Essay 1: Expository Essay
In this essay, your task is to discuss several ways in which art influences technology or vice-versa. The ways in which art influences technology should come from our source material citing specific examples.
For this essay, you must…
Explore, in depth, various ways in which art and STEM projects have influenced each other.
you will need to briefly introduce the dilemma between art and STEM by explaining
what is art and what is STEM?
why are they often thought of as separate?
you will need to discuss a specific situations in which art and STEM have interacted, have influenced each other, or have been combined to create a product (or art piece)
present an example,
give appropriate contextual information (background),
focus on the interaction between art and STEM
clearly incorporate your own thoughts while expanding on points of interest.
Assigned Readings for Dialectical Journals
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4. After each article, be sure to complete the Dialectical Journal Table
Technology and Art: Engineering the Future
By Eyal Gever
Think art. What comes to mind? Maybe Picasso, Rodin, Dali.
Now think technology – and you’ll probably imagine a smartphone or a computer.
Throughout history, technology has provided artists with new tools for expression.
Today, these two seemingly distinct disciplines are interlinked more than ever, with
technology being a fundamental force in the development and evolution of art.
All over the world, people are engineering our future. The internet, digital fabrication,
nanotech, biotech, self-modification, augmented reality, virtual reality, “the singularity”
– you name it, all of this is altering our lives and our view of the world and ourselves.
Scientists, software developers, inventors, entrepreneurs – but also musicians, visual
artists, film-makers and designers – are busy creating new human experiences.
Thanks to them, not only is original art being made everywhere, but entirely new art
forms are evolving as well.
More and more artists are pushing the boundaries of art, looking outside of what’s
perceived as “traditional” to incorporate other aspects into their work.
Art is becoming less and less static, taking up many new different shapes, from
printing digitally created sculptures in 3D to flash-mobs to photographers lining up
hundreds of naked volunteers on the beach.
Power of the web
And the rules of the game are changing, too.
Since the beginning of the postmodern art era, roughly from the 1860s, the most
influential players – renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters
and, especially, powerful gallery owners – have been dictating the behaviour of the
whole art world.
But modern ways in which art is created, produced, distributed, marketed, preserved
and supported have shifted as a direct reaction of the world’s transition to a socially
connected, digital society – to the age of the internet.
Traditionally, artists have been going to a gallery with their portfolio, and the gallery
decides whether the work is good enough to expose.
Now, they turn to the web – to exhibit their work and to sell it, too.
With new services such as crowdfunding, for the first time artists are able to raise
money online to pursue their ideas.
In 2011 alone, crowdfunding website Kickstarter raised almost $100m in pledges with
more than 27,000 art-related projects.
Artists use social media as a powerful tool to change the relationship between
collectors and the public, effectively spotting people looking for specific artworks.
Possibly, the traditional art market – collectors, gallery owners, critics, curators and
even other artists – may question whether the artist who uses the web for promotion is
a true professional.
But whatever the reaction may be, the change is already happening, and it is too
important. The art market will grow on it and get used to it – it always does.
Throughout history and up until very recently, mostly the elite participated in the
development and creation of art, while the rest of the society was left to enjoy viewing
The public was merely a passive observer.
Today, in our connected world, almost everyone creates. Almost everyone participates.
With the internet and new technologies of fabrication, remixing, editing, manipulating
and distributing, it is becoming easier to create things – and share them with the world.
What is changing and probably – arguably – for the worse is that it is now easier to
create “art”, and we see a lot of “bad” art being created and exposed.
A huge concern is that, as a result of so many new tools and techniques, we may lose
our sense and ability to evaluate what is great art.
In art, what becomes popular is not necessarily great, and vice-versa. Many new art
ideas and artworks were hard to digest when they first came out.
I do see a challenge for artists to be simultaneously more open to new technologies
that lead to novel forms of expression, and also staying truly creative and imaginative.
But still, the boundaries are limitless. And as technology, and especially computer
technology, continues to progress, there will always be those who will experiment,
pushing the envelope of what has been done before – and who will excel at it.
Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, once said: “I don’t
think we can predict nor prescribe the future of art. It is the famous ‘etonnez-moi’
[astonish me] of Diaghilev and Cocteau’- great art always surprises us, takes us where
we expect it least.”
So what do artists focused on creating new art by using technology really need to
One graphic software developer, Rama Hoetzlein, says that “new media” artists of
today have to think not merely about the tools of the present, but also to engage in a
dialogue with the artists of the past, who both haunt us and challenge us to rise above
I believe that any modern artist needs to remember about pushing the art forward,
inventing, defining new paradigms of expression with powerful meanings.
It is about the experience the artist delivers to the public – whether it is provocative,
whether it changes how the viewer thinks, feels and views the world.
This is what really counts, and it has nothing to do with the techniques that the artist
chooses to use.
So the goal of a contemporary artist who is choosing to create art with new
technologies should not be to “extract” meaning from the technological platform, but
to use it as a base for new bold directions.
And in my opinion, it is the art that pushes the limits and defines new meanings that
will change how we think and feel – today and in the future.
Dialectical Journal Table
Quotes, Paraphrases, Concepts
Art takes on different forms, jumping out of
tradition and incorporating other aspects into
Now almost everyone in society is creating,
everyone will participate. It can be easy to make
In 2011 alone, crowdfunding website
Kickstarter raised almost $100m in
pledges with more than 27,000
Reactions, Responses, Reflections
Our life is full of art, technology has become
a new form of artistic expression. Modern art
sells and displays on the Internet to raise
money for new creations.
There are many artistic ideas that are too
bold for the audience to accept. Artists need
to consider the tools of the present,
combining tradition with art that can be used
to create new art that makes the audience
think and feel. Give art a new definition.
By providing statistical data, the author
successfully shows how the web has
helped to spread art. In addition, 100
million dollars is a very large number.
We can tell that this kind of mode
becomes very popular among the art
market and has a large impact on
artists. Although some traditional
artists question this change, it happens
already and very fast.
This is what really counts, and it has
nothing to do with the techniques that the
artist chooses to use.
So the goal of a contemporary artist who
is choosing to create art with new
technologies should not be to “extract”
meaning from the technological platform,
A good conclusion is that the author
thinks no matter what techniques an
artist uses, how to give a powerful
meaning to art projects is most
important. Since art can change our
thoughts and feelings, it is very
important to express meaningful and
creative art. I also agree with the author
that the goal of contemporary artists
should not be to just use fancy
technologies, but create meaningful
concepts by using any methods.
but to use it as a base for new bold
Power of the web
I really wanted to bring up these subtitle
headings because they separate the ideas and
thoughts of the article very clearly. It is also
very clear how the author’s logic and ideas
relate to each other when writing the article
Throughout history and up until very recently,
mostly the elite participated in the development
and creation of art, while the rest of the society
was left to enjoy viewing masterpieces.
The public was merely a passive observer.
By describing the phenomenon of art
exhibitions in the past and present, the author
makes a strong case that “the public is only a
The public was merely a passive observer.
This is true. I think public never has much of a
contribution in the past. It has become more
common today, and everyone is able to sell,
purchase, or contribute to the world of art. To
point out, there are also pros and cons to this
changing in the art world.
