Workshop sketches / Image courtesy Seesaw Photography

Design thinking can shape the experience of movement through our ever-growing cities and humanise public spaces. Given the opportunity to rethink traditional approaches to urban planning how would a group of built environment professionals and creative practitioners meet environmental challenges with good design?

Urban Art Projects (UAP) and the Society of Environmental Graphic Designers (SEGD) facilitated a collaborative workshop on October 12, bringing together minds from environmental graphics (Jack Bryce Urban Design, Jell Design), urban planning (Urbis, Place Design Group), landscape architecture (Lat27), art (Kuuki, UAP) and design (Integration Studio). The interdisciplinary teams experimented with new ways that residents and short stay visitors might explore beyond Brisbane’s CBD, and tackled the problem from the perspective of two fictional characters: an international business person and a local parent with a young child. The characters’ imagined journeys brought diverse challenges to light, such as the hilly topography of Brisbane and navigation between dispersed urban villages.

Ideas generated included:

  • improved wayfinding systems that place landmarks in a radar accounting for distance and hills
  • open-source branding for precincts that integrates with public transport systems, public artworks, landscape features and mobile devices
  • concepts for engaging families and children, such as collectible wayfinding currency
  • mobile “Caravans of Courage”, 1970s style roaming hubs of culture and activity
  • extending the goCard to function as a multi-use passport to the city

The workshop was held as part of the Icograda Design Week held in Brisbane, Australia, from 11-17 October.


Workshopping: Damian Thompson of Lat27 / Image courtesy Seesaw Photography


Left: Kent Gration, Integration Studio, Image by UAP
Right: Reference imagery for Spring Hill precinct, including a selection by Cara Gartland / Image courtesy Seesaw Photography


Workshop Sketches / Image by UAP

Public Orientation System / Concept sketch by Kent Gration, Integration Studio

go explore Card / Concept Sketch by John Ellway, Jell Design

Workshop Participants: Jack Bryce – Jack Bryce Urban Design, Kent Gration – Integration Studio, Paul Hardyman – Urbis, Carmel Haugh, Jodie Cox, Scott Miller & Esther Cole – UAP, Damian Thompson & John Illet – Lat27 Landscape Architects, Gavin Sade & Priscilla Bracks – Kuuki, Nicole Wright – Griffith University / QCA, Alex Cohn – Place Design Group, John Ellway – Jell Design

See also Jell Design | Designing the outer city

UAP Silkworms

14 October, 2010

Recently adopted by the UAP staff are a family of silkworms. The worms live in a special box, labelled for their protection. They are growing daily and have recently started to cocoon. The cocoons are eventually to be used in an in-house art project.

After 18 years of creating public art and design projects internationally via UAP’s Australian design studio and workshop, UAP can now call Houston, Texas home to its latest atelier.

The launch of UAP’s most recent studio last month is particularly significant to Daniel Tobin, UAP’s co-founding Principal, who has permanently relocated to Houston from Australia.

Daniel, who has delivered numerous art strategies and public art projects in North America and the Middle East – the largest of which the KAUST Beacon and International Art Program – is particularly excited about the opportunities relocating to the United States presents.

I am very enthusiastic about the Houston studio and what it represents for our clients in North America. Opening the Los Angeles studio in 2007 was a major milestone for UAP and saw us forge a number of successful collaborations. The addition of Houston will only strengthen these relations further whilst creating opportunities for new ones.” Tobin said.

Daniel will be supported by John Dupuy, UAP’s Director of Project Development and Design for North America and MENA. The pair first collaborated on the KAUST project where John was one of HOK’s senior designer’s for the $10B University master plan.

About Daniel Tobin, Principal – North America | Middle East

Following art school, Daniel Tobin studied design at NIDA and worked with Sydney Theatre Company before joining his brother Matthew to co-found Urban Art Projects in 1993. Daniel is instrumental in the development of UAP’s key markets in North America and throughout the Middle East, completing masterplan art strategies for Sahl Hasheesh in Egypt and Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai.

Daniel is currently directing the International Art Program for King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and has also designed the university’s iconic Beacon. Daniel’s landmark projects in Australia include Brisbane Airport Corporation’s Commercial Precinct Art Program; Sydney’s Redfern Park and the Queensland State Library’s Black Opium with artist Fiona Foley.

About John T. Dupuy, Director – Design + Project Development – North America | Middle East

For 15 years John Dupuy has practiced Urban Design, Planning and Landscape Architecture in the US and internationally. He has extensive experience in the Middle East region as a site planner, and designer.

John has worked on the campus of King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in Jeddah Saudi Arabia as a Senior Designer to define the public realm through landscape, site amenities and the public art program developed by Urban Art Projects.

With UAP John manages Design and Project Development activities for major projects in North America and the Middle East. He has extensive experience in directing collaborative team workshops and charettes. John has worked with multi-disciplinary teams of architects, engineers, artists and other consultants to comprehensively coordinate integrated design solutions. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelors of Landscape Architecture.


Thanakupi visiting UAP’s workshop. Pictured with Jason Kahl, Workshop Manager and Jerko Starcevic, Lead Patternmaker.

PROJECT Cairns Cruise Terminal
LOCATION Cairns, QLD, Australia
ARTIST Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher (Thanakupi)
DESIGN UAP Studio, Stacie Gibson
FABRICATION UAP Workshop
YEAR 2010

Renowned Australian indigenous artist Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher (Thanakupi) has been commissioned to create an iconic entry marker for Cairns Cruise Terminal. Thanakupi is regarded as North Queensland’s leading contemporary artists and for the enormous contribution that her ceramic work has made to Aboriginal art in Australia.

