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Sydney’s getting a new public artwork – and it’s twice as big as originally planned

Written by
Dee Jefferson

A little more than three years after it was first announced, the major public artwork ‘Cloud Arch’ (aka Space Noodle), planned to span the intersection at the Corner of George, Park and Druitt Streets, has a date on it – and, no surprises, it’s not the original date of 2017.

The steel arch, designed by Japanese artist and architect Junya Ishigami, will be unveiled in March 2019. And it’s going to be double the size (a cool 140 tonnes of steel, and 58 metres high), spanning from the Queen Victoria Building across George Street to the intersection with Park Street, with pedestrians and the forthcoming light rail passing underneath.

Before and after: the original and revised designs for Cloud Arch
Photograph: Supplied

Why? The arch was one of three public artworks announced in July 2014 as part of City of Sydney’s 2030 vision for regenerating the city centre (including closing George Street for pedestrian-only traffic and a light rail). Along with works by Hany Armanious (a large blue fibreglass milk crate, called ‘Pavilion’) and Tracey Emin (60 bronze birds, dotted around the Rocks), Ishigami’s ‘Cloud Arch’ is conceived as a major tourist attraction.

In a statement today, Lord Mayor Clover Moore spoke of: “the hundreds of thousands of visitors that will visit Sydney to view the artwork, dine at nearby eateries and spend money at local businesses, boosting the local economy. It will become one of the most photographed landmarks in our city and add to Sydney’s standing as one of the world’s great cultural capitals.”

She also spoke of it having a symbolic value for Sydneysiders: “Light rail and the transformation of George Street finally gives our city centre a true people’s place where the pedestrianised George Street meets Sydney Town Hall and our new Sydney Square. … [Cloud Arch is] a stunning marker of the day the city is finally handed back to its people.”

So far so reasonable? It depends on how you feel about the work and the price tag (which has increased from $3.5 million to $11.3 million due to unexpected technical constraints in the construction area, and a 40 per cent rise in steel costs since 2014). Arguably, this is the biggest and most expensive noodle in the world. To put it in perspective, however, Chicago’s Cloud Gate (by Anish Kapoor) cost US$23 million (in 2006).

And it’s worth noting that both directors of Sydney’s major public institutions, Dr Michael Brand (Art Gallery of NSW) and Elizabeth Ann Macgregor (Museum of Contemporary Art) support the design, with Brand saying that “the increase in the scale of Ishigami’s proposed design greatly adds to its appeal and promises to be even more compelling than the original concept"; and Macgregor saying, “Such works of art have the capacity to be game changers, attracting attention well beyond the immediate environment.”

You can read the artist statement for Cloud Arch here.

Check out our hit list of Sydney’s best public art.

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