In art, what becomes popular is not
necessarily great, and vice-versa. Many
new art ideas and artworks were hard to
digest when they first came out.
With the internet and new technologies of
fabrication, remixing, editing, manipulating
and distributing, it is becoming easier to create
things – and share them with the world.
When art is exposed to public, the taste
of art is not really professional anymore.
Some artists are trying to please the
public, which is not good because good
art is wanted. There are also good new
ideas of art, but it takes time for people
For me, the NFT exemplifies the best of
online art because it successfully marries
creative expression with technological
innovation. When compared to other forms
of artistic expression that make use of online
galleries, NFT is perhaps unique to the
internet. The cryptographic process
generates the unique “unlock” key that
proves ownership of the artwork. In
addition, NFT can be generated by almost
anybody with access to cryptographic tools.
A huge concern is that, as a result of so many
new tools and techniques, we may lose our
sense and ability to evaluate what is great art.
I do not believe that as the number of
artworks increases, we will lose our ability
to recognize true art. The author was
concerned that when the bar for creating art
was lowered, vulgar artworks would
proliferate. However, it could also suggest
that more and more excellent works are
discovered or made.
Why Art Is Vital To The Study Of Science
By Anna Powers
Oftentimes when we think about science, we think about abstract notation, formulas
that are hard to read or understand. Another thought may come to mind is the rigidity
of science, the rule based notion of solving the problem correctly or not, producing the
right answer. Although a part of it is true to some extent, the answers need to be
accurate and precise in order to describe reality, another part is missing due to a
superficial nature of understanding of science. As Albert Einstein once said “the
greatest scientists are artists as well.” Although this may come as a surprise to people
who have never studied science deeply, but in fact some of the greatest minds in
science were inherently creative. This is because science is a form of creation. The
purpose of science is to understand the world and create within the world. One cannot
create without creativity. The word creativity in itself has the world ‘create’ which
means the two processes are interconnected.
The reason why art is necessary to science is because creativity involves imagination,
and imagination is visualization. Things we are able to conceptualize, visualize or
imagine in our mind are the things we can also create, if we have the tools to do so.
Oftentimes, some of the greatest discoveries in science involved using some form of
art. As one example, Charles Messier, a French astronomer from the 18th century, had
a catalog of about 110 drawings from his journals. In his observation of the night sky in
search of a wandering comet, Halley, he documented countless galaxies, clusters and
nebulae. Another example that is widely known to us all is Leonardo DaVinci, who
often used art as a way to underpin his imagination and abstract thoughts to reality. It
has been found that many of his drawings and scientific ideas have resulted in practical
In fact, introducing art as a way to study science would not only allow students to
understand the core of science is creativity, but it will also allow them to better learn
scientific concepts and rules. Oftentimes, the ability to visualize and imagine certain
processes is important to solving scientific problems. For example, a well known
problem to everyone who has taken a high school physics course is the problem
involving the trajectory of a ball when it is thrown. In order to solve this simple
problem, scientists draw the trajectory of the ball. The drawing makes it easier to solve
the problem because at various moments of time and space there are certain aspects
of the laws of physics that make the problem really clear and simple. Once one gets
more advanced, the same thing applies. In this time where our society is so advanced
with many technological tools at its disposal, it would be useful to create a framework
where science is taught through visualization, through art and creativity.
Dialectical Journal Table
Quotes, Paraphrases, Concepts
Da Vinci often applied his imagination and
abstract ability to real life, and people found
that both her paintings and scientific ideas
Reactions, Responses, Reflections
Science is a combination of creativity and
imagination. Art is essential to science. They
apply abstract ideas to science in order to
create and invent
could produce practical inventions.
Not only can art teach students that creativity
is at the heart of science, it can also make
them better at learning concepts and rules.
Things we are able to conceptualize,
visualize or imagine in our mind are the
things we can also create, if we have the
tools to do so. Oftentimes, some of the
greatest discoveries in science involved
using some form of art.
Students can combine art and science to learn.
Students learn that physics can map the path of
a ball, visualize the parabola of a ball, and
solve problems easily.
Indeed, when scientists invent something,
they have to draw it first. For example,
They need to design how it looks, and
how the inside structure should be, all of
this is in consideration. And they all need
the skill of drawing. These two sentences
make me realize the strong connection
between art and science.
The drawing makes it easier to solve the
problem because at various moments of
time and space there are certain aspects
of the laws of physics that make the
problem really clear and simple.
The example of drawing the trajectory of
a ball when it is thrown is great, because
many students have taken physics
classes and learned about the trajectory
of the ball. We can recall the graph in our
minds and understand the relationship
between art and science. In addition, I
also think art helps us a lot with learning
geometry, because we need to imagine
the perspective relationship of the
overlapping parts of triangles.
I think this statement highly summarizes
the history of human science
development. The progress of science
usually begins with a major discovery in a
specific field. Scientists will go on to
make further research in other fields
based on this major discovery. Eventually
human science advances in every
For most people, visualization allows
Once one gets more advanced, the same
Oftentimes, the ability to visualize and
imagine certain processes is important to
solving scientific problems.
people to spend less time learning
science. Because science under verbal
description is very abstract, and
visualization can make these abstract
concepts more intuitive. But I don’t think
visualization is very important for
scientists. It is possible to achieve very
outstanding scientific achievements
For example, a well known problem to everyone
who has taken a high school physics course is the
problem involving the trajectory of a ball when
it is thrown.
This example proves the previous point very well.
It also gives a very deep feeling. Because most
people have studied this just point. This
trajectory diagram also visualizes the physics
knowledge and makes this whole point easy to
As Albert Einstein once said “the greatest
scientists are artists as well.”
The word creativity in itself has the world
‘create’ which means the two processes are
The use of Einstein’s quote is what makes the
main point of the essay very clear, as well as
setting the stage for the height and content of the
later essay. The use of quotes from famous
people also makes the essay more convincing.
To me, a person’s creative output is
emblematic of who they are. Our early
education focused on developing our ability to
produce original work through academic
research. Examinations were only one of
several means by which our capacity for
learning about creation was tested. The next
step, once that was complete, was to begin the
creative process. We will express our thoughts
through our ideas and minds.
Another example that is widely known to us
all is Leonardo DaVinci, who often used art
as a way to underpin his imagination and
The drawing or visual reference will help the
scientists to examine their ideas to a certain
degree. The visual reference is the most
abstract thoughts to reality. It has been found
obvious way to both show ideas to others and
that many of his drawings and scientific ideas examine them.
have resulted in practical inventions.
Another example that is widely known
to us all is Leonardo DaVinci, who often
used art as a way to underpin his
imagination and abstract thoughts to
It is interesting how art can have connection
with science, but when I think back to my
high school experience. When I was in high
school we are asked to draw a landscape, that
is when things connect together. We need to
use existing knowledge we know about the
sky and connect it back to our drawing. Also
creativity is necessary for art because abstract
thoughts and imagination are always
important otherwise art will be “boring” like
In order to solve this simple problem,
scientists draw the trajectory of the ball.
The drawing makes it easier to solve the
problem because at various moments of
time and space there are certain aspects
Not only is science helping art, but art also
helps science. In the example of science class,
back in high school, I took a physics class and
there are lots of drawing involved to help us
visualize the movement of ball or things in
certain ways, and it makes science easier to
of the laws of physics that make the
understand and more fun to learn.
problem really clear and simple.
