Apartment block with a stunning surprise


Apartment block with a stunning surprise

Posted on Friday, March 06 2015 at 11:14 AM

A new residential block has been unveiled in Melbourne, revealing a fascinating façade – the image of Aboriginal chief William Barak.

The depiction on Grocon’s
Swanston Square Apartments has been realised through the use of cutting edge
technology. Using a bit map line-art reduction,
ARM Architecture sculpted the balcony balustrades to render the image legible
at a distance. Australian artist Peter Schipperheyn was also heavily involved
in the project. Using an approach known as Xylography, the portrait has been
reduced to the critical black and white line elements and these have then been
magnified to become the balustrade shapes.


Barak was the last of the
traditional ngurungaeta (chief) of the Yarra Yarra tribe, belonging to the
Wurundjeri Willam clan. A skilled diplomat and politician, he famously walked
from Coranderrk to Melbourne to negotiate and fight for the social justice of
his people. Towards the end of his life, Barak produced a number of intricate artworks
documenting the traditions of the Wurundjeri people, in order to ensure that
knowledge of their culture would be preserved and continued for future

Poignantly facing south towards
Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, and sitting at the end of the Swanston
Street axis, the artist’s impression of Barak is 85 metres high, covering 30
storeys, and becomes more visible the further away from the building you are.

The tribe is today a strong and
proud people very much part of modern Australia, and the building is described
as a dedication to all Wurundjeri people past, present and future.

Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy says:
“The Wurundjeri people have been custodians of this land for many millennia. We
respectfully acknowledge our ancestors for their continuing presence of spirit
on our traditional lands. We are proud of the suggestion by Grocon and ARM for
the use of an image of William Barak on the Swanston Square building. Barak was
a much respected ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri
people. His image acknowledges the past and embraces the present and future of
cultures working together.”

Prime Minister Tony
Abbott said of the unveiling: “This development celebrates the Wurundjeri
people, the traditional owners of the land on which the City of Melbourne now

“This recognition
is fitting for such a highly respected man who was a bridge between our
Indigenous heritage and British foundation.

“The building is
also a symbol for reconciliation,” he added. “I congratulate everyone involved
in this impressive project.”

Grocon is reportedly not completely
satisfied with the resemblance to William Barak and will be spending the next
six months adapting the facade, in close consultation with Wurundjeri elders.

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