Winners of the 2018 Tapestry Design Prize for Architects announced

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Mona founder David Walsh AO has announced a collaboration between the Melbourne-based Hotham Street Ladies and Pop Architecture as the winner of the 2018 Tapestry Design Prize for Architects. Their design, Chaos and Fertility, took home $5000.

In a brief set by David Walsh, designers were asked to propose a tapestry design responding to the Pharos building, conceived by Australian firm Fender Katsalidis and inspired by the monumental Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton, a hypothetical spherical structure imagined by 18th century French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. Known for their exuberantly colourful installations created from baked goods and vast daubs of icing, the Hotham Street Ladies worked with Katherine Sainsbery and Justine Brennan of Pop Architecture to create the winning design.

Contained within the triangular edifice of Pharos are several works by James Turrell, including Unseen Seen, a giant sphere encompassing an immersive light work dedicated to the vision altering Ganzfeld effect.

A contrast to Turrell’s smooth, white sphere and the sleek interior of Pharos, the design for Chaos and Fertility is like fruit cracked open, resplendent in rich colours and decorative details recalling Greek mythology, the female body and antiquity.

“Our design depicts a series of grottos, each holding a symbol of female power or fertility,” says Molly O’Shaughnessy of the Hotham Street Ladies. “A key design element for our work was to create a piece that could potentially be joined together to cover the spheres of Boullée’s Cenotaph and Turrell’s Unseen Seen. As a result, the shape of Chaos and Fertility is based on a geometrical pattern of an unfurled globe.”  

The minimal aesthetic employed by Boullée and Turrell presented numerous difficulties which the Hotham Street Ladies and Pop Architecture chose to embrace. O’Shaughnessy reveals, “It was a challenge to consider the idea of creating a tapestry – a highly decorative and traditionally female practice – in response to Boullée’s lack of ornament and architecture, created at a time when women were excluded from architectural practice.

While researching Boullée, we became interested in what existed below his Cenotaph and were drawn to the female symbology we discovered buried deep in his interiors.”

O’Shaughnessy continues, “We tried to think differently about the flat surface and rectangular frame of the tapestry. This contributed to our idea of depicting caves and grottos that could utilise varied weaving techniques to create raised, three dimensional elements like rocks and vegetation around the entrances.”

In addition to the winning work, a second prize of $2500 was awarded to Arturo Muela, Paola Ibarra and Daniela Gutiérrez for Colliding Universes in Saint Peter’s Four Meter Woolen Eye, and a third prize of $1500 to Kevin Liu for After Turrell, Backside of the Moon. A further $1000 will be awarded to the people’s choice at a later date. Judges included Kay Lawrence AM, Emeritus Professor from the School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia, and architects Timothy Hill, Andrew Burges, Alice Hampson, and Dimmity Walker.

This year the Tapestry Design Prize for Architects was a partnership between the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Mona, and Architecture Media. An exhibition featuring designs by all 15 finalists is currently on display at the Australian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne until October 26.

Tapestry Design Prize for Architects 2018
Australian Tapestry Workshop
August 16 – October 26

Briony Downes