Explainer: what’s the difference between STEM and
By Bronwen Wade-Leeuwen, Jessica Vovers, and Melissa Silk
Gonski 2.0 urges us to get our children back to basics through the “three Rs” of
reading, writing and arithmetic. For educators, there is now a greater need for science,
technology, engineering and maths (STEM) concepts to integrate with the arts
(STEAM) across the wider curriculum.
We know this because business and industry broadcast that future-ready employees
need to have multiple areas of expertise or at least appreciate how a range of skills fit
Teachers working in cross-curricular STEAM settings often see their students making
connections between concepts and solving problems in new and exciting ways. They
demonstrate this by active engagement, their discoveries visible in enthusiastic “aha”
What’s the difference?
STEM represents science, technology, engineering and maths. “STEAM” represents
STEM plus the arts – humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts,
design and new media
The main difference between STEM and STEAM is STEM explicitly focuses on scientific
concepts. STEAM investigates the same concepts, but does this through inquiry and
problem-based learning methods used in the creative process.
This looks like groups of learners working collaboratively to create a visually appealing
product or object that is based in the understanding of a STEM concept, such as the
mathematics of the parabola used to create fine art imagery.
STEAM is not a new concept. People such as Leonardo Da Vinci have shown us the
importance of combining science and art to make discoveries.
Indigenous Australians also have a long-standing tradition of scientific knowledge
passed down through song as a memory system.
Why is STEAM important?
STEAM education in schools provides students with the opportunity to learn creatively,
using 21st century skills such as problem solving. Gonski 2.0 and the Australian
Curriculum highlight the importance of these skills for a future Australian workplace.
These general capabilities are crucial to growing a future-ready workforce that
understands the potential of “what if” when solving problems that occur in real life.
They also point us in the direction of 22nd century skills – connection, care, community
Practical applications of STEAM
Educators and inspiring collaborators like artist/engineer Stephen Mushin, maths
rockstar Eddie Woo, scientist Vanessa Pirotta, bio-engineer Melissa Knothe Tate show
us how STEM plus the arts works in the real world.
A perfect example is artist and designer Leah Heiss. She works with nanotechnolgists
in biomedical industries to develop jewelry to assist diabetics administer their insulin.
There are lots of hands-on learning opportunities popping up in schools and institutes
all over the country. These are generally called “maker spaces”. They encourage
collaboration in learning and discovery, using science and tech resources such as soft
circuits, embedded video, game creation, data art, and more.
We are beginning to see this type of learning creeping into everyday curriculum. This is
particularly so in the cross-curriculum priorities in the ACARA’s National Curriculum,
where the arts context is used to demonstrate STEM concepts and vice versa.
So the idea of “what if?” is not dependent on the purchase of STEAM-specific
technologies or even classroom or maker space design. It’s more dependent on the
imagination and curiosity of the teachers collaborating with their students.
It’s exciting to see so many STEAM concepts embodied in current popular culture,
inspiring confidence in young women in particular. Characters like Shuri in the movie
Black Panther – the intelligent, creative and playful technologist – help us move
beyond historical stereotypes associated with STEM and inspire new generations of
How can we forget Daria and Eliza Thornberry, Velma from Scooby Doo and Lisa
Simpson? All super smart STEM girls using hard and soft skills to solve a wealth of
problems, no different from current Superhero Techgirls and Rosie Revere, Engineer.
It’s young people of all backgrounds and abilities who will create our interconnected
A STEAMy future
STEAM is a global movement. For example, Cambridge University’s STE(A)M
education research places professors alongside 12-year-olds. They do live coding to
create manipulated music at STEAM education exhibitions.
There’s also the US’ NEXT.cc – a weblog of open source creative STEAM experiences,
and OfficeMax in collaboration with Cool Australia, which launched a new national
initiative to help educators integrate STEAM learning into Australian primary and
secondary schools last month.
Innovative research and resources like these fully realise the intersections between the
arts, engineering, mathematics, science and technology, and the influence they have on
With STEAM, we can challenge preconceptions that learning areas are separate, and
move past the “I’m good at maths and science, so I’m not creative” way of thinking.
This will change the way we see STEM problems and create a new way of thinking
that is engaging, multifaceted and inclusive, with diversity of representation and
thought. This is how it is in the real world, after all.
Dialectical Journal Table
Quotes, Paraphrases, Concepts
“STEAM” represents STEM plus the arts –
humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music,
visual arts, design and new media
launched a new national initiative to help
educators integrate STEAM learning into
Australian primary and secondary schools last
Reactions, Responses, Reflections
STEM courses are courses that use science,
technology and math. STEM education starts
from cultivating students’ ability and
constructing the interdisciplinary thought of
design thinking. Can cultivate scientific and
technological innovation talents.
STEM programs develop hands-on skills and
confidence, as well as communication,
collaboration, critical thinking, innovation, and
Architecture: The Confluence of Art, Technology,
Politic, and Nature
Robert E Wood
Since building is common to men, birds, and some insects, human beings are not
distinguished from other animals by the fact that they build, but by the fact that they
build, beyond simple function , creatively and meaningfully. By “creatively” I mean that
architects construct different building types and in vastly differing styles , not being
tied to precedent, not having the urge to produce a specific form “imprinted onto” their
physiology as a species habit. By “meaningfully” I refer to the way a building fits into a
world of inhabitance dwelling. As we indicated in the Introduction, such a world is
founded upon the bipolar structure of the field of human experience constituted, on the
one hand, by the limited manifestness of a highly selective sensory field serving
biological need and, on the other, by an empty reference , via the notion of Being , to
the encompassing Totality. The latter makes possible and necessary universal
description , world interpretation , and choices leading over generations to the
construction of a human life-world , a traditum, delivered from out of the
understandings and choices of those long dead. Such a life-world opens up ways of
thinking, feeling, and acting for those born into it. It is precisely because we are
referred to the Whole that we are able, in artistic work , to bring into being the new,
and that the sensorily encountered can become an icon of the Whole, so that it is not
only positivistically “there” or even functionally interpreted; it is also symbolic.
Furthermore, because, by reason of our reference to the Whole, we can back off from
the purely functional outside us as well as from the organically desirous within us and
can learn to appreciate the togetherness of the sensory display for its own sake; we
can appreciate beautiful forms in nature and art and can produce them in art. Even the
appreciation of sensory configuration itself reverberates with our sense of dwelling on
the earth, in a world of meaning.
Art is present in various places in a given life-world. But the most pervasive art
form of all is architecture. With the exception of contemporary installations of various
sorts and in various places, all the other art forms are found within or in relation to
buildings. From time immemorial, wherever humans dwell together we find
architecture as expression of the art of building. In our everyday life it is inescapable:
we live in buildings, work in or between buildings, are educated and entertained in
buildings, worship in buildings, make our public decisions, attend conventions, and
perhaps also listen to lectures on architecture in buildings. Architecture is indeed the
most pervasive art form , though today music is a strong second.
Architecture as a fine art not only sets the context for the arts in general; it also
requires of the architect the aesthetic sensitivities of the other plastic artists. It requires
the eye of the painter to provide an aesthetic arrangement within a given perspective.
