Design capital’s star appeal
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Cape Town - Pieces of fence from Robben Island form part of a massive installation by Sun International, erected on Signal Hill, Cape Town, as part of the World Design Capital programme.
Designed by Christopher Swift, the sculptor and founder of the Robben Island Art Company and Trust, the 24 metre-high “Sunstar” rises above a city already in the grips of a heated public debate about the value of outdoor art installations – especially those laying claim to the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela. It also escaped a literal baptism of fire on Tuesday when part of Signal Hill was affected by a vegetation blaze.
But Michael Farr, Sun International Group’s general manager, told the Cape Argus the installation represented the ability of South Africans to view the future with optimism. Despite the obvious symbolism of using materials from Robben Island where political prisoners such as Madiba were incarcerated, the transparent wire also epitomised the nation’s determination to see beyond the present, and to correct the wrongs of the past.
Erected on Signal Hill, the installation would be visible to all Capetonians and visitors, said Farr. “It is also located in an area which can be associated with contemplation and reflection. Signal Hill has a shared history among all Capetonians and is easily accessible by road, with views of Robben Island, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak and the city. Being able to stand beneath the sculpture with spectacular views of both the city and Robben Island in the distance will give people a powerful incentive for contemplation, reflection and conversation about our future.”
Farr said the 10-storey installation would have little impact on the ecologically sensitive mountain area. In fact, the landscapers involved in the project would move as much alien vegetation as possible. No earthworks were required to erect the artwork, and the soil had not been disturbed. A raised walkway around the installation would ensure that no vegetation was damaged while the work was being viewed. It is illuminated with energy-saving LED lights.
The sculpture has been approved by SanParks, the Robben Island Museum, the City Of Cape Town, and the Department of Public Works.
Sunstar is expected to be part of Cape Town’s landscape for about six months, after which it could move to Sun International properties.
“The symbolism (of the artwork) is strong and appropriate. As a company, being able to make that possible is rewarding.”
As with the controversial sunglasses installation on Sea Point Promenade, which was sponsored by Ray-Ban, Sunstar does not have any corporate branding on the actual artwork.
Sun International has contributed to the funding of the landscaping, lighting and installation of the artwork which is one of the biggest pieces to be exhibited as part of the World Design Capital programme.
The structure is in the form of an eight-point star with wiring from the Robben Island fence filling the internal areas of the sphere; which has a radius of 6.4 metres. This is surrounded by a metal frame depicting the sun’s rays, to form the eight-pointed star.
There has been some confusion as to whether the Signal Hill installation is named the Pharox, or Sunstar. Although referred to as the Pharox on the World Design Capital programme, and by SanParks in a recent statement, the sculpture is officially known as the Sunstar.