Battery Point Sculpture Trail

A series of sculptures along Tasmania’s Battery Point waterfront explores the treasured and varied past of the area.

The Battery Point Sculpture Trail is a Hobart City Council initiative conceptualized and realized by the Hobart firm Futago in collaboration with Judith Abell (who has since joined Futago) and Chris Viney. Futago is a small partnership of disparate professionals specializing in graphic communications, design and art in public spaces. The trail was commissioned by the council as an interpretation project.

Initially twenty-three parcels of land were identified throughout Battery Point, land with the potential to accommodate items of public art. The designers, mindful of their tight $100,000 budget, settled on nine locations along an easy walking route from Salamanca Place to Marieville Esplanade. A sculpture-by-numbers concept developed where particular sites are celebrated through dates or measures and a story of human activity in Battery Point unfolds. Viney’s words touch on maritime and industrial history, with social and scientific references.

The trail begins with 1833, shoulder-high steel gabions filled with sandstone.

The trail begins with 1833, shoulder-high steel gabions filled with sandstone.

Image: Luke Burgess

The trail starts in Salamanca Place, at the base of the Silo Apartments. In numerals large enough to be read from two hundred metres away, “1833” beckons the curious. Interpretive text explains 1833 as a date linked to the building of Hobart’s New Wharf and development along the wharf front. The Helvetica script numbers are shoulder-high steel gabions filled with sandstone biscuits. The sculpture trail is announced and directions to the next site are given. Text and directions are standard companions to each site.

Site two, 12.43, is located nearby in Castray Esplanade, opposite a gazebo-like colonial building, the Tide House, where the height of tides is still measured. Datum level for Hobart is 12.43 feet above high tide mark. Two polished concrete blocks sit offset, the lower marked with a symbolic gauge, the upper inset with large projecting Helvetica numbers of blue resin.

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Site three, 628nm, marks the finishing line of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the starting line being 628 nautical miles away. Here a Digiglass screen set into a concrete base contains references to the yacht race, Antarctica and the old colonial trading route that brought supplies (and convicts) to Hobart by sail. White graphics sandwiched in clear glass are read against the blue moods of the Derwent River. Ready interpretation is a casualty of conflicting visual cues.

Site four, 2,000, uses an existing one-metre-high ox blood concrete wall standing within the A. J. White Park at the bottom of Finlay Street. Two thousand tonnes was the annual output of canned fruit from the Port Huon Fruitgrowers’ Co-operative, a building once occupying the site. An aluminium plate, acid-etched to reveal the ghostly presence of women cannery workers, is bent over the wall with “2,000” laser-cut in Helvetica numbers, a subtle marker to Battery Point’s industrial past.

Site five, 1923, is currently marked by low steel mesh cages in Clarke Avenue opposite Secheron House. Each cage protects a young Lonicera nitida plant. Eventually Helvetica topiary will pay respect to manicured gardens in the Secheron Estate. The date, 1923, proclaims the year the estate, proposed as public parkland by William Finlay, was cut up into twenty-six lots.

Floating in the Derwent River, 313 is the only kinetic structure in the series.

Floating in the Derwent River, 313 is the only kinetic structure in the series.

Image: Jonathan Wherrett

Site six, 313, floats between jetties in the Derwent River, offshore at the bottom of Derwent Lane. During the 1800s, 313 vessels were launched from Battery Point shipyards. A white buoy of Helvetica numerals rises and falls with the tide. This is the sole kinetic sculpture of the nine.

Site seven, 1,250, is marked with a rusted steel plate, its Helvetica numbers delineated in raised boltheads. This large metal sheet lies in the middle of the gravel floor of a bunker, previously the site of the Ross Patent Slipyard and now an archaeological zone of heritage significance. From a vantage point five metres above, the rusty plate has an awkward presence. The number 1,250 is the maximum tonnage launchable at the Ross Patent Slipyard.

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Site eight, 24, located within the Napoleon Street Playground, is intended to acknowledge the round-the-clock industry of Battery Point’s early days. A large chamfered resin block contains a red Helvetica number 24 within. At night, a solar-powered light causes the numerals to glow. This image of inner fire is a reference to the campfires of the Palawa people, ancient custodians of Battery Point. In daylight, the clear resin block is so dense that it reads as black. The inner number is invisible.

Site nine, 1909, marks the birth year of Errol Flynn, who lived nearby as a child. Two-metre-high white numerals in a typeface acknowledging the famous “Hollywood” sign are located at the northern end of the Errol Flynn Reserve on Marieville Esplanade.

All sites along the trail demonstrate interpretive qualities. Imaginative text bites elaborate on thoughtfully selected dates and measures. However, few nodes display memorable sculptural attributes. The wide range of marker constructions with their Helvetica numerals indicate order and control, hallmarks of the designer. Sculptors might have relied on inspiration to celebrate the trail’s nodes.

Hobart City Council can celebrate a low-key and thoughtful addition to its cultural attractions here. The visual impact of most numerical nodes is strong. They are markers of a narrative of interest. It would be appropriate, though, to forego reference to sculpture and promote the Battery Point Interpretive Trail.

Credits

Lead Consultant
Futago
North Hobart, Hobart, Tas, Australia
Project Team
Kate Owen, Daniel Zika, Jennifer Nichols, Ingrid Berger, Scott Christensen, Judith Abell, Chris Viney, Bruce Walter
Consultants
Digiglass Digiglass Australasia
Glass installation Glass Supplies
Installation Eyespy Signs Pty Ltd
Lighting Southern Lighting
Marine construction Tristar Marine
Marine paintwork All Marine Coatings
Naval architecture design Fred Barratt
Precast concrete The Precasters
Protective coatings Tasmanian Paints
Resin Mark Large Fibreglass Service
Router cutting Vos Construction
Signage fabrication and installation Eyespy Signs Pty Ltd
Steel and aluminium fabrication and installation Aircon Industries
Stonemasonry Stone, Steel and Earth Landscaping
Topiary frame Unique Topiary
Site details
Location Battery Point,  Hobart,  Tas,  Australia
Site type Suburban
Category Landscape / urban design
Type Culture / arts, Exhibitions
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 36 months
Construction 12 months
Website http://www.hobartcity.com.au/Community/Arts_and_Culture/Public_Art/Battery_Point
Client
Client Hobart City Council
Website Hobart City Council

Source

Project

Published online: 3 Jan 2012
Words: John Ancher
Images: Jonathan Wherrett, Luke Burgess

Issue

Landscape Architecture Australia, February 2011

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