Heavy Metal Retaining Wall is a temporary Design / Make project by third year students from Monash's Art Design & Architecture faculty [MADA] commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art [MONA]. The project was designed and built by students in late 2013 for MONA's weekly market MoMA recommencing in early 2014.
Designed and made by third year architecture students from the MADA Department of Architecture, Monash University under the participatory guidance of architect Ross Brewin, the Heavy Metal Retaining Wall forms an integral part of the community based initiative led by MONA that aims to raise a public awareness of the problems associated with the Derwent River pollution, as well as making a creative contribution to pollution remediation strategies that are being developed by scientists in Tasmania.
Operating at the nexus of architecture, art and science, the structure plays three key roles; it communicates the pollution problem to the public; it actively contributes to the remediation of the contamination by providing a kind of storage site for extracted pollutants; and it provides a hub for the MONA summer market that works to promote local produce and the reduction of waste.
The primary element of the project is a large rammed earth wall that acts as both the structural and conceptual foundation for the project, representing the river sediment in which much of the pollution is contained. A series of different sized boxes representing the various concentrations of mercury, lead, cadmium, copper and zinc trapped in the sediment of the river are embedded into the wall. These boxes act as a series of spaces that support the various activities of the Mona summer market which combined with a 20m long table, provide a place to gather, eat and retreat from the sun on Mona’s central lawn.
As the project’s name suggests, the retaining wall provides a repository for the retention of heavy metals. The metals are extracted from the river by a troop of oysters that are placed into the Derwent. These extraordinarily efficient natural bio-filters will over time be removed from the river, thus removing heavy metals from the system. Once removed, these organisms that have small concentrations of heavy metals in their bodies, will be heroically encased into a concrete brick and then placed into the concrete ‘waffle’ walls. In the middle of the wall is a ‘tomb’ that slowly darkens as more oysters are placed into the holes of the concrete panels, becoming a reflective space to consider the affects of humans on the natural environment and the role that natural biological systems can make in the remediation of pollution problems.
Importantly, non-contaminated oysters will also feature as part of the project, with visitors invited to take their own cadmium glazed plate from the cadmium box to collect and enjoy eating these shellfish and other market produce.
The retaining wall also incorporates installations by artist’s Kit Wise and Biatta Kelly.
The Monash students involved in the design build were Lachlan Harris, Hang Jiang, Andy Lim, Alexander McGlade, Constance Mehel, Piers Morgan, Nick Rogers and Xi Yue Wang with design assistance from Mark Dow, Anna Margin, Brendan Murray and Li Ren Tao.
Design teaching assistance and on site support was provided by Alysia Bennett.