Frost* Design created Wonderland as a site-specific typographical artwork for the 2009 Sculpture by the Sea outdoor exhibition, which annually attracts more than 500,000 visitors to Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
The whimsical installation featured 138 fluorescent orange letters that spelled out a verse from the introductory poem All in the Golden Afternoon from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out –
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun
Stretching across more than 600 meters of the Tamarama Beach fence, the low-impact and ephemeral installation encouraged the audience to re-consider the way they look at the environment.
Inspired by the rich history of Tamarama, the sculpture referenced the little-known but controversial Wonderland City theme park, which stretched across the beach more than 100 years ago, fencing off the beach to prevent the public from entering unless they paid to attend the park.
The words of the verse came together in a playful display that followed the natural coastline of the Bondi to Tamarama coast walk. Deciphering it becomes a journey, as the whole installation can only be seen in its entirety from the ocean. Informative “tags” allow visitors to read the verse and reflect on the rich history of the site.
By leveraging an existing structure as the basis for the installation, and using simple, pre-existing fixings, the Frost team was able to create a strong visual statement with a modest budget. The entire studio got involved, along with their families, to install the letters over a three-day period.
Wind, weather, and salt erosion were factors in selecting a material for the project, as was the location of the site-specific work. The Frost team chose neon-orange synthethic fabric that would keep its bold color even with the constant assault of sun, salt, wind, and rain. The design also had to withstand possible vandalism while encouraging the public to interact with the work. Great care was taken to ensure no material or fastening tools were left behind during the installment process and all material was donated to a local recycled materials initiative on completion of the project.
Vince Frost (creative director), Bridget Atkinson (design director), Sarah Estens (designer), Annabel Stevens (design manager), Lex Courts (researcher), Erin Fraser (design intern)