The Coral Greenhouse is the first underwater museum in the southern hemisphere and the first Australian installation for Jason deCaires Taylor. The works bring into focus diverse fields of study including marine science, coral gardening, underwater and environmental art and architecture. It provides a starting point and new perspective for an understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and its ecology.
The design of The Coral Greenhouse is biomorphic and its form was determined by the forces of nature. As the sculptures are slowly colonised and built upon by the reef, they will be gradually absorbed into its surroundings, illustrating an organic architectural philosophy that centres on the unification and connection of designs to their surroundings. The porous skeletal structure of The Coral Greenhouse provides a space suitable for the ever changing marine conditions and a refuge for marine species. It allows for excellent overhead light penetration as well as dive access, which is provided by three two-metre entrance points and expansive floor space, enabling divers to rest and view the artworks.
Specifically designed for the underwater environment, The Coral Greenhouse and surrounding sculptures are made from pH neutral cement compounds and corrosion resistant 316 Stainless steel. Its triangular cross sections are engineered to have a very low centre of gravity for stability. The extensive cement base and integrated cyclone tethers provide heavy duty protection during adverse weather conditions. The elevated beam sections provide minimal resistance to wave energy, whilst providing an ideal elevated substrate for filter feeding organisms and schooling fish to congregate.
The 165 ton structure also plays with gravitational elements, as the heavy base is contrasted with light floating spires that oscillate in the prevailing currents. This pioneering technique is only feasible in this unique marine setting.
Work benches inside The Coral Greenhouse are a series of practical reef units, which were designed to house individual local marine creatures. Small intricate matrices for small fish looking to escape predation as well as glass enclaves for octopus and sea urchins looking for shelter in the day can also be found in The Coral Greenhouse.
Positioned within a natural inlet of John Brewer Reef, The Coral Greenhouse features surrounding gardens and paving. These lead to a variety of large scale planter boxes of coral and a series of floating trees supported by buoyancy devices. The trees are based on local terrestrial species such as eucalyptus and umbrella palms.
The internal spaces of The Coral Greenhouse are populated with a series of figurative sculptures cast from children from local and international schools. The children are studying and tending to planted coral cuttings salvaged from the seabed. The message being conveyed is that the children are tending to their future and building a different relationship with the marine world by recognising that it as precious, fragile, and in need of protection. Our children are the guardians of the Great Barrier Reef.
Commissioned by: MOUA, Museum of Underwater Art, Townsville, Australia
Materials: Stainless steel, zinc, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates