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Stainless Liquid Architecture

Stainless steel has transformed Perth’s historic Forrest Place with a modern, interactive water sculpture.

The ‘Water Labyrinth’ was designed by internationally renowned artist, Jeppe Hein, and is his first permanent installation in Australia.

Launched in mid-November 2012, the $1.3 million sculpture is a major part of the Forrest Place redevelopment initiated by the City of Perth to create a stimulating public space for hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists.

Designed in a grid of nine squares, jets of recycled stormwater shoot up into the air, creating 2.3m high water walls that randomly rise and fall. These water walls create up to nine ‘rooms’ that appear and disappear in sequences of 10 seconds before changing the configuration.

Visitors of all ages leap from room to room or simply have a splash. The Water Labyrinth enables the interaction of people and art while utilising an important public space flanked by the sandstone inter-war Beaux-Arts style General Post Office and Commonwealth Bank buildings designed by John Smith Murdoch.

Hein says interaction is a distinctive element of the artwork and people play a vital role. ‘The Water Labyrinth activates the space and invites the public to make use of the artwork, either as a space for seclusion and relaxation or the opposite, a place for pure joy and playfulness.’

An impressive feature of the 12m x 12m Water Labyrinth is the 179m of stainless steel grating and drainage. As one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of stainless steel wedge wire grating, ASSDA member and Accredited Fabricator Paige Stainless was chosen to fabricate the water sculpture.

The popular water sculpture features approximately 62m2 of PAIGE STAINLESS HEELGUARD® wedge wire and approximately 160m of 30x5mm flat bar in 304-grade stainless steel, supplied by ASSDA Sponsors Atlas Steels and Fagersta.

PAIGE STAINLESS HEELGUARD® wedge wire is at the cutting edge of water drainage technology, overcoming inherent problems of drainage. The purpose-designed wedge shape in the stainless steel grates allows high volumes of water to shoot through the grates while trapping waste material for easy removal and cleaning.

The grating systems were custom made for the Water Labyrinth with a 5mm gap size and a 4mm wire head width, allowing a 50% open area for water flow. Pickling and passivation treatments were performed on the stainless steel grates prior to installation.

Paige Stainless senior design consultant Daniel Manning said a fine tooth comb approach was taken to ensure there were no safety issues in the final structure, as most visitors would be barefoot when experiencing the Water Labyrinth.

Having worked with stainless steel for over 15 years, Hein says stainless steel was the only material offering the required durability and compatibility for chemical treatment necessary for installation. Manning added that stainless steel’s aesthetic and corrosion resistant properties also made it an easy choice for materials specification in water technology.

Manning coordinated the production of the drainage system, which is an essential component of the Water Labyrinth’s design. All stainless steel components of the sculpture were 100% fabricated at Paige Stainless’s workshop in Caboolture, Queensland.
‘The collaboration with Paige Stainless flew smoothly and was very professional,’ says Hein. ‘They were able to produce and deliver quickly and the grids fabricated were of an extremely high quality.’

Main image above courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York. Photo credits: Jeppe Hein.
This article is featured in issue 53 of Australian Stainless magazine, Autumn 2013.

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