It has been quite a journey, but now the magnificent Centenary sundial has been enhanced with a sculpture garden at its base.
More than a year after the project first began to take shape, it is complete with a cluster of mosaicked organic shapes and espaliered mandarin trees, nestling in beds of white stones and gravel amidst an imposing setting of stern sandstone.
Artist Shaun Tan designed this latest installation in collaboration with long-time friend and supporter Susan Marie (Director, UWA Extension) and Helen Whitbread (Manager, Sustainable Initiatives) as landscape architect.
‘I’ve never done any landscape designs’
When Susan first asked Shaun to design it she said “He blinked and replied ‘I’ve never done any landscape designs'” but after going through some initial ideas, Shaun found one to his satisfaction – one that would create a friendly and accessible installation and would invite people to move around, to touch and feel the garden elements.
Then once more it was over to artisan Iain Middleton, this time for the more difficult task of covering smooth, rounded surfaces with flat, rigid glass tiles.
The freeform shapes at one end evoke big smooth river stones, all three superbly cloaked in the same Venetian glass tiles that make up the sundial. Off to one side, a gleaming golden egg sits alone at the other end of the small courtyard.
Shaun described the design as a response to the fairly spare and angular sandstone forms of the site, in which he wanted elements to break the tension of those lines with simple curved organic forms.
“The design also needed to relate to the large sundial above … the vertical image carries a sense of air, light and celestial objects; something on the ground needed to be about the earth, solid mass and gravity,” he wrote.
‘We’ll meet you at the golden egg’
He said the golden egg has a suggestion of wisdom, which relates to the University setting.
“The extrusion of three-dimensional forms out of a two-dimensional image, as if having fallen out, is interesting and playful. I do hope that it’s a space that invites active casual use and also acts as a campus landmark. Hopefully people will say ‘Meet you at the gold egg’,” he wrote.
The whole project was funded by corporate sponsor Hawaiian, as well as Convocation, Combined Friends and Friends of LWAG; and Susan is delighted with the outcome.
“I think we should create a Gross National Happiness index like the Bhutanese, and rate things that just make us happy. This would certainly be one of them,” she said.