Battery Point Sculpture Trail is a permanent installation of nine individually designed and fabricated sculptures along a walking route through an historic waterfront suburb of Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, Australia's island state. The trail was conceived as a way to increase visitor movement along the foreshore, encourage exploration of the roads and paths, and raise awareness of the area’s history while giving equal balance to public art and interpretation.
The complexity of the project required a collaborative creative team consisting of sculptors, researchers, writers, interpretive specialists, graphic designers, lighting designers, and project managers.
The concept for the trail is “sculpture by numbers”: each sculpture presents a three-dimensional number (a variety of dates, times, quantities, weights, and measures) that explores one or two linked interpretive stories related to the location. Brief and evocative interpretive text accompanies each sculpture, either embedded within the piece or located as a stand-alone sign nearby.
While each sculpture is different in form and material, the team created visual consistency by using a single typeface family, Helvetica. Helvetica Neue was selected as the primary typeface—both for sculptural form and interpretive content—as its form lends itself to being constructed from a variety of materials and its clean lines do not detract from the materiality or interpretive content.
A bold orange and gray graphic identity visually links each sculpture and the wayfinding signage through consistent typography, material, and color application. A total of 15 directional elements are fixed to existing infrastructure along the route to guide people to the next sculpture. A consistent style of language is used on these signs to provide clear and easily understood directions.
Selected materials and construction techniques relate to the interpretive stories for each location. For example, 1833, a steel frame filled with stacked sandstone fragments, was the completion date of the first stone warehouses at the New Wharf. The sculpture overlooks the historic warehouses, which today house galleries, boutiques, and bistros. 313, fabricated of modern boat-building materials by a professional shipwright, represents the number of vessels built in Battery Point and launched into the River Derwent between 1825 and 1872.
One of the sculptures uses solar-powered lighting, while another is a living topiary sculpture. Several others explore the theme of climate change. The project involved three public land owners, one private land owner, 22 sites, 12 different materials, and 20 fabricators—requiring careful design and coordination to maintain the integrity of the “sculpture by numbers” vision.
"It is dangerous to mess with Mother Nature. Thankfully this team had the guts to go there and honor her exquisitely along the way."
“I was very impressed with the clever use of numbers as message as well as the variety of execution techniques that brought variety and richness to each message. The floating 313 is a magical way of telling a simple story in a dramatic and beautiful way. I can imagine it tells a very different story on calm versus blustery days.”
“This design solution really stood out—a celebration of Helvetica cleverly interpreting the historical significance of the waterfront. Each of the ‘objects’ are designed, built, and located to reference their curatorial significance. The anchored block 313 (the number of boats built and launched from this site) that rises and falls with the tide is utterly inspired. It will be really interesting to see how this evolves over time as each element weathers and ages.”
Daniel Zika (concept and senior project manager); Judith Abell (concept and project manager); Kate Owen (concept and graphic designer); Chris Viney (concept and interpretation research and writing); Scott Christensen, Jennifer Nichols (design detailing); Ingrid Berger, Rebecca Adamczewski (junior graphic designers)
Aircon Industries (steel/aluminum fabrication and installation), Eye Spy Signs (signage fabrication and installation), Bruce Walters/Stone, Steel and Earth Landscaping (stonemasonry), The Precasters (shop drawings and concrete), Southern Lighting & Distribution (lighting equipment), Digiglass Australia (glass), Glass Supplies Pty. Ltd. (glass installation), VOS Construction & Joinery (router cutting), Typeface Design and Print (flatbed printing), John Robinson/Milan Milojevic (etching), Fred Barratt/Yacht Design and Naval Architecture (construction design)