In a disused laneway in Sydney's CBD, two UNSW architects have designed a bar that allows patrons to enjoy a drink while virtually experiencing the predicted effects of climate change.
UNSW's Russell Lowe and Richard Goodwin collaborated with landscape architect Adrian McGregor to create the 7 Metre Bar as part of the City of Sydney's By George! Laneways - a project that explores the potential of Sydney's under-utilised laneways with innovative temporary art works.
The 7 Metre Bar is one of only eight submissions selected from 68 proposals evaluated by a panel led by urban designer Dr Steffen Lehmann. Each of the proposals were from interdisciplinary teams of up to 11 members.
The bar, in Underwood St near Circular Quay, is positioned seven metres above sea level which represents the worst predicted sea level rise.
Using digital gaming technology, Lowe, from the Faculty of Built Environment, spent three weeks creating a visual representation of the street and virtual weather conditions which are projected onto the laneway walls. A webcam using motion-detection software gauges the number of patrons and as the bar reaches capacity, the ferocity of the virtual weather increases.
Recycled cars, boats, street signs and mannequins are suspended around the bar, and cocktails are served in hot chip buckets and plastic jars - the materials a reflection on the waste that would be washed into the city in the virtual scenario.
Lowe believes the multi-sensory installation is an interactive comment on global warming that allows patrons to consider the consequences of inaction.
"We all stand around patting ourselves on the back because we recycle, but climate change is happening all around us, right now," he says. "I hope the project promotes dramatic reflections and responses, based on the provocative environment we've created."
Goodwin, from the College of Fine Arts, has produced public art projects for more than 30 years. He believes the art form is both powerful and political.
"Public art divides people; it becomes polemical, but that's what gives it power. This project has given us the opportunity to bring a political focus to the built environment," he says.
A short film by Russell Lowe promoting the 7 Metre Bar, The Weather on Underwood Street, is being exhibited at the Australian Architecture Association (AAA) Young Architects exhibition at Customs House.
The 7 Metre Bar is open on Wednesday to Fridays from 4-11pm, weather permitting, until January 2010.
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