Wellington's Ferns orb is subbed out after suffering 'metal fatigue'

Wellington's fern sculpture by Neil Dawson spotted in the yard of 23 Centennial Highway. Council say it is suffering ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington's fern sculpture by Neil Dawson spotted in the yard of 23 Centennial Highway. Council say it is suffering 'metal fatigue', and it may be sold to pay for its replacement.

The beloved Wellington Ferns orb is kaput, and may be sold to pay for its replacement.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the silver sphere that used to hang suspended above Civic Square was suffering "metal fatigue" and the council was looking at a replacement.

"A new version of the sphere may have to be built – using newer, stronger materials," MacLean said.

Wellington's renowned sculpture Ferns is removed from its position in the Civic Square for repair in June. Now council ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington's renowned sculpture Ferns is removed from its position in the Civic Square for repair in June. Now council have revealed the orb has reached the end of its life.

"The existing version is worn out and suffering from metal fatigue – it gets bounced around on its wires in strong winds –  so if we just do more repairs then we'll probably have to bring it down again in one or two years for more repairs and that's just a waste of time and money and it's frustrating."

The artist, Christchurch man Neil Dawson, along with council and engineers were looking at what it would take, and cost, to build a new version, MacLean said.

Wellington Sculpture Trust chairwoman Sue Elliott said the new orb should look "exactly the same" as the old one to the untrained eye.

"The old one won't be going back up and the Wellington Sculpture Trust said we will commission a new one," she said.

"We want it back up, and as fast as possible, and also so it will last and be enduring."

They were waiting on Dawson and the engineers to come back with a budget and a scale model, and then itself and the council would pitch in to pay, she said.

"Unless there are major surprises then I think the council and ourselves will be pushing the go button."

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The news comes amid pressure from local arts personalities such as New Zealand International Arts Festival's former executive chairman, Sir David Gascoigne, who said Wellington City Council would be a disgrace if it did not bring the sculpture back.

Meanwhile, the old orb, which delighted Wellingtonians and tourists alike until it was taken down in June this year, may be spared the scrap heap.

Elliot said any parties interested in buying the old orb should get in touch with her.

"I said to Neil that the existing old Ferns may well make up part of our fundraising proposal, so I'm waiting for Neil to come back to me.

"It can't be suspended again but we might find a suitable home for it," she said.

It was spotted at an engineering company in Petone last month, before being moved and more recently seen on a plot of land on Centennial Highway, Ngauranga Gorge.

MacLean said council was also brainstorming whether a "new use" could be found for it.

He said it could take "months" to figure out the best materials and fabrication techniques to make sure a new orb could hang for years to come.

 - Stuff

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