The importance of art in public spaces

4 June 2021
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Internationally renowned artist Wolfgang Buttress speaks to his ‘Solar’ sculpture, suspended in the recently completed Olderfleet lobby. Reflecting on the cross pollination between art and design, the artist shares his thoughts on how the two work in unison to elevate architecture and public spaces, filling them with a conversation about light, scale and colour.

Public spaces are the result of layered elements where designers, artists and makers leave their respective marks. Carefully defined by interactions and the conjuring of experience, these marks narrate, sculpt and carve the personable within the in-between voids. The result connects people to their destinations and gives depth to the journey.

Key to the dialogue Carr imbeds within each project is the cross engagement between design and art. While the rigor and creative structure of design creates a framework to work within, the invitation of artists to create their own response to space is one core collaboration that drives and defines the underlying vision of Carr. Artist Wolfgang Buttress’ recent ‘Solar’ sculpture installation in Olderfleet captures the spirit of such an alliance. Here, he shares insight into his process and the importance of a shared vision and holistic approach.

A fluid connection

Aptly named ‘Solar’, Wolfgang’s sculptural response to Olderfleet is born from a place of fluidity and constant change. His approach, he says, is founded on, “Nothing remaining the same, and where everything is fluid.” He wanted to, “Express both a sense of place and a sense that everything is in motion. I wanted to create an immersive, multi-sensory and site-specific sculpture that celebrates and expresses the live energy of the sun which is both constant and always changing.” Connected to the solar panels on the roof of the building through a live feed, he adds, “The sculpture expresses the real time energy of the sun through an ever changing and responsive fibre optic lighting system. I wanted the form of the piece to be impactful in its size but gentle in how it sits within the space.  A sphere not only suggests the form of the sun and the building blocks of life, but a sphere has no front or back, it affords a similar view from every angle. It is essential in both its form and its meaning.”


Experience through expression

The cross-section between the art and design worlds allows both to inform and inspire the other. Central to both are the founding ideas around experience – how a space is experienced and interacted with, and how an artwork elevates and responds to that experience. In describing his approach, Wolfgang adds, “I explore how the use of scale, massing, colour, lighting and materiality can both express the concept of the artwork and in turn harmonise with the architecture itself.” As an artist, creating his own drawings and paintings, his sculpture work sees him collaborate with an array of designers, architects, landscape architects, musicians, and scientists. In bringing the different disciples together, he says, “The cross pollination of ideas and input can express another level of meaning and experience. Some of my projects can take years to realise so it is important to me that the journey is rewarding so in time we can all can learn more about the idea and the process.”

The importance of creation

Though the process and creative energy between the two disciplines share many parallels, Wolfgang says, “Perhaps one of the fundamental differences between art and design is that as an artist one is compelled to create regardless, whereas a designer usually creates to a brief or to solve a problem.” The combining of these forces allows both the practical and the elusive ideals of a space to be realised, connecting beyond a mere solution. Through engaging with artists, Carr is committed to continuing to engage and heighten through creativity. The continued collaboration, Wolfgang says, “Is about the opportunity to create a sense of magic or wonder, something that is beyond function but feels essential to the experience. Something that is ever changing can help connect us to a space and to ourselves.”

Ideas informed by context

Design plays the important role of bettering the everyday, sometimes in more subtle ways than others, and through the engagement with artists, the experience of these spaces is inevitably heightened. Like any partnership, Wolfgang says, “Synergy between the architectural intention of the space and the ideas which I explore in my own practice is key.” In deciding which commissions to take on, he says, “For an artwork to successfully harmonise with the architecture, an understanding and appreciation of the built and cultural context is essential. The concept for the artwork is the fundamental and essential building block. This search for meaning can be both direct and illusive. Sometimes the idea presents itself immediately and sometimes it only slowly reveals itself. Once present it almost feels like it was always meant to be.”


Wolfgang Buttress’ ‘Solar’ installation is a permanent sculpture sitting within Olderfleet atrium at 477 Collins St and can be accessed by the public during work hours.

You can read more about the project here.