The central feature of the Australia Day Spectacular was a floating, mechanical installation, inspired by the floral icon of NSW; the Waratah. I’d like to take you on a pictorial journey, behind the scenes, to examine the processes involved in creating this installation.


The brief was to create a giant, floating, mechanical Waratah, using pulleys and winches to open it’s petals for a spectacular reveal. It was to float in the middle of Darling Harbour on a flat-top barge with 2 shipping containers (housing the generators and mechanics) as its base. The reveal involved 32 LED covered stamen, which could change colour, smoke effects, fireworks and projected images on a fan-shaped water-screen, which rose from its centre (

THE DESIGN PROCESS – From Concept Sketches to Final Design

Research forms the basis of my inspiration. These two images inspired the shape and configuration of the Waratah.

3D Effect Wallpaper Flower Ref





The next step was to create a series of concept sketches. These were first approved by my client, event producer, Andrew Walsh ( and then the end client, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

Waratah Sketch2Waratah Sketch

Waratah Elev

Waratah Detail


Andrew approved the concept sketches, and suggested we transform them into a series of 3D renders. The artist was briefed and the renders presented to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority for approval.

Waratah ClosedWaterscreenThey approved the idea and agreed to a budget. A steel construction workshop ( and other suppliers were consulted in order to get a costing on fabrication. Unfortunately this exceeded the budget, so it was back to the drawing board. I came up with another simpler and less expensive version, that satisfied the brief and in many ways, from a design perspective, was superior to the initial one.

Once the new design was approved, it was again costed. This time it came in on budget. A series of meetings with the steel fabricators and engineer, to discuss how to make it strong and safe, while adhering to the integrity of the structure. This is quite a fluid process, when different solutions are considered and sometimes replaced, when better ones are put forward. The next step was to get the design drawn up by a specialist CAD draftsman (Johann: RenderCAD Sketches







CONSTRUCTION – From the Workshop to the Docks

The Waratah was constructed using formed, rolled steel, covered with PVC, marine mesh skins and a steel spider frame base. The construction phase involved regular meetings at the workshop with the steel fabricators, the production manager and later Nans Tarps (, who were fabricating the petal skins.IMG_0911IMG_0895

ASSEMBLY – White Bay Docks

All the individual components arrived on the docks at White Bay for assembly. LED Happy Tubes were attached to the individual stamen, which were then mounted onto the steel spider frame and hoisted onto the containers and secured. A box truss tower was erected, rising from the barge floor up through the centre of the stamen to house the water-screen. Finally a crane moved the individual petals into position onto the framework.IMG_0928IMG_0929


THE EVENT (Darling Harbour)

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205734The Spectacular

This entry was posted in THE AUSTRALIA DAY SPECTACULAR – DARLING HARBOUR 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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