For this artwork, to be sited next to the ocean, she has chosen to depict a legend about celestial beings: the sun and the moon who meet and become lovers. The legend is told through drawings and markings, made in relief on the surface of the sphere. Thanakupi collaborated with UAP Patternmaker Jerko Starcevic to create the large-scale form to be later cast in bronze.


Artist Liaison Mary Stuart and Lead Patternmaker Jerko Starcevic working on a large scale version of Thanakupi’s maquette

Jodie Cox leads UAP’s Curatorial Team bringing over 10 years of arts experience, curating and managing major international art and design commissions for the public realm. Jodie has extensive experience working with collaborative teams in the development of targeted art and design strategies for masterplanned cities, commercial developments, and communal spaces. Jodie has an in-depth knowledge of international artists and awareness of international trends in art and design. She has a comprehensive understanding of best practice commissioning models and processes.

As manager of the Curatorial Team, Jodie is responsible for artwork strategy development including cultural research, conceptual direction and curatorial framework, artist/designer selection and liaison, and project planning. She has contributed to UAP’s curatorial methodology, which has underpinned successful artwork strategies including Palm Jebel Ali, Dubai, the KAUST International Art Program, Saudi Arabia and Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Jodie talks about her passions and curatorial approach to international projects.

What do you enjoy about curating artworks for the public realm?

For me the enjoyment lies in the creation of opportunities for both artists and the wider community.

The opportunity for the artists is to connect with the broader community. Artistic practice can be a solo, even isolating experience.  By creating artworks for the public realm, artists are drawn into a larger project, can collaborate with a wide range of design professionals and can engage a much wider audience.

The opportunity for the community is that they can engage with art in their daily lives – through functional spaces, transitional spaces, leisure spaces that become cultural spaces through the inclusion and integration of art. Successful integrated artworks add life and texture to the public realm, and to the experience of living in or visiting a place.

What’s particular about curating artworks for international public spaces, such as in the Middle East?

Sensitivity to local culture is incredibly important to the process.  It’s important to approach a new space with an open mind to avoid bringing in pre-conceived ideas from my own culture and background of creating public art for Australian audiences.

The first step is an intensive research process. It involves reading, making connections with local contacts and site visits to experience first-hand the physical and cultural environment. Of course, we don’t expect to be able to immediately see all there is to know about a culture, so collaboration with local galleries and local design teams is crucial.

Listening to, and collaborating with, landscape architects and curators with long term experiences in a given region gives valuable insight to inform our curatorial process. This consultative approach continues until that process is complete.

Tell us about your approach to the KAUST International Art Program.

KAUST is a great example of a collaborative UAP project – from collaboration at the start of the project with landscape architects HOK, collaboration with curators Renai Grace and Alison Kubler through to collaboration with a range of international artists that we worked with for the first time.  The curatorial focus was to create a truly international collection/program of works for the project which brought together diverse practices from various regions around the globe.  For an Australian based company it was a very exciting time working with highly acclaimed in-region artists such as Nja Madhaoui while also collaborating with significant international artists such as Carsten Höller.

How did you go about choosing and briefing the artists?

For KAUST, Renai Grace and UAP Principal Dan Tobin developed a curatorial rationale that linked closely with King Abdullah’s vision for the university – to create an international research university that exemplified the Islamic world’s contribution to world knowledge while strengthening connections between the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The artwork program mimicked that vision physically on the campus by drawing talented artists from all over the world to contribute the public space.  Artists were briefed to respond to the vision of the university and were provided with regional, cultural and environment information about Saudi Arabia as to inform their concept development process.

This is the really exciting stage of a project: each artist brings their own interests and way of working, and each is inspired about various aspects of the project. Then the artwork concepts begin to emerge.

Donna Marcus, for example, referenced the Delphinus constellation from ancient Middle Eastern astronomy to create an artwork for the Seacourt Link pedestrian zone; while Jason Bruges became enthralled by the work of Arab scholar Ibn al-Haytham, and notions of the changing tides in his concept development for the pier.

The resulting works on the site take many varied forms, respond to diverse aspects of the place yet they emerge a cohesive whole that aligns with the vision of the university.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work? Any art/design indulgences?

I love visiting galleries, events and exhibitions to keep in touch with the local art and design community, and reading, of course.

For art my must read is the ‘e-flux newsletter’ from Art Agenda and must visit is GOMA (Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art).

For design my must visit is The Coolhunter and must read is InDesign Magazine.

My annual unwind is the Woodford Folk Festival – love it!

Urban Art Projects was named Autodesk Inventor of the Month for July 2009, and is now nominated for the 2009 Inventor of the Year Award.

Using Inventor, UAP’s Construction Documentation Team has created the blueprint for each of a myriad of unique, large scale public artworks. These include the recently inaugurated Al-Fanar (Beacon) for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, constructed from unique pre-cast concrete blocks, and several site-specific art works for the site. Some examples of the team’s recent work are profiled below. An interview that Autodesk held with UAP is also available on YouTube.

Voting for the Autodesk Inventor of the Year is now taking place on the Autodesk Website.

AL-FANAR (Beacon) by DANIEL TOBIN

Al-Fanar (Beacon) Interior View

SPHERES by CARSTEN HÖLLER
Model by Stefan Purcell and Bruce Blundell

DELPHINUS by DONNA MARCUS
Model by Stefan Purcell

STAR PROJECTOR by OLIVER VAN DEN BERG
Model by Stefan Purcell

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