A large scale fibre optic artwork affectionately dubbed the ‘upside-down noodle bowl’ has returned to the heart of Chinatown 20 years after it was first installed by the City of Sydney.
The brightly lit dome, titled Heaven, and a series of suspended light panels, the Dixon Street Light screens, were taken down in sections in 2008 and 2013 due to new building construction.
The installation of the two artworks on Dixon Street follows the restoration four years ago of 14 lantern-shaped light boxes attached to buildings along Little Hay Street.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the return of the large scale light installation has been welcomed by locals, visitors and businesses.
“Chinatown is one of our most popular and vibrant destinations for tourists and Sydneysiders and it’s great to see these unique and colourful works returned to the area,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Inspiring projects like Heaven and Dixon Street Light Screens and the street lanterns add to the rich cultural experiences on Chinatown’s streets, creating a beautiful public space in a bustling city precinct.
“Along with the revitalisation of Dixon, Thomas, Little Hay and Factory streets as well as Kimber Lane, we are transforming Haymarket into a pedestrian-friendly public space, with more trees, lighting, seating and wonderful artworks.”
The original Surry Hills-based architect and artist, Peter McGregor, was involved in the restoration project.
First installed by the City in 1997, Heaven is a suspended disc with fibre optic strands laced through a metal frame suspended at the intersection of Dixon and Little Hay streets. The Dixon Street Light Screens are panels of polycarbonate light strips suspended across Dixon Street.
Lit from 6pm to midnight each night, Heaven’s larger fibre light strands change colour each hour, while the smaller fibre strands change every 10 minutes, morphing from purple, to blue, green, yellow, orange and red while the The Dixon Street Light Screens gradually change from orange to red. At the stroke of midnight, the two artworks glow bright red.
The layout and colour framework for the artworks was originally conceived with Hassell urban designer and architect Ken Maher and architect and feng shui specialist Howard Choy and is placed at the symbolic centre of Chinatown at the intersection Dixon and of Little Hay Streets.
Mr McGregor drew on Chinese architecture, mythology and philosophy to create the artworks. The three works – Heaven, Dixon Street Light Screens and the Little Hay Street wall lanterns depicting modern interpretations of traditional iconography such as dragons and phoenixes – were all laid out and colour coded using Mr Choy’s feng shui diagrams.
Mr McGregor said he was delighted the artworks have been restored and returned to their original home.
“It’s fantastic that it has survived the test of time. Public art is about creating something memorable and meaningful that works in an everyday space,” Mr McGregor said.
“What’s especially interesting is that the artworks were first put up at a time when there was no social media – no selfies and no Instagram. Now it has been reborn in a different age for a whole new digital generation.
“Heaven will now have a virtual life, as well as a real life, which it didn’t have before,” Mr McGregor said.
It took 2,700 hours and $580,000 to restore and return the two light artworks.
“The existing light fittings and electrical equipment had exceeded their life cycle,” project manager Maclean Wallace of Ryan Wilks said.
“Brand new lighting, cabling, wiring, control equipment and some structural works were needed so the cleaned and restored lighting displays could be programmed, recommissioned and returned to their original glory.”
A time lapse video of the light installation can be seen on facebook.com/cityofsydney and Instagram.com/cityofsydney
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