Along side great North Road in New Lynn is a tall angular steel sculpture. Recent visits to the town centre on foot allowed me a closer, more intimate viewing that revealed new layers of meaning.

Up close I found the sculpture is in fact the pivot of a large sundial. It’s sharp pointy nose marks hourly time at Solstice and Equinox four times a year.

The sculpture at 10minutes to 3pm

Hour markers radiate from the sculpture, pieces of shell gleam reminders of the sea, which is not visible here, inland, and somewhat forgotten in the press of people heading East to West.

The surrounds include two smooth solid stone like plinths: one pointing West to the dark green Waitakere ranges and sunset; the second points south, away from the noon sun, and towards the great expanse of the Manukau harbour.

Waitakere

The extra weight attributed to the cardinal directions marks the importance of these two boundaries of the city settlement, the form of the land that contains us, the eternal influence of the twin resources of Forest and Sea. As visitor to an urban place it is easy to forget the lie of the land, the influences larger than ourselves. Prior to coming to this sculpture I had forgotten the presence of the sea.

From a distance the sculpture is vaguely reminiscent of a waka (Maori canoe), being carried across land or a sturdy forest that provided the wood hull, like the timbers now protected across the Waitakere ranges. The sculptural links to water awoke in my memory the local story of “Portage”. The word portage had become abstract in my mind, lost its meaning, (seen everywhere in West Auckland as a local licensing trust). But here suddenly its meaning became very visceral. I was standing not far from Portage Road, and I realised this path is a historic route.

This work reminded me.

The uplifted waka form is now infused with new awareness, of its nearness to the sea, deliberately pointing the way, mimicking historical journeys across the Auckland isthmus. I have new appreciation that here the land itself is a bridge, only 2.7km wide from the Whau river of the Waitemata harbour, to the coast of the Manukau, joining the long east and west coasts of the North Island

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In the past I have seen this sculpture from the road and puzzled over it. I thought: It’s new, it’s large pieces of sheet metal, I can see it all from here. Why should I be interested? Only in this recent exploration of the town centre did I discover its layers, its story. Thanks to a little walk.

I do think I would have found the sundial earlier if the central sculpture had more colour or texture – more welcoming detail or intricacy to draw me across the road to take a closer look.

1pm marker
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Links:
For more information on the sculpture and town centre
New Lynn Urban Design PDF by Nick Robinson

This sculpture was initiated by the West Auckland Sculpture Trust and the Portage Trust in 2002. The Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts regulate the sale of alcohol and put profits back into the West Auckland Community. I am very glad to see the trusts wont be affected by the new ’super city’ structure for Auckland.

Previous post about New Lynn (and transit oriented development).

Spring Equinox is coming up on September 23rd.


Discussion (4) ¬

  1. Great deep and thoughtful post Lily. Shades of history. How much detail is there in public sculpture that is hardly ever noticed by passers-by? (Like John Radford’s sunken buildings in Western Park, with their little diorama peepholes.) These artworks have a name, meanings… However, I don’t find this one particularly aesthetically pleasing. Too square and shiny.

    Important question: who made this sculpture?

  2. Thanks Rose, and good question!

    According to the plaque: Warren Viscoe and Bill McKay designed it, Murray Couling constructed it and David Shilton was the engineer.

  3. Thank you for doing the research and enlightening me on the public art around New Lynn! While Lopdell House Gallery is here, it is good to know what other art is in walking distance.
    I’m sure there will be more interesting urban development in this up and coming precinct.

  4. Josh. This is amazing! Once again you have caerted something phenomenal that represents what’s inside all of us (at least that’s my interpretation). Wow! There’s A LOT of symbolism for me in this piece.

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