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A beacon on Broadway shows lifeblood of city

IF YOU go down to Broadway today, you're sure of a big surprise. For perched high above the ground, atop the heritage-listed remains of the old Carlton United Brewery, you'll see a giant red nylon inflatable ''tree''.

The tree, which is connected to a series of white PVC pipes, is the latest in a series of temporary public art projects at Central Park in Chippendale, part of a major residential development that will bring thousands of new residents to this once industrial, working-class suburb.

Artist Caroline Rothwell says her work symbolises "the artificial, technological and human circulatory system", a sort of merging of nature and machinery. She chose red for the sculpture both to symbolise our own circulatory piping, and because the tree would be easy to see from a distance.

''Red is a dynamic injection into the city. It is like a piece of urban signage,'' said Rothwell, whose artistic portfolio includes large- and small-scale works using everything from molten metal poured into fabric moulds to painting with detritus gathered from car exhausts.

Her bronze sculpture of two young girls wearing hoodies, baggy pants and sneakers was installed in Barrack Street this year as part of Art & About Sydney.

At Broadway, the 12 metre-high sculpture was lifted by a crane and inflated once in position. Inside the PVC skin of the tree a metal structure protects it from wind damage.


"An artwork rooted in networked pipes and the complex flow of energy, materials and the information they imply echoes the paradigm shift the site is about to undergo," said Rothwell, referring to the new office and residential towers being built on the site.

Alternatively, you could just see the whole thing as a massive billow of steam, propelled majestically into the air.

Rothwell has an affinity for the abstract but the pipes - and their real-world purpose - are fundamental to the work. Having carried water, beer, gas and steam for more than 150 years, the mechanical circulatory system was an integral part of the old brewery.

The red, air-filled monument to industry and machinery will be on show for at least a year.