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Junya Ishigami’s redesigned ‘grand arch’ for Sydney doubles in size

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami has updated his design for the large-scale arch above George Street in Sydney, which now calls for a structure almost doubled in size.

Titled Cloud Arch, the public artwork was originally announced in 2014 as one of three artworks to be commissioned under the City of Sydney’s City Centre Public Art Plan.

The plan is part of the City’s contribution to a state government plan to pedestrianize George Street and introduce a new light rail. The artworks were unanimously chosen by a jury, which included architect Richard Johnson, from more than 700 expressions of interest from around the world.

The arch will be similar to other defining arch or gateway artworks in other cities around the world, including Eero Sarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago, which are themselves descendants of historical arches like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Gateway to India in Mumbai.

Described by Ishigami as an “ethereal ribbon” that “behaves like a flicker,” the arch will now reach 58 metres into the sky, diagonally traversing the intersection of George and Park streets from the Queen Victoria Building.

Architect Junya Ishigami describes the design of  Cloud Arch as an "ethereal ribbon.

Architect Junya Ishigami describes the design of Cloud Arch as an “ethereal ribbon.

“Cloud Arch will function like a gateway, allowing trams and people to pass under it and framing the important monuments and buildings of Sydney that are significant to people,” Ishigami said in a statement.

“Sydney is about to be reborn as we look toward 2030. George Street will change significantly.

“There is a need for a new symbol to embody and communicate the qualities of the new Sydney to the world.

“The cloud evokes a spirit of openness and freedom. The soaring arch, by reaching for the sky, encourages people to dream and to be bold in striving to realize their ambitions.”

Architect Penelope Seidler commented, “Cloud Arch will be the most exciting design to emerge on the Sydney scene since the Opera House. I know it will become a Sydney icon. The sculpture demands views from all angles, it is puzzling and beautiful as well as an engineering masterpiece, I hope they construct it with haste.”

Cloud Arch by Junya Ishigami will be made from 140 tonnes of steel.

Cloud Arch by Junya Ishigami will be made from 140 tonnes of steel.

Due to technical constraints underneath George Street, restricted access to the site and challenges posed by the construction of the light rail line, the locations of the arch’s footings had to be altered, which caused the change to the design.

Although it will be made from 140 tonnes of steel, Ishigami said, “My contribution to the tradition of the grand arch is to make Cloud Arch seem impossibly thin and light despite its imposing height.”

The cost of the Cloud Arch is expected to increase more than three-fold from the initial estimate of $3.5 million to $11.3 million, partly owing to the rising price of of steel. To cover the increased cost, City of Sydney staff proposed postponing the construction of another sculpture from the City Centre Public Art Pla – Hany Armanious’s gigantic replica of a milk crate.

City staff suggested using funds set aside for the sculpture, called Pavilion, as well as re-allocating savings from the public domain budget to cover the increased cost of Cloud Arch.

Pavilion has been shrouded in controversy since its announcement in 2014. Melbourne artist Jarrad Kennedy claimed the giant milk crate form was a copy of a work he created for the 2005 McClelland Prize titled Court.

The council will consider the updated design of Cloud Arch on 29 August. Completion of the arch is expected before March 2019.

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