As Ruskin would have it, “a wall surface is to an architect simply what a white canvas
is to a painter….” Further, in relation to the wall surface, the architect is a relief sculptor,
sensitive to the effect of shadow in giving form to the surface. Architecture likewise
requires an eye for sculpture in the round to give plastic depth and thus coherence to
the indeterminate number of perspectives from which one can view the building. But in
addition to these features that the architect shares with the painter and the sculptor,
the peculiar province of the architect is the handling of enclosed space as it plays in
relation to single and multiple perspectives inside and out. In the twentieth century,
Walter Gropius , Frank Lloyd Wright , and Siegfried Giedion share that view with
Antoine Pevsner. Louis Kahn sees the province of architecture as light , which is that
which makes the space appear in its play with the sculptural and painterly aspects of
But the aesthetic dimension here is closely linked to other features. Most
basically, architecture has to fit the ends for which the building is constructed so that
architects have to understand the concrete operation of things human: they have to be
students of human nature. And in order to fit those ends, architecture requires the
know-how to construct something that will stand over time : the architect must be an
engineer. It is commonplace to distinguish architecture from building insofar as the
latter is satisfied in producing an enclosure that provides protection from the elements.
Because it is tied to function and because, by reason of the functions it deals with, it is
concerned with the construction of larger-than-human objects, architecture as an art
form has the greatest number of natural restrictions and thus of technical know-how. It
requires geological, meteorological, and engineering knowledge : knowledge of
geological substructure and of general weather conditions in a given territory,
knowledge of the properties of materials, of load-bearing capacities, of stresses and
strains, of conductivity and insulation, of acoustical properties and the like. To that
extent, as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier observed, the architectural engineer
puts us in touch with the principles of the physical cosmos. Although we must add that
there is a difference between using physical principles and showing or expressing
them. Engineering knowledge is a necessary, not a sufficient condition for architecture
that brings building into the arena of the fine arts .
Expressivity might be seen in the Doric pillar; the vertical emphasis of the
fluting, the entasis or swelling in the middle of the pillar, and the cushion on the Doric
capital give expression (as Schopenhauer would have it) to the tension between
gravity and rigidity, displaying the impression of elasticity and strength resisting the
weight of the entablature and roof. Of course it is only an impression, since the pillar is
not bulging under the weight nor is its capital cushioning. But it is one way of
understanding , at the engineering level, the adage “form follows function.” The form
expresses the function of weight-bearing, but here only in the mode of “as if”.
One could also create an even more external display of engineering function by
means of a set of conventional signs. Consider, for example, the forty-story First Star
Bank Building in Milwaukee, the tallest building in Wisconsin, designed by architects
from Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. It is one step beyond the International Style , a
modern gleaming white steel and clear glass construction comprised of a repetitive
grid pattern. The severe verticality of its tower is cut across by three horizontal rows,
one at the top, another some three-fifths of the way down and the third at the bottom.
The insertion of these rows composed of diagonals alternating direction creates an
ambiguous Gestalt of arrows pointing upwards and downwards, so that the direction
of the eye is constantly altered upwards and downwards as one naturally runs along
the overpowering verticality of the building. This establishes a set of signs indicating
from the outside and conventionally the downward and upward thrusts indicated more
naturally by the imitation of natural forms in the case of the Doric pillar.
Bridging the divide between the fine and the useful arts , architecture is able,
within the limits of structural stability, to elaborate aesthetic form in tandem with
suitability to the ends it serves. Thus three fundamental architectural principles were
enunciated by Vitruvius , the basic source of our knowledge of classical architectural
theory : firmitas or stability, convenientia or utility and venustas or decorousness.
Surprisingly, for the pragmatic Romans the first consideration is venustas. The
Vitruvian triangle abstractly expresses features whose factual functioning rests upon
an historical context that defines social-political and also private functions and upon a
tradition of accumulated engineering skills and architectural styles. Further, these
abstract features appear within the givenness of the life-world. (We will return to the
latter in the last section.) Architectural historian Peter Collins claims that none of these
three features can be rejected entirely, though deconstructive architecture has taken up
the challenge and produced deliberately dysfunctional, unintegrated, and even—at
least visually—unstable forms. And, of course, there is the ever present warehouse or
tool-shed which can scarcely claim decorousness. The history of architecture in modern
times is in part determined by emphasis upon how venustas relates to stabilitas and
In the sections which follow, we will first lay out certain components of
architecture by looking to a kind of ideal genesis of building. We will then offer some
preliminary considerations of the development of building types in terms of the
articulation of social-political functions , in terms of the symbolic character of building
linked to those functions, and in terms of the role played by beauty of structure and
ornamentation. This will involve consideration of how the often invoked adage “form
follows function” plays out in relation to the Vitruvian triangle. We will conclude with
some suggestions for assimilating certain Heideggerian themes regarding the
inhabitance of a life-world involved in architecture which sets the larger context for the
In a sense , architecture as building begins with an imitation of nature serving
our animal needs, reproducing the naturally protective character of the cave through
the assembly of durable materials. In the earliest phase of its development it seems to
have taken three basic forms: the cone and its cognates represented by the Indian
teepee on the one hand and the pyramid on the other (though the pyramid was more
monumental sculpture than architecture); the half-sphere and its variations
represented by the Indian lodge; and the quadrangle in post and lintel construction.
The pillar developed from the tree trunk used to support a roof. The cylindrical form
this exhibits was later used for towers. Thus in the middle of the eighteenth century,
searching for new architectural forms that would suit the modern world, Laugier went
back to the primitive hut to recover the basic elements and Fournay sought a
regeneration through geometry and its elementary forms. Le Corbusier , paralleling
Cézanne’s observations in painting, claimed that the elements of architecture ,
abstractly considered, are the sphere, cube, and cylinder as shapes and the horizontal,
vertical, and oblique as directions. The building, formed out of variations on these
geometrical forms, is related to the earth upon which, within which, or over which it is
set and out of which it is made. It is related to the sky as the spatial surround into
which it reaches. (We will return to earth and sky more specifically in the final section.)
The act of erecting a building not only protects what happens inside the building
from the outside; but also, from the indeterminate surround of space, it carves out an
interior, and from the indifference of empty space it gathers, it charges. In carving out
interior space, it allows things to take place—an expression suggesting both a spatial
and a temporal feature.
Allowing things to take place by establishing an enclosure for protection, a
building requires entrance and exit. The primary entrance/exit provides further spatial
orientation, so that we have up–down, back–front, and—linked up to human bodily
orientation—right–left as primary directions in otherwise indeterminate space. The
entrance/exit establishes a face for the building and much of architectural art has been
devoted to the articulation of that face, rendering it both expressive and beautiful .
The relation between inner and outer may be more or less open. Less open, a
building requires inner, artificial illumination; more open, it has its walls penetrated by
fenestration of a smaller or larger character to allow less or more natural light to enter.
There may also be an interior relation to the natural exterior when the interior
surrounds a space open to the sky , establishing a courtyard, an interior within the
interior which is also an exterior. The courtyard is open upwards but not outwards
except by way of an entrance connecting it immediately with the exterior space
surrounding the building.
