Measuring 4.5 metres high by 9 metres long and 4.5 metres wide, The Nearest of the Faraway Places combines public artwork with a public toilet and has put the commissioning body - the City of Bayswater Perth Western Australia - on the global map of the emergent trend of toilet tourism. The design reflects the riverine location with references to the endangered western swamp tortoise, egrets, fish, gnomonic growth patterns and the kangaroo paw plant. The palette is lightweight concrete, stucco, ferro-cement, glass, oxides, paint and stone.
The commission required the creation of a vital link between the location of the Claughton Reserve riverside park and the upgrade of a humble utilitarian building through transformative artwork to the exterior of the facility. The result is an architectural experience where visual ideas are expressed through the disciplines of art and design, architecture, engineering, history, construction and mathematics. This re-imagining articulates a sense of place and visually redeems the public toilets through the sublime geometry of Platonic form, ably corresponds with its environment, transcends social hierarchy and provides an other-worldly pavilion for very worldly functions. A perceived irrational appearance, mitigated by necessity, is paradoxically both site-specific and exotic. In fact, a series of architectural contradictions are apparent; a floating granite carapace dome, flat walls that spiral with spirals based on squares and the cornice can barely contain the rhythm and energy of the walls. However, all these are resolved by underlying geometric imperatives, compositional principles or contextual references that work to produce and maintain aesthetic cohesion between the parts and the whole.
The collaborative nature of the work was between the artist, Artsource - Western Australia’s peak government arts body – and the City of Bayswater, a municipality within the state capital Perth. The project was part of an overall master-plan for the upgrade of the Claughton Nature Reserve, a small park on the banks of the Swan River. The City of Bayswater Council commissioned the work through Jeremy Maher and Paul Parin of Artsource facilitated the project. Local steel workers Manny Arkveld, ACB, Wenco and Federal Metal fabricated the steel frame armatures and MCM batched the lightweight polystyrene concrete. Many thanks to both Haymes Paints who provided sponsorship supplying paint and anti-graffiti sealant and Perth Plumbing and Drainage for sponsoring the plumbing installation. John Paul Mueller of Sublime Limestone Solutions generously donated time and equipment, assisting with the plastering. The Friends of Claughton Reserve were instrumental in initiating the commission and an enthusiastic volunteer labour force.
The work is a modern day iteration of Roman classical architecture with its spheroidal domed roof and the walls as the modulus. The spirit of Vitruvius is invoked in threefold symmetry [reflective, rotational and radial] and eurhythmy [mathematical harmonies uniting the parts and whole]. Pi, the golden mean, 1: root 2, the octave, perfect fifth and a hexagonal tessellation ensure rigour, composure and restraint in a building that otherwise appears free-spirited and improvised.
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The global online community that celebrates design projects featuring commissioned artworks.
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Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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