‘Ballroom’ stickwork sculpture by Patrick Dougherty at Federation Square.  Photo – Julie Renouf.

Stickwork sculpture details.  Photos – Megan Cullen

City commuters will most likely have spotted this incredible structure taking shape at Federation Square in Melbourne in recent weeks… today we thought we’d share a little backstory about this special project!

This impressive stickwork installation is the creation of American artist Patrick Dougherty, who has spent the past 30 years creating incredible sculptural forms made of willow, in high profile locations all over the world.  (A  quick Google image search of Patrick’s work is sure to impress – breathtaking stuff!).  Until now, his work has never been seen in Australia – but it was an invitation from Melbourne event designer Christian Wagstaff which finally enticed Patrick to create a sculpture here in Melbourne.

Passionate about Patrick’s work, which has inspired some of his own event installations over the years, Christian was keen to secure a high exposure site at Federation Square for this very special project.  ’When we took the management team at Fed Square through a portfolio of Patrick’s work, they were immediately interested’ he says. ‘Fed Square are currently celebrating their 10th year anniversary, so the timing was perfect’.

Once the location was secured, Patrick visited Melbourne towards the end of 2011 to familiarise himself with Federation Square and choose a suitable location for the work. A great deal of time was also spent with Christian Wagstaff and his team, discussing and assessing suitable ‘sticks’ that would be in plentiful supply for the build.

‘Patrick had loads of ideas, but most importantly suggested we speak with some local basket weavers, who in turn put us in contact with a Cricket Willow Farm in Daylesford – a fifth generation family business that has been making Cricket Bats from willow for over 100 years.’ recalls Christian.  The Tinetti family was able to supply an abundant supply of very high quality willow, which would eventually form the backbone of the sculpture.

The project was also fortunate to secure a partnership with Melbourne Water. ‘In Australia many species of willow cause substantial damage to the health of our waterways, so Melbourne Water were also able to supply a plentiful amount of raw materials’ explains Christian.  ’The project required far more sticks than we ever imagined, so the hunt for sticks was ongoing and arduous. We thought we did very well considering we knew nothing about ‘sticks’ before the project began!’

The design of this magical structure is inspired by many of the surrounding buildings along Flinders Street, Collins Street, Swanston Street and Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD.   ‘I think that a good sculpture is one that evokes in the viewer a wealth of personal associations’ says Patrick. ‘My viewers see stick castles, lairs, nests, architectural follies; and they remember moments in the woods building forts and hideouts. I hear stories about the Garden of Eden, favourite trees, and secrets about first dates.  I like to spark people’s imaginations and connect them with nature in a surprising way.’  Patrick has affectionately named his Melbourne stickwork sculpture ‘Ballroom’.

Patrick Dougherty worked solidly alongside a team of volunteers for 20 days to realise this ambitious project.   The installation will remain onsite at Federation Square until early 2013.

Stickwork at Federation Square
Flinders Street Amphitheatre
On view daily until early 2013

Patrick Dougherty onsite creating his Melbourne sculpture.  Photo – Megan Cullen

Sculpture interior.  Photo – Megan Cullen

‘Ballroom’ stickwork sculpture by Patrick Dougherty at Federation Square.  Photo – Julie Renouf.