Firm: Christian de Vietri
Location: Elizabeth Quay, Perth, Australia
Type: Cultural – Sculpture
Size: 0 sq.ft – 1000 sq.ft
Budget: $ 1M – 5M
Photos: Robert Frith, Nick Cooper
Situated in Elizabeth Quay, Perth in Western Australia, Spanda is a nine storey high sculpture by Christian de Vietri, which has now become the world’s largest freestanding structure crafted from carbon fiber. de Vietri, an Australian born artist, has designed this by using 3D modelling software and it is constructed using CNC milling and vacuum resin infused carbon fiber. The inspiration for the artwork comes from the artist’s experience of the teachings of Saiva Tantra which commemorates the unification of the individual with the universe.
At the first glance, the sculpture can be described as a series of six white nested arches of the same shape but vary in their size. Each arch is a tapering entity as it rises from the ground, thinning at the apex. The smallest arch frames the human body and the largest one reaches an impressive height of nine stories. Along with the viewer, the profile of the sculpture with the repetitions is reminiscent of the contours of a moving energy field enveloping the human body, producing the idea of an infinite vibration inwards and outwards.
The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, in September 2014, issued an open call for proposals for an artist to create a signature artwork for the Elizabeth Quay development on the Swan River in Perth, Australia. Christian de Vietri was awarded the commission to create Spanda in March 2015.
Spanda, in Sanskrit, means ‘divine vibrations’ expressing the movement of consciousness in waves of contraction and expansion. The quaint creative pulse of the universe is Spanda; it is a vibration or
motion that relates to the waves of activity emanating from an unseen object. It could be termed as an aspiration to create and enjoy, like an eternal spring, joyfully over-flowing and always full.
Mark Dyczkowski, in his book “The Doctrine of Vibration”, describes Spanda as follows:
“The mainstay of the Doctrine of Vibration is the contemplative experience the awakened yogi has of his true nature as the universal perceiving and acting consciousness. Every activity in the universe, as well as every perception, notion, sensation or emotion in the microcosm ebbs and flows as part of the universal rhythm of the one reality, which is Siva, the one God Who is the pure conscious agent and perceiver. According to the Doctrine of Vibration, man can realise his true nature to be Śiva by experiencing Spanda, the dynamic, recurrent and creative activity of the absolute.”
This artwork exemplifies this ‘Spanda’ principal formally while being an instrument to experience it.
The start of the design of the sculpture was the unseen form of contours of the human aural energy field. With the exponential repetition of the form the artist intended to create a pattern of selfsimilarity, which in turn prompts the viewer’s own intimate experience of ‘the world being contained within all the parts’, the perception of themselves being a unique expression of the universe and having an interconnection with their environment. In the words of William Blake “To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour”.
With Spanda, the artist aimed to craft an icon that would renovate the cityscape and transform Perth’s identity, thus opening its ‘heart’. The sculpture was envisioned and placed by the artist to work ideally with the colour, shape, use and objectives of the Elizabeth Quay development project that had already been formulated by ARM Architecture and was being designed concurrently with the sculpture production.
The sculpture is huge in scale but is not heavy, the spaces between the arches letting people to walk through them and experience the artwork and the city from all angles. Although it has a compelling poise, the sculpture does not obscure any of the surrounding buildings or the vantage points. Every person, from each position on the Quay can appreciate the coherence between the sculpture and the site. The curved form of the sculpture and its placement is done in a way that it aligns with the site so as to create a contrast with the gridded square buildings behind it.
The arch-like form of the sculpture has no function as such; it acts neither as an entrance nor an exit. Rather, it hoists itself at the water’s edge pronouncing its own space for the viewer to unify with. The sculpture has invigorated the life of the Quay in a fresh manner as its location, the form’s geometry and durability have invited various activities around it. Yoga and fitness workshops are regularly practiced under the arches. Recently, a dining pop-up, ‘Diner-en-Blanc’ was organized around the sculpture. On any given day, there is a throng of people interacting with the spaces created by the sculpture and taking pictures with it.
The artist believes that the sculpture is like a birth place for the city’s acclaimed experiences and expanded states of being are born. For him, the sculpture widens the viewers’ horizons beyond the typical, by extending their vision towards the sky; thus enabling them to move beyond themselves, their synchronization with the spatial vibrations of the form transmuting their psyche into one filled with awe and wonder.
de Vietri feels that art has the power to show one the path to their basic state of contentedness from the anxious and worrisome conditions that one’s mind is usually in. He believes that Spanda has the aptitude to become a sanctuary to let the people understand and connect with their inner beauty. With its seemingly boundless ripples, Spanda inspires the viewers to experience their perception of themselves and thus, the artwork aids in the illusive journey of recognition, from restraint to supreme liberty.
ShapeShift, a Brisbane based company has been responsible for the efficient fabrication of the sculpture, which took over a period of nine months. The company has engineered the artwork in a way that maintains the beauty of the form while endowing remarkable rigidity to its spans, even 30 meters off the ground. The arches were constructed in sections that were later joined on site. The moulds for each of the elements were CNC milled and then formed in carbon fiber. The coating for the sculpture is a highly durable gloss white finish. It took ten days to complete the installation of the artwork, with the final arch being crane-lifted into place on the 22nd of January 2016.