Northland's "fabric architect" Warwick Bell – creator of the Canopy Bridge and the 2011 Giant Rugby Ball – has launched a funky new creation together with his partner Suza Schiele, and Whangārei will home the first of its kind.
Bell and Schiele recently released their GiraGlob, a spherical structure designed for public outdoor spaces, and confirmed that Whangārei District Council would install one of the structures at Bascule Park.
"The GiraGlob is an unusual space between art installation, architectural design and commercial product," Bell explained.
The globe structure can be rotated 360 degrees and is made from polyethylene and 2.6m in diameter, offering a range of functions; from seating space, shelter or kiosk, to mini-library, sleep-out or play corner.
Its spherical shape is designed to invite people to discover and share a new physical space together, Bell said.
"The GiraGlob is not only a hybrid of design, architecture and art but also the world's first rotating shelter. A totally functional sculpture as well as a meeting place."
While Schiele was the brains behind the design, Bell's task was to bring the GiraGlob from paper to reality.
"We started the project about two years. The first prototype we built was an inflatable and the second one an aluminium structure with canvas fabric."
From there, Schiele and Bell started collaborating with different companies and institutions, including Northland Inc and Creative Northland to take the next step in developing their project.
On the search for a material fit for purpose, the pair got in touch with Auckland-based company Galloway International who make big polyethylene structures with moulds and offered technical advice for the GiraGlob project.
Polyethylene is accounting for a third of the total plastics market, primarily used is in packaging. Bell explained that it was long-lasting, recyclable, easily customisable and robust enough to withstand a cyclone.
The shell of the globe is 13mm thick and can be made of any colour; it also allows for different structure variations. Schiele and Bell's hope is to work with international artists to expand on different design ideas.
The duo have fashioned various quirky pieces of art and architectural structures over the years, but this is the first product they have brought on the market.
"I've never been interested in creating a product before. I've only ever worked on one-off projects. I'm a typical artist; once you've built something, it's over. So we've been getting into a whole different world with this."
Their collective's name Lgop hints at Bell's saying when confronted with an unusual idea: "It looks good on paper, let's build it".
While the mould for the GiraGlob is still in the making and the production won't start until next year, Bell and Schiele already have a first customer.
"Council has agreed to purchase one GiraGlob and install it at Bascule Park. It will be an art installation that is also practical, providing an interactive social space with shade," WDC's landscape architect Tracey Moore said.
"There are many designs or colour combinations to choose from, and we haven't confirmed this yet. We're leaning towards a 'pop art' style design at this stage.
"We'll see how it goes with regards to use, maintenance and hopefully lack of vandalism before deciding on any more."