Achieving integrationReed Vessel is a commission currently under construction in Docklands Park by New Zealand artist, Virginia King. It is a good illustration of the complexities of achieving integration.The sculpture is a filigreed and elevated vessel form that embraces themes of migration, journey and survival, the river and sea.The work references the history of the area, the once abundant traditional foods of the vast tidal wetland that existed on the site, and stories of the river and marine archaeology.The vessel represents a container of memories, a symbol of distant horizons, of spiritual journeys, of life and survival.
The artist’s vision was for the sculpture to sit in a clear reflective pool.Following lengthy discussions with the park landscape designers and site engineers, we formulated a plan to integrate the artist’s concept with a narrow pedestrian bridge running through the wetlands of Docklands Park.
We started planning for the commission when the overall plans for the park had been designed, but no construction begun.This meant that the integration of Reed Vessel could occur on paper, but logistically we had to work out how to create a clear reflective pool in what was going to be reed bed filled wetlands used for recycling water.There were also a number of issues with the connection of the bridge and the finishes of the pathway at each end of the sculpture.
The solution was to build a clear pool within the wetlands.Virginia, her engineer and fabricator were in New Zealand and we had another team in Docklands working on the ground works to support the sculpture.Many phone conferences followed in determining the details of foundations and fixings required.Virginia fabricated all the parts in New Zealand, shipped them over and then came to Melbourne with her engineer to build the sculpture on site, assisted by a small Docklands team of builders, for a period of three weeks.
The vessel form of the sculpture is 18 metres long and supported by a cradle above a reflection pool of clear water in the reed beds of the wetlands.Texts sandblasted onto the louvered sides of the cradle were selected by Virginia from works by Australian poets and writers, and are metaphors relating to river and sea, memory and the passage of time.Recycled water flows from a reservoir beneath the vessel down the louvered panels of the cradle to the pool. A pedestrian footbridge passing through the cradle legs and under the waterfall is oriented on the wetlands pathway.Pedestrians can walk through the cradle across the pool.The heroic proportions of the work are enhanced by the intimate scale of reed planting in the wetlands. The work appears to be emerging from the water, a visible manifestation of the rekindled spirit of the whole Docklands area.