Sculpted in Port Fairy, acclaimed around the world

The sculpture Architectural Fragments on the corner of Swanston and LaTrobe streets in Melbourne has been rated as among the world’s most creative public sculptures. Picture: THE AGE

The sculpture Architectural Fragments on the corner of Swanston and LaTrobe streets in Melbourne has been rated as among the world’s most creative public sculptures. Picture: THE AGE

UNDER the cover of darkness more than 20 years ago a stealth team from the south-west installed a unique sculpture on Swanston Street in Melbourne.

The popular piece of public art, titled Architectural Fragments, has been named one of the world’s most creative sculptures.

Rising out of the ground outside the state library, it was unveiled in 1993 by Dutch artist Petrus Spronk.

Made from Port Fairy bluestone, website Bored Panda has named it among the top 25 sculptures across the world.

Bamstone managing directors and bluestone supplier Michael and Cheryl Steel remember the project well.

The sculpture was constructed in Port Fairy over three months before it was driven on the back of a truck to Melbourne.

Mr Steel said Architectural Fragments had to be a perfect triangle, built to the ratio 3:4:5.

Spronk’s idea behind the bluestone piece was to resemble the portico of the library sinking in to the pavement. He was inspired by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras and Pythagorean theorem.

“The whole thing was built here at Bamstone on-site in Port Fairy,” he said.

“We had concept drawings and a model and that’s all we were given.”

Mr Steel said it was a team effort to complete the sculpture.

“Don Bartlett helped out and Bernie ‘BJ’ Ryan was our stonemason at the time,” he said.

“Ashley Wright from Damian Hetherington Engineering welded under Damian’s instruction. 

“It’s on a very heavy-duty galvanised steel frame. Some of the pieces weighed in at more than three-quarters of a tonne. It was a huge job to make.

“Petra would come down intermittently to check on the progress.”

The sculpture was driven to Melbourne on the back of a truck at a frustratingly slow pace. 

“The late Alan Spikin said he would take it,” Mr Steel said.

“He drove it to Melbourne at 40 kilometres an hour and it sat on special rubber pads.

“When it arrived we parked it in Arden Street and then at night we brought it into the city. We lifted it at 3am in the morning onto the street. 

“The whole idea was that it just appeared overnight. We finished setting it in the ground at 5am.”

The sculpture had been painted with a special anti-graffiti coating and Mr Steel said a drunk walked past right after they had finished installing the piece.

“He just stared at it, then he threw his bottle of red wine at it,” Mr Steel laughed.

“Luckily the anti-graffiti coating made it easy to wipe off.”

A spontaneous idea hit Mr Steel before the last panel of bluestone was laid on the sculpture. He gathered together books, coins, newspapers of the day and a few other cheeky items, creating a time capsule.

Bored Panda’s top 25 sculptures included works such as Iguana Park in Amsterdam, the Spider at the Tate Modern, London, and the Knotted Gun, New York.

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