In its external relation to the natural surround, a building requires a path or
paths and thus becomes a center establishing direction. In actuality, cities originate
more by clustering buildings along paths formed by those traveling toward some
navigational center—frequently a center formed by the confluence of river and sea. The
paths wind along rivers and streams flowing between hills and mountains and pass
through the lowest gap in high elevations. Buildings are oriented with respect to those
paths and that general surround which constitutes the genius loci, to which ancient
architects were especially sensitive.
In relation to other buildings, the erection of a new building establishes a certain
charged inter-space and allows public things to take place. The public equivalent of
the courtyard would be the square or piazza created by the arrangement of buildings
that define the open space. In this case the space is also penetrated by streets or
walkways which provide entrance and exit.
Relation to the surround has a different character depending upon the character
of the natural environment —be it flat or hilly or mountainous, be it rich or poor in flora.
The quality of light in a region combined with technological development suggest
different types of fenestration. The character of the seasons also makes a difference.
The latter, for example, makes the flat roof functional in drier and warmer climates and
the pitched roof functional in wetter and colder climates—the colder the climate the
more pitched the roofs to let the weight of accumulated snow run off diagonally rather
than bearing down directly upon the roof.
As cities develop, the relation to the natural surround diminishes when houses
rise immediately at the edge of streets and walkways. But then nature tends to return
privately in the form of courtyards with flora and publicly in the form of parks and
boulevards. The rich develop walled gardens or country estates with grass, trees,
shrubs, and flowers along with waterworks. In modern America especially, the
suburban house stands back from the street, separated by grass and surrounded by
shrubs, trees, and flowers, with a place to grow vegetables as well. Natural and
man-made form a synthesis to establish location.
What we have considered thus far sets the most general natural context for the
building function and the relation of the building to its surround. It says nothing of the
different social-political functions which develop over time and of the different building
forms corresponding to them. It says nothing of the symbolic character of building nor
of beauty , whether structural or ornamental, in which architecture as a fine art
culminates. Let us fold in these considerations and establish thereby the role of
technological development in effecting architectural style .
The articulation of different common functions over time, working in tandem
with the development of technology , required the introduction of different building
types. We might consider here two of those developments.
One of the major focuses of architectural art throughout the ages has been
religious architecture. In the High Middle Ages, the development of the rib vault
combined with the flying buttress made possible the virtual elimination of
load-bearing walls in the upper portions of the medieval cathedral. This invention
together with the development of the leaded anchoring of stained glass segments
enabled the development of larger masses of glass—virtual glass walls—through
which an abundance of light could stream. This, in turn, opened up expressive
possibilities that were tied to a certain understanding of the place of human beings in
the cosmos .
The cathedral allowed large numbers of people to gather for worship. As the
bible of the illiterate, through statuary and frescoes as well as through its general form
and decorative motifs , it taught people their place in the scheme of things and set the
dispositional tone for responding to that instruction. Contrary to the Greek temple
whose open porticos allowed a viewer to see from the outside the statue of the god
within, and whose dominant horizontality emphasized belonging to the earth, the
medieval cathedral, through the recession and decoration of its doorways, invited the
worshippers in and closed off the interior from the exterior. Through the rib vaults, the
eye was directed upward to the soaring heights which culminated prayerfully in the
pointed arches. Through the clerestory windows light , shown from above, was
transformed by the stained glass, especially the stunning blue of the windows at
Chartres Cathedral. The cruciform shape of the ground plan whose dominant axis was
underscored by the interior walkways drew the worshippers towards the altar as the
termination of a journey. The altar sat at the intersection of two axes: the dominant axis
from entrance to altar and a secondary axis left and right of the altar to give a
cruciform shape to the interior. Gathering the whole together in a rhythmic and
proportionate manner brought engineering skill, religious function, and artistic
expression together into a symbolically powerful whole.
A whole world separates the cathedral from the modern skyscraper —our
second example of the impact of technology upon building structure and function.
Louis Sullivan , one of the fathers of the modern skyscraper, approached its
construction with the adage we have already noted and that has since become the
watchword of the International Style : “form follows function .” As Sullivan viewed it,
the form a building takes should be determined by the social function it is meant to
serve. In the case of the modern skyscraper, congestion and high real-estate values
provided the socio-economic context for the high-rise building. The social functions
dictated the form it would take. But technology would set the limits within which
everything could occur.
The late nineteenth century saw several technological developments : the
development of steel construction , ferro-concrete and plate glass, electric lighting,
central heating (and eventually also air-conditioning), along with the invention of the
elevator, all converging by reason of the need for handling the concentration of large
numbers of people in relatively confined land masses. Without steel construction and
within confined land conditions, the thickness of foundations being in direct proportion
to height, there was a certain natural limit to the height of buildings in cramped
circumstances. Until the use of steel, the high-rise building, under the limiting lot
conditions of a modern city , could only rise to some ten stories, with the walls at the
base twelve feet thick. But since in earlier times they did not have to arise within the
cramped confines of the modern city, the dome and pillar construction allowed St.
Peter’s in Rome to rise to a height of over 450 feet (held together inside the double
dome with an iron chain), which could easily include a 30-story skyscraper, and any of
the Gothic steeples. With steel-girder construction, greater heights could be achieved
within relatively narrow boundaries without unduly encroaching upon the space
available at street level. At the same time , elevators made possible rapid access to the
upper floors. Steel and glass construction established new open relations between
inside and outside. The ability of steel I-beams or steel reinforced concrete beams to
span larger areas led to the development of interior and exterior non-load-bearing
walls. This provided flexibly adaptable interior space through the removal or addition
of dividing walls, so that the form allowed an infinite variety of possible functions. It
also involved a relation of openness between inside and outside that had hitherto been
virtually impossible and thus changed the relation of a building to space. The
convergence of these technological developments with social need brought into being
the modern skyscraper.
Specific functions dictated the overall form these buildings would take. A
basement contained boilers and the like; the first and second floors would service
customers walking in from the street; the floors above would contain offices, the top
floor re-routings for the heating (and later air-conditioning) system , the elevator and
the like. A major entrance gave the building a face and orientation. The first two floors
were often “set upon the earth” by the convention of rusticated stone. The first floor
would present a light and airy welcome with higher ceilings and large plate-glass
windows, while the second floor would be readily accessible to customers by stairs,
elevators, and escalators. The floors above, since they all served the same office
function , would show an identical exterior. The top floor would present a different
form and cap off in an elegant way the building’s relation to the sky .
Next came the question of the proportions of each element in relation to the
whole and on top of that the question of decoration. From Vitruvius through Alberti to
Le Corbusier , proportions were established by selecting a module as a basic unit of
measure derived from the measurements of the human body, and putting it through
various manipulations of halving, quartering, doubling, and so on. Taking the human
body as the basis for the module established a feature of the overall form that
followed the general function of serving the human being.
After the question of proportion there is the question of ornamentation. Anyone
who expects Sullivan’s architecture to provide samples of the way the International
Style understood his “form follows function” will be startled at the way ornament
covers Sullivan’s buildings. His own ornamentation was based upon a loving study of
vegetative forms, so that those who viewed his architecture would be reminded that
human functions take place within living nature. In this he hearkens back to the
medieval cathedral with stylized vegetative motifs constrained to follow the lines of
the building and the ordering rhythms imposed by the architect.
