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A giant 'breathing' ball secures the NGV Architectural Commission 2023

When installed at the NGV Garden in December this year, the installation (This is) Air by Australian architect Nic Brundson will undergo constant morphing throughout the day.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 31, 2023

Throughout the history of our planet, the air has served as an unavoidable thread, intricately weaving the tapestry of life. The era of COVID further emphasised this fundamental truth, heightening our consciousness of the invaluable nature of each breath we take in. Navigating a world transformed by an unseen threat, breathing evolved into a mindful act during those times. This notion inspired the 2023 Architecture Commission of the National Gallery of Victoria, an annual series inviting Australian architects to create site-specific, ephemeral architecture for the NGV Garden.

The NGV's Triennial—an immersive large-scale exhibition of international contemporary art, design and architecture—has chosen a colossal inflatable sphere that transforms rhythmically throughout the day as its Architecture Commission. Named (This is) Air, the public installation conceived by Melbourne-based architect, Nic Brunsdon, in collaboration with Australian immersive design practice ENESS, brings attention to a fundamental and universal aspect of life on Earth: the act of breathing air. By making the invisible visible, the installation invites contemplation of the significance of this essential element that sustains us all.

(This is) Air resembles a massive balloon, standing 14 meters high when fully inflated|NGV Architecture Commission 2023 | Nic Brunsdon | STIRworld
(This is) Air resembles a massive balloon, standing 14 metres high when fully inflated Image: Nic Brundson

The proposal for (This is) Air involves the installation of a 14-metre-tall inflatable sphere, built from fully recyclable synthetic PVC, in the gallery's rear garden. By employing air as its building material, the commission will constantly transform throughout the day, expanding and releasing air in a natural rhythm. This dynamic structure will 'exhale' at various intervals, releasing gusts of air and forming cloud-like formations before refilling again.

The installation will morph throughout the day, ‘breathing in’ and ‘breathing out’ |NGV Architecture Commission 2023 | Nic Brunsdon | STIRworld
The installation will morph throughout the day, ‘breathing in’ and ‘breathing out’ Image: Nic Brundson

‘‘The idea for this project was conceived by Brunsdon during the global pandemic when the air we breathed was suddenly at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Taking the form of a giant inflatable sphere, this living structure inhales and exhales before our eyes, giving presence to that omnipresent yet invisible element that connects us all," says NGV Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Design, and Architecture, Ewan McEoin.

The sphere adapts its appearance to changing times and weather. |NGV Architecture Commission 2023 | Nic Brunsdon | STIRworld
The sphere adapts its appearance to changing times and weather Image: Nic Brundson

The sphere dons a universal white hue, adapting its appearance to the day, weather, season, or moment. Whether bathed in the radiance of a bright sunset or the somber tones of a gloomy day, it captures and embodies the natural hues of the environment and remains in a perpetual state of transformation.

NGV Architecture Commission allows Australian designers and architects to materialise an ambitious, innovative piece of ephemeral architecture that pushes the boundaries of their practice, leading to novel and unexpected frontiers. Previous commissions include Adam Newman and Kelvin Tsang's abstraction of the Parthenon with Temple of Boom (2022), Taylor Knights + James Carey's reflective pink pool pond(er) (2021), and Yhonnie Scarce and the Edition Office's powerful rendition of memory with In Absence (2019).

(This is) Air ‘exhales’ at various intervals, releasing gusts of air and forming cloud-like formations |NGV Architecture Commission 2023 | Nic Brunsdon | STIRworld
Australian architect Nic Brundson Image: Courtesy of Nic Brundson

The NGV Triennial exhibition offers a visually stimulating and thought-provoking outlook on the world today, and at the core of it are three fundamental thematic pillars: Magic, Matter, and Memory. Brunsdon's architectural concept aligns seamlessly with the Matter, which seeks to interweave nature, materials, and craftsmanship, to remind the audience of the interconnectedness of biology, geology, and physics while underscoring their reliance on natural systems.

The architectural installation embodies a timeless exploration of our interconnected relationship with the natural world and the critical need to cherish and protect our shared environment. By rendering air visible, audible, and tangible, the artwork accentuates our profound reliance on air as a finite resource, the quality of which is steadily being impacted.

(This is) Air will be showcased at NGV International on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, from December 03, 2023 to June 2024. Throughout the summer months, the NGV Garden will be enlivened by the presence of (This is) Air, becoming a focal point that hosts a diverse array of public programs, performances, and other engaging events.

(Text by Irene Joseph, intern at STIR)

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