Sydney is known for its less than enthusiastic approach to public art but Wynyard Station’s Interloop has captured the hearts and imaginations of Sydneysiders and has today picked up two National Trust Heritage Awards.
Chris Fox is the artist behind the artwork and said “It was pretty bold for Transport to do. I put this very ambitious project forward and they just got right behind it,” he says. “It was such a complex project, to make this thing hang there as though it were floating.”
Weighing more than five tonnes, taking 6 months to design and engineer, the sculpture took 12 weeks to fabricate with over a kilometre of welding, before an intensive 48-hour installation period. The sculpture loops together two pairs of reconfigured escalators more than 50 metres long and incorporates 244 wooden treads and four combs from the station’s original wooden escalators.
“Interloop reconfigures the heritage escalators in a stitched form, suspended between two ends of the building. The project signifies the past and future journeys that have occurred at this site. The old escalators had been there for over eighty years and before they were removed they held this sense of time and journeys, of time and travel. Interloop resembles, in part, the original escalators but something else is occurring, too: there’s this otherworldly space that occurs above people’s heads.” Chris said. “Also, I wanted to explore the idea that people are stationary on an escalator whilst also travelling. The escalator allows for a moment of pause that occurs mid-motion. I wanted the sculpture to resonate with people in this state, to reference all those journeys that have passed and are now interlooping back.”
The project wasn’t without its challenges however. At one point, Chris recalls “We were just about to start fabrication in August a strict timeframe for installation was decided with a 48-hour installation over one weekend, rather than over a couple of weeks, as we initially thought. We had to go back to the drawing board and rethink completely how we were doing this project: key was having pre-assembled parts that would bolt together efficiently on site.”
After operating for over 80 years, the wooden escalators hold fond memories for many whom have ridden them but the hazard to Guide Dogs and high heels meant they were well due an upgrade.
Working on such a historic piece of Sydney held special significance for Chris. “The Wynyard escalators are a particularly unique material, as they are connected to the history and identity of our city. It was extraordinary to work with a material that holds so many memories and past journeys. It’s very exciting for Transport for NSW to commission such a large-scale iconic sculptural project. Ambitious visual arts projects as part of our urban infrastructure, are crucial in creating an identity for the city and enriching the experience of Sydney.”
The public response has been overwhelmingly positive with hundreds of photos and comments surfacing on social media days after the installation and media coverage globally reaching publications as far away as Russia.
Today’s awards are a wonderful recognition of the work and vision that has gone into the project. Interloop picked up awards in the Education and Interpretation category and also took out the overall Judges Choice Award. Chris said “This project sets an wonderful precedent for heritage interpretation, where an artist can work in a poetic and flamboyant way yet hold the reverence for this extraordinary heritage material.
To allow people to pause and think of something other that is occurring above them: for the public to know that there have been other journeys and other stories that have occurred in this important location. I think, if anything, it’s about pulling people out of their everyday.”