Dr Phiip Spradbery with the wasps nest at the National Gallery. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Some of creation's early design engineers have clashed painfully over the National Gallery of Australia's biggest display of modern design excellence.
Few people would appreciate more the brilliantly conceived paper-mache nest of European wasps plucked from the sculpture than Dr Philip Spradbery.
The entomologist and prolific research author said in early times the wasps ability to chew wood pulp into mache for their structures inspired Egyptians to manufacture paper.
Dr Spradbery wiped out the colony which repeatedly stung a gardener weeding on top of American installation artist James Turrell's Within Without domed structure.
Had the wasps not struck obstacles like rocks, their nest would have been perfectly round.
Partly submerged, Within Without had no such handicaps and creates an immersive viewing experience that uses space, shape and light to affect the perception of the sky.
Trouble is, its walled garden exterior is a penthouse for wasps, which gardener Chris Kimlin discovered when he attempted to pull out weeds only to feel two breathtaking stings on his wrist.
"I tell you what, you know that world famous sprinter Usain Bolt?" Mr Kimlin said later. "I reckon if I was on the line I would have passed him."
The furious wasps, which have put many Canberrans in hospital over the years, still managed to sting him on the earlobe and through his clothes on his back and stomach as he raced for cover.
He applied ice to five searing welts of varying intensity. The pain remained for 24 hours.
Dr Spradbery removed his first European wasps nest when he was a 16-year-old in Wales.
He's worked for the CSIRO, studied wood wasps and in New Guinea screw worm fly.
These days he's researching wasps and chemical communication and raising awareness in Canberra of them for the ACT Government.
Setting aside his fascination for their engineering, Dr Spradbery said the wasps were preying on important pollinators of native plants.
"A single wasp colony can collect up to 100kg of insect prey in a year which adds up to a prodigious number of insects," he said.