Nonetheless the fanatical rejection of ornamentation, proposed by Adolf Loos in
his Ornament and Crime and turned into dogma by the International Style , was born
when Sullivan publicly bemoaned the stylistic eclecticism exhibited by his
contemporaries. The architects of the time employed ornamental forms taken from
copybooks of historical precedents in such a way as to obscure rather than enhance
overall structure and to pervert completely the symbolic meanings that adhered to
such forms in the past. Sullivan himself had bemoaned especially banks and libraries
made to look like Greek temples. He suggested refraining from ornament entirely for a
period of years so architects could concentrate upon well-formed buildings, as it were,
in the nude. They would thus re-learn the values as well as the limitations of mass and
proportion. Only then could they re-introduce ornament in a way that would
complement and enhance rather than efface the dominant structure, like harmony
added to melody as in the movement from plainchant to polyphony. But for Sullivan as
a poetic architect , ornament should never be super-added. Both structural proportions
and ornamentation should spring from the same emotional tonality. Ornament would
thus be an organic part of the original conception , like a flower amidst the leaves and
branches formed by a kind of logic of growth.
The International Style fathered by Mies, Gropius , and Le Corbusier was based
on Sullivan’s “form follows function ” formula and paralleled by the contemporaneous
De Stijl movement. It repudiated all ornamentation and any elaboration of aesthetic
form that did not flow directly out of the engineering functions serving the
social-political functions of the building. This was also linked to the deliberate
repudiation of the practice of borrowing from past form—known as
“quotation”—because of the perceived need to develop distinctively modern forms—a
perception that goes back at least to the middle of the eighteenth century. In the past ,
ornamentation was tied to the articulation of social function , underscoring aspects of
deeper meaningfulness, as in religious and political architecture , or of hierarchical
rank, as in the construction of palaces and mansions. Too narrow an understanding of
the notion of form following function in much of Modern architecture left out that
whole dimension of meaningfulness.
But Modernism in architecture, enjoying its heyday immediately before and after
World War II when it became the International Style , was eventually judged to be
sterile, inhuman—indeed, boring. Enter architectural Postmodernism. It rejects
Modernism’s rejection of historical styles and reintroduces “quotation.” However, we
end up once more with a stylistic jumble of elements derived from previous
architectural periods against which Modernism had revolted. In Mark Jarzombek’s
felicitous phrase, we are confronted with “one liner historicism,” quoting without
understanding anything of the historical context that made the quotation meaningful.
Borrowing a contrast from literary critic Murray Abram’s The Mirror and the Lamp, we
could say that the Postmodernists view architecture as mirroring the jumble of
incoherent elements constituting contemporary society rather than giving it
illuminating direction. In another direction, Michael Graves , grounded in a particular
and well-articulated architectural theory , ended up designing Disneyworld hotels as a
way of making people comfortable with their existence.
There is a further dimension to Postmodernism in architecture: the
deconstructive attempt. Following the mirroring rather than illuminating view of
general architectural function , the Vitruvian theoretical triangle of firmitas,
convenientia , and venustas is subverted on each of its three corners by the
Postmodernist architecture of Derridian inspiration. Bernard Tschumi and Peter
Eisenman even aim at dysfunctionality and at making the inhabitants of the homes
they design homes uncomfortable! Eisenman’s Wexler Center for the Arts at Ohio
State University is a model of dysfunctionality. And Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette project
in Paris is meant to be constantly subjected to transformation. Tschumi introduced
Eisenman to Derrida and commissioned them to design one of the buildings for this
project. Derrida describes the beginnings of his cooperative planning with Eisenman as
a matter of free association of words connected in an odd way with the term chora
—place or space as the receptacle and nurse of becoming—about which Derrida was
at that time reading in Plato’s Timaeus. They added the letter “L” to chora and off they
went playing with L-shapes and meaning-associations. Part of the associative
significance of the L was the Hebrew word El as in El-Shadai or in Gabri-El or Rapha-El
where it referred to God. Place and creation come together in the manufactured word
“choral .” Characteristically, their cooperative plan was deferred indefinitely.
Not all Postmodern architecture is deconstructive. Frank Gehry in particular has
produced many admirable works which foreswear rectangular and cubic forms, as in
the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain and the Disney Symphony Hall in Los
I want at this point to place the Vitruvian framework that exposes correct,
verifiable aspects of architectural work within the more encompassing framework of
the life-world within which unconcealment Aletheia, Truth of the Whole happens.
Stabilitas , convenientia , and venustas are actually features set within that larger
framework exposed by Heidegger. “Function ” is broadened to include relation to the
entire environment as a relation of inhabitance—a sense of orientation, a feeling for
space. These sensibilities transcend a simple formal aesthetic and are related to an
appreciative awareness of a full way of life. Life-world involves a mode of appearance
in which the correlativity of the human being and what appears is constitutive. The
mode of appearance is determined, not by objects separate from each other and from
the subject, but by the encompassing of subject and object in comprehensive
manifestness. In “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger presented the Greek
temple together with Van Gogh’s painting and C.F. Meyer’s poem as appearing in the
tension between Earth and World. As we explained in conjunction with our treatment
of landscaping , here “World” is world of inhabitance and “Earth” is correlative to it as
native soil. Heidegger’s “native soil” is not simply the object of chemical analysis; it is
the correlate of inhabitance and plays in relation to a world of lived meaning. A temple
functions in the world of the Greeks as grounding their felt understanding of how
humans fit within the Whole by expressing the human relation to the gods or, as
Heidegger later put it , mortals’ relation to the Immortals. The temple establishes a felt
relation to the gods, allowing us to draw near to them, and that precisely as it
configurates sensuousness. The temple opens up the world of meaning as set upon
Earth is only derivatively a correctly verifiable scientific object as a peculiar
location in the solar system and as a chemical mass. In order to so appear it has to
emerge within a human life-world. In its life-world function , the notion of earth has
several components, all of them a function of their manifestness and thus their
correlativity to humanness as the locus of that manifestness. In a general sense ,
buildings are made of earthy materials whose Verlässlichkeit or reliability furnishes the
stability that permits their functionality. Reliability concerns what Heidegger calls the
“sheltering” feature of earth—correlative to a sense of being cradled and thus
belonging. The sense of belonging is captured in the expression “native soil.” Another
of Earth’s properties is sensuousness, its rising up to manifestness as its own fullness
is sheltered in darkness. This rising up occurs in perceivers who are themselves made
of earth, the humanum from “humus” that enters into the determination of our
essential mortality. This provides the sensuous features of materials: light , color ,
shadow, texture and the qualitative relations between them as well as the perspectival
appearance of quantitative relations in proportions and in scale.
Belonging to the earth has been articulated in the architectural tradition in
various ways. Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture stressed belonging to a given
natural environment by selecting materials found in that environment for his country
homes and forming them in such a way that they appeared to grow out of the
environment. The use of native materials as a convenience—e.g., red tiles made out of
the local clays in Italy or local limestone as mandated building material in
Jerusalem—gives a certain aesthetic unity to villages and cities and underscores their
belonging to the earth as this peculiar locale—which is linked to what Heidegger
means by Earth as “native soil.”
Other ways to emphasize a building’s belonging to the earth have appeared.
