydney website.

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