Old glass shattered as new tower rises
All 40 panels of the glowing blue tower near the Canberra Glassworks have finally been replaced with laminated glass at a cost of $186,000.
The original work, Touching Lightly, by artist Warren Langley, cost $430,000, but just three months after it was unveiled in May 2010, two panels fell and smashed, leaving the tower shrouded in safety tape until December, while artsACT, which commissioned the work, undertook a comprehensive structural and cladding review.
A spokesman for Arts Minister Joy Burch said the contract with the artist to replace all 40 panels was $186,000 and that the discarded panels had been given to a glass artist at the ANU.
''Mr Langley replaced all panels with laminated glass which now provides greater public safety standards. The laminated panels have a new printed textural image evocative of industrial glass of the era of the Canberra Powerhouse construction,'' he said.
The engineering review showed the fallen panels had not been the result of a design fault, but a chemical reaction, nickel sulphide inclusion, that occurred during the glass manufacturing process causing the panels to ''pop''. Although Langley initially said he could replace the two cast-glass panels with spares, he developed new panels, which would stay in place even if the chemical reaction did occur, even though he said there was no real reason to use laminated glass.
''There was no reason that it had to be [laminated] to conform to any building or safety laws, but artsACT just made a decision that they would be more comfortable if it was a laminated glass. It was also an opportunity to create another variation of the theme, with a slightly different visual,'' he said.
Langley said he used a totally different procedure this time.
''You can't laminate the cast glass, so this is a parallel ribbed glass and it's laminated to another glass,'' he said.
Langley said he was very happy with the outcome as the tower now shimmered more brightly.
''I think it looks fabulous, it has a different optical look. I'm not sure if everyone else will notice but for me, it's an exciting difference. By night it's got a lot more break up of the blue rings, which makes them a lot more active.''
Ms Burch's spokesman said the 40 panels that were removed were given to Ngaio Fitzpatrick, a postgraduate student from the ANU School of Art, who is undertaking research using high-speed photographic filming of toughened glass shattering and then using the broken pieces in her cast work.
''All the glass, once shattered, will be used by various students at the ANU for cast-glass work projects. This recycling of the glass will provide considerable assistance for the students at the school and continues the really positive relationship between the Canberra Glassworks and the art school,'' he said.
Fitzpatrick said she had collected the 1.6m panels just before Christmas and would probably start the project in a month's time.
''The artwork will be a video using these panels which are just spectacular. I am looking for a place to shoot the footage which has high ceilings and lots of light. I will be looking at how the panels are structured and then how they are deconstructed,'' she said.
Fitzpatrick said she was particularly interested in industrial recycled glass. ''I shot a video of smashing panels of safety glass which goes into small sections and then just becomes very small crystals,'' she said.
''There is such beauty in glass, which is often seen as very dangerous yet very fragile, yet it's very strong. It's seen as antisocial to smash glass but it's very rewarding, very energising and very beautiful... when you see this video you start to see the power.
''There was something about working with this material that made me think of the cyclical nature of life, how we sometimes have to break something so we can reform it. I started working with the ideas of rupture, entropy and renewal. Because I have been working in architecture for the last few years, I am really interested in sustainable growth and the conflict between progress and the environment and how building materials often go to waste, about the idea of reusing.''