There is the rustication of lower stories in Renaissance works. More recently,
transparency achieved through the steel and glass construction of homes in a wooded
setting was intended to let the house melt into the natural setting from without and
display panoramically the natural setting from within. Most recently, in the Portland
Civic Center, Michael Graves (the creator of Disneyland hotels) colored the lower
stories green to emphasize relation to vegetative forms. But even the development of
ornamentation composed of stylized organic forms—for example, in the medieval
cathedral , in Art Nouveau, in Sullivan’s general approach to ornament, and in Lloyd
Wright’s stained-glass designs —was intended to emphasize our belonging to the
earth. We might add that the contemporary use of mirror glass on the exterior of
skyscrapers adds a new dimension of relation to the environment. During the day, they
mirror, in a surrealist, distorted manner, the buildings which surround them as well as
the clouds and sky. At dawn and dusk they glow with the color of the rising and setting
sun. In Heidegger’s later analyses, the notion of Earth plays in relation to that of the
Sky: things rise up into the field of awareness on the Earth and under the Sky. “Under
the Sky” does not simply refer to the Now of spatial encompassment, but also to the
alternations of night and day, cloud and sun, spring and fall, winter and summer which
furnish fundamental measures of human time and change the character of how
What stands there is unmoved and exhibits proportionate relations between the
parts. This led Schlegel to claim that architecture is frozen music , a symphony in stone.
As in music, the relation between the parts could be described in terms of
mathematical ratios. Pursuing the parallel further, Dewey said that buildings are to
mountains what music is to the sea. Nonetheless, the play of light and shadow from
dawn to dusk, from cloudy to clear and from season to season, but also under
conditions of artificial illumination—whether ancient candlelight or modern electrical
light—creates another kind of symphony, not the frozen music of static space but the
dynamic music of an ever changing exhibition of textures, colors , and forms. In the
frozen music aspect of architecture we can consider Schopenhauer’s claim that the
aesthetic theme of architecture is the struggle of gravity and rigidity. Dewey said
further that architecture best expresses finish, gravity, repose, balance, peace. In the
dynamic music aspects we have Kahn’s notion of the play of light and shadow
revealing texture, form, and rhythm .
In relation to exterior space , a building rises toward the sky and sets itself upon
the earth. It stands in the light streaming from above. Because we are set upon the
earth of sensuousness as oriented toward the Whole, sensuous configurations become
metaphors of our belonging to the Whole, the dimension Heidegger refers to as that of
“the divinities, the beckoning messengers of the godhead.” Rising, grounding, and
being illuminated constitute the primary metaphors of human dwelling—metaphors
made live in Plato’s image of the Cave and picked up in the symbolism of the medieval
cathedral. Human life ascends or descends, measured by how it occupies its place in
the cosmos. It has strong foundations or it shifts and collapses. It occupies its place and
is well founded insofar as it stands in the light of understanding how we humans fit
into the Whole and it can see further in the light insofar as it ascends higher. But we
dwell most fully insofar as we participate in the display of the beauty of the Whole, for
which our beautiful products are essentially icons.
The central notion that runs through all our considerations is function. In a sense
it extends beyond everyday utility and includes symbolism and the tuning of ethos
Disposition through the perception of the beautiful. Both the structural and aesthetic
aspects of form subserve such a wider conception of function. As is well known,
neither Plato nor Aristotle—nor for that matter the medievals who followed
them—distinguished useful and fine art. Perhaps it was because, imitating nature ,
they accepted aesthetic form as following human function and not as super-added. In
fact, they operated largely along the lines suggested by Sullivan .
Plato had earlier presented a view of the arts as providing an aesthetic
ambiance which ideally should be characterized as orderly, harmonic, proportionate,
and graceful. He focused primarily upon musically accompanied poetry, but in addition
to painting and the design of clothing , furniture, and utensils, he also mentioned
architecture. The total ambiance these art forms provided would stimulate psychic
dispositions characterized by the same properties as the objects, establishing a fit
matrix for the emergence of nous attuned to the recognition of such properties in the
encompassing cosmos. Hence art—whatever its theme—is not morally neutral in its
aesthetic properties. But neither is such morality acosmic; rather it lies precisely in the
dispositional, interpretative, and behavioral adjustment of the human to the overall
context of existence. In this Plato and Heidegger share common ground. It is our
contention that in that context architecture as the most pervasive of the art forms takes
the lead. Drawing upon our understanding of cosmic laws, it sets us upon the earth
under the sky. But the way it articulates its forms can open us to a view of the
deathless order in which we live and die.
Wood, R.E. (2017). Architecture: The Confluence of Art, Technology, Politic, and Nature.
In: Nature, Artforms, and the World Around Us. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Dialectical Journal Table
Quotes, Paraphrases, Concepts
And in order to fit those ends, architecture
requires the know-how to construct something
Reactions, Responses, Reflections
The house we live in is very likely to be
dangerous if the architect can’t work. If you
do not master the particularity of the material
and the bearing capacity, you cannot know
that will stand over time : the architect must be
an engineer. It is commonplace to distinguish
architecture from building insofar as the latter is
the fulcrum of the house, and it is likely to
cause very serious casualties in the event of
satisfied in producing an enclosure that provides
protection from the elements.
More recently, transparency achieved through
the steel and glass construction of homes in a
wooded setting was intended to let the house
melt into the natural setting from without and
display panoramically the natural setting from
The architects brought the natural scene
inside, the concept of the earth and the
concept of the sky into the house. People
combine the aesthetics and rigidity of the
building to show the grand beauty of the
Wonder Reef: Where Engineering Meets Art,
Gregory R. Trauthwein
Born from offshore engineering, the Wonder Reef literally came to life under the
guise of Subcon Blue Solutions, large scale sculptural artist Daniel Templeman and the
City of Gold Coast, Australia. Matt Allen, Director, Subcon Blue Solutions, discussed
the project with Marine Technology TV.
Matt Allen, Director, Subcon Blue Solutions, is an industry character that
embodies the saying ‘I’ve got salt water in my veins,’ purchasing his first boat when he
was 12 years of age and literally on the ocean, personally and professional, ever since.
“When I finished high school, I went to sea in the Merchant Navy, and then I
went to university and earned a Naval Architecture degree,” said Allen, who then
commenced a career in oil and gas, working offshore, building platforms, and installing
structures on the seabed.”
Eleven years ago, Allen founded Subcon Blue Solutions as a company able to
stabilize pipelines and deliver marine foundations into the offshore energy market,
diversifying into coastal and port infrastructure as well as engineered reefs. It’s that
last bit that made him and his company a natural for the Wonder Reef project, a project
with a $4m budget, designed to enhance dive and tourism business off the Gold Coast
in Queensland, Australia.
“The Wonder Reef is an underwater dive destination two kilometers off the
Gold Coast, inspired by local dive enthusiasts and the Gold Coast City Council to
attract dive tourists to stay at the Gold Coast,” said Allen. The seeds for the project
were planted in 2018 via an Expression of Interest to reef companies to pitch a
Allen, tapping his long experience in offshore engineering, collaborated with
Daniel Templeman, a public artwork sculptor from Brisbane to create and deliver the
Wonder Reef concept.
