Sydney has just landed a brand new large-scale public artwork in the revitalised South Eveleigh precinct. Interchange Pavilion, which was unveiled to the public yesterday, August 25, is the work of renowned Australian artist and architect Chris Fox. Standing at 11 metres tall and spanning a total of 350 square metres, the piece reflects the area’s railway history: trains were built and maintained by workers in Eveleigh for more than a century.
“I was really inspired by the stories that happened in this precinct,” Fox tells Broadsheet, standing near the workshops where Australia’s rail industry was born. “The South Eveleigh area has a fantastic rail history. There were a huge amount of workers here, up to 5000 at one time. It was also one of the biggest employers of Indigenous workers.
“The project really talks to that – this idea of interchanging stories and interchanging journeys, and the way in which these paths have crossed over time. And that people, as they come to the pavilion, will join those stories and interchange themselves as they visit the site.”
The form of Interchange Pavilion is inspired by the geometry of a railroad switch – the point at which a train changes course, moving from one track to another. The work has 15 tonnes of robotically moulded, glass-reinforced concrete on its exterior shell, while the curved interior (which doubles in places as a bench for visitors to the pavilion) is made of 1400 pieces of Australian blackbutt hardwood. Arching fluidly upwards, each track seems poised to spin off into the sky.
The work also comprises 250 metres of stainless-steel rails embedded in the ground, and is supported by a skeleton of 1650 digitally fabricated aluminium pieces.
Mirvac, which developed the precinct, worked with a range of partners to create its public art strategy, including arts centre Carriageworks, which lies on the other side of train tracks. After a competitive EOI process, Fox was a natural choice for the project.
His work has already left a mark on Sydney – especially the celebrated Interloop installation at Wynyard Station. To create it, he took the heritage-listed station’s 1930s wooden escalators (which were in use until 2017) and morphed them into a major 50-metre-long installation, which is suspended above the updated escalator.
The artwork is the fourth to be installed in the precinct, joining Nell’s Tree House and Happy Rain, and Jonathan Jones’s untitled (red gum slabs). And later this year, respected chef Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong) is slated to open a restaurant nearby.
While the structure was originally intended to be used as a meeting place, and occasionally put to use for concerts and large gatherings, the open-air space is adaptable and relevant to the Covid era.
“I always imagined it would be a place to sit and have lunch, to meet friends, even just to pass through,” says Fox. “It’s an artwork but also an architectural outcome. In keeping with the idea of the railway switch, moving from one track to another, and how the work is used, it’s up to the public now.”