Pulsing trees light up Sydney harbour for VIVID

A cluster of synthetic trees that responds to the weather by pulsing colourful light will take over part of Sydney Harbour during VIVID.


Arclight at VIVID – a project created in collaboration with Bond University and UNSW Built Environment staff and students, and industry partners. Image: Studio Workshop

An installation that responds to the weather and echoes Australia’s native mangroves will light up Sydney Harbour during VIVID.

Designed by an international team that includes UNSW Built Environment students, Arclight is a cluster of 18 ‘trees’ made of polyethylene spanning an area of 10 x 15 meters.

Set amongst palm trees at the northern end of Campbell's Cove the installation can be viewed from the Sydney Opera House.

Architecturally designed and environmentally focused, Arclight incorporates interactive lighting that responds to temperature, wind speed and humidity.

The installation senses these changes and expresses them through LED lights inside the ‘tree branches’ which move and pulse in blues, greens and magentas.

Arclight is a collaboration between UNSW Built Environment and Bond University students and lecturers, design practices Studio Workshop and Matsys, engineering firm Bollinger and Grohman and industry experts.

Associate Lecturer in Computational Design Rebekah Araullo said it was “beautiful to see” students learning from each other.

“The original plans for Arclight changed a number of times so the students needed to be very adaptable and find ways around problems quickly – they achieved that by working together,” she said.

VIVID, James Stevenson

Computational Design student and project manager James Stevenson oversees Arclight's installation at Campbells Cove

Arclight project manager and second-year computational design student, James Stevenson, said he never imagined he would have the opportunity to work on such a large-scale public art project during his degree.

“I thought my degree would be completely architecture focused,” he said. “But working on this project has really broadened my horizons and made me realise that design possibilities are endless.

“I moved from Melbourne to take this degree – I’ve always been interested in technology, software and hardware, as well as architecture. This was the only degree I found in the whole country that combined all my passions,” he said.

UNSW Built Environment was one of the first universities to introduce computers to architecture. The Computational Design degree integrates digital fabrication using laser cutters, 3D printers, software like Grasshopper for parametric modelling, or the use of gaming technologies like the Oculus Rift.

Arclight project team: Studio Workshop (Chris Knapp (Australia) / Jonathan Nelson (Australia); Matsys (Andrew Kudless (USA); Nathan Freeman (Bond University, Australia); Bollinger-Grohmann and Sascha Bohnenberger (Media Architecture Institute, Germany), Matthias Hausler (Media Architecture Institute, Germany/UNSW); Eliot Rosenburg (Australia);  Rebekah Araullo (UNSW); and Marius Hoggenmuller (Germany).

VIVID Sydney 2015 opens Friday, 22 May at various venues around Sydney.