Meet the Wonder Reef
The Wonder Reef project is a joint initiative between City of Gold Coast and the
Queensland Government. Inspired by the concept of a hot air balloon rising in the sky,
nine reef sculptures become larger towards the surface, like oxygen bubbles rising in
the ocean. Wonder Reef has been designed to attract and sustain a rich diversity of
marine life and withstand cyclonic conditions yet appear light, buoyant and floating in
the ocean. Over time, complex marine communities will take center stage, creating a
‘hanging garden’ for divers to explore and admire.
The Wonder Reef literally melds engineering and art, with “nine structures in
total, each one standing about 20 meters tall,” said Allen. “And the really unique thing
about this reef is that it’s floating, so we really borrowed from our oil and gas
backgrounds and essentially built nine mid-depth buoys with sculptures installed on
“Through our innovation sessions, we spent about six weeks hitting brick walls
in our thinking because we were initially thinking of building a fixed structure that was
piled into the seabed, but the budget just didn’t allow for it,” said Allen. “Then one
Friday afternoon, we said, ‘What if we make it float?; and everything really flowed from
there. The whole concept just came together.”
A moored floating scheme was also chosen for this project because the other
name for the Gold Coast is ‘surfer’s paradise,’ with “heaps of waves, and it catches the
tail of cyclones. We’re in 30 meters water depth (designed for a) wave is 18.6 meters
high – a 200-year event. It is really challenging location (regarding the survivability
The client wanted a reef that catered to a range of divers, so the structures are
set at different levels, set at 10m, 18m and 30m to accommodate everyone from resort
to open water divers. One of the toughest challenges to the project was melding that
art and engineering, as the client wanted the biggest structure that they could get;
while Allen and his team devised the best means to satisfy the survivability criteria.
Designed to last 30-years, the structures are bare steel, but protected by
anodes, with a regular regime for inspection. Each floating sculpture is tethered to a
75-ton base via a 65-ml chain. The reef was installed in August 2021, but kept closed
for six months to allow the ecosystem to become established.
Coming up with the ultimate shape of the structures was arguably one of the
most difficult compromises for the project, melding the engineering from Subcon with
artistic vision of Templeman. “When we came up with the idea of making the reef float,
we’re all engineers and we sketched up what we thought it could look like, and it really
looked like it had been designed by engineers,” said Allen. “It was really ‘blocky’ and
lacked inspiration. Daniel called us up and asked if he could collaborate, and his
artwork explores ideas around gravity. A lot of his terrestrial sculptures look like they
defy gravity, and this presented a great opportunity for him to explore that idea
because we literally are defying gravity. And also, there’s this unique experience that
you can deliver because the people who are interacting with the sculptures are
weightless when they do it, and they can interact with the sculpture 360 degrees.”
Templeman started off inspired by hot air balloons with that idea of buoyancy
and a tapered, teardrop-type structures floating. “The structure starts off quite narrow
and opens out at the top and gives an uplifting sense,” said Allen. “And that morphed
into the champagne flute design.”
From his decades of experience in offshore and subsea, Allen admits that in
overview the project presented one unique challenge: the melding of art and
“Dan’s an artist and has an idea about how the aesthetics should be. We are
structural engineers designing a reef to DNV design codes. There was this really
interesting tension between those two because we had to learn to think like Dan thinks
and appreciate where he was coming from. A couple of times he had to put his foot
down and say, ‘Just go and sort your engineering out and make it work’ because we
were trying to change the shape so that it fit our model.”
The other big challenge was more akin to the projects Allen and his team have
traditionally worked: getting the reef stable on day one during the installation. “A
really elegant thing about our design is that we were able to pick the mid-depth buoy
up from the top with a hydraulic release shackle,” said Allen. “We already had the
chain and the anchor pre-installed, and we just picked them off the barge and put them
straight in the water. And the reef was cyclone stage right from the start.”
The end result is an innovative and interesting subsea field that aim to attract
divers globally for years to come. “We have a really nice fusion of art, science, and
engineering going on, but it wasn’t without its tensions.”
Dialectical Journal Table
Quotes, Paraphrases, Concepts
“Through our innovation sessions, we spent
about six weeks hitting brick walls in our
Reactions, Responses, Reflections
How to make it float is a big challenge, but
when we think outside the box and use our
imagination, we can solve it perfectly.
thinking because we were initially thinking of
building a fixed structure that was piled into the
seabed, but the budget just didn’t allow for it,”
“Dan’s an artist and has an idea about how the
aesthetics should be. We are structural
engineers designing a reef to DNV design codes.
There was this really interesting tension
between those two because we had to learn to
We should have our own unique ideas in any
field. It is a bold attempt to combine art and
engineering. We should do the same in order
to create interesting designs. Perfect
solutions to challenges with expertise and
think like Dan thinks and appreciate where he
was coming from.
“We have a really nice fusion of art,
science, and engineering going on, but it
wasn’t without its tensions.”
“When we came up with the idea
of making the reef float, we’re all
engineers and we sketched up what we
thought it could look like, and it really
looked like it had been designed by
engineers,” said Allen. “It was really
‘blocky’ and lacked inspiration.
The result of a combination of art,
science, and engineering turns out
great, but It is not easy to combine
these areas. Engineers and designers
have worked together to solve different
opinions and ideas. And this is how the
creative project could be achieved.
Engineers are skilled at designing
structures, but they have no idea how to
create an inspired and beautiful shape
of the structure, so they decided to
collaborate with artist Templeman. By
showing this example, the author
successfully explains why we need to
collaborate art with engineering. Some
great works need to work with people
from different areas.
Designed to last 30-years, the structures are bare
steel, but protected by anodes, with a regular
regime for inspection. Each floating sculpture is
tethered to a 75-ton base via a 65-ml chain. The
These detailed figures make the whole article
seem very real and convincing. These detailed
figures not only reflect the care of the designers
and engineers, but also the detail of the author
in describing the events.
reef was installed in August 2021, but kept closed
for six months to allow the ecosystem to become
Coming up with the ultimate shape of the
This passage plays a very good role in the
structures was arguably one of the most difficult
beginning of the essay, because it shows very
compromises for the project, melding the
clearly what the later text is trying to say. The
engineering from Subcon with artistic vision of
author writes this sentence not only to suggest
that this design is a very big challenge, but also
to re-mention that it is just a project that
combines engineering and art.
A moored floating scheme was also chosen for
The wave’s description brings to mind a
this project because the other name for the
scene from “Interstellar.” The protagonists
Gold Coast is ‘surfer’s paradise,’ with “heaps
strive to investigate a planet but learn that a
of waves, and it catches the tail of cyclones.
massive wave would destroy all life on the
We’re in 30 meters water depth (designed for a)
world. That massive wave has stayed in my
wave is 18.6 meters high – a 200-year event. It
mind for a very long time. Allen and his
is really challenging location (regarding the
colleagues will have to put in serious effort
to ride out such a massive wave in the real
Templeman started off inspired by hot air
I have a question about whether the reef is
balloons with that idea of buoyancy and a
floating or fixed. The previous paragraph
tapered, teardrop-type structures floating. “The
stated that these reefs would drop a 75-ton
structure starts off quite narrow and opens out
anchor. If that’s the case, aren’t they fixed,
at the top and gives an uplifting sense,” said
like a moored ship? The reef remains in the
Allen. “And that morphed into the champagne
same position no matter how far the waves
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