Gibbs Farm is a privately-owned property located on the Kaipara Harbour, North West of Auckland. It features more than 400 hectares of mixed forestry plantations, lakes and open grass pasture providing numerous and varied sites for sculpture.
The initial development of The Farm as a sculpture park evolved as a result of owner, Alan Gibbs’ enthusiasm for contemporary art. Alan and his team have, since 1996, commissioned suitable international artists to design work specifically for The Farm, which the Wall Street Journal rates as amongst the best sculpture parks in the world.
Peter Boardman has acted as engineer and project manager for over 20 of the sculptures since 1998 and has involved several other members of the Structure Design team over the years.
“It’s thoroughly enjoyable to work with artists who think very differently from our typical project partners. Sculpture projects are challenging and exciting because they allow everyone involved in bringing the artist’s vision to life to create something that’s purely for pleasure. What always stands out is that on every project, every member of the project team becomes very invested in the sculpture” says Peter.
The process of selecting and implementing a work is an iterative one. Alan selects an artist who visits the site, comes back with ideas and then refines these.
Our team often gets involved relatively early on in the process. For example, sometimes when an artist is conceptualising they will talk to us so that we can:
- assess a potential sculpture’s feasibility,
- get an idea of budget from suppliers, and
- help them to review and revise their concept.
Tim Rowe, architect and photographer, then photographs the site and superimposes the sculpture and we then get into the drawing and detailed engineering. This involves:
- developing and analysing the engineering model,
- producing the details,
- obtaining approval from both the artist and Alan Gibbs,
- revising things if we need to reduce costs.
Once the sculpture has been approved, we develop the final drawings and go out to tender, or negotiate, with suppliers as appropriate. Finally, we oversee construction: project managing for time, cost and quality.
As with any project, it’s not all plain sailing. Peter explains:
“There was an opening party planned for the Tango Dancers’ sculpture, with 450 guests expected. For a while it didn’t look like the sculpture would be finished due to difficulties painting it. Of course, the paint then needed time to cure before the sculpture could be installed. We ended up with it in place 48 hours before the party, which was a huge relief. Disaster averted!”
It’s been, and continues to be, a real pleasure to get to use our structural engineering skills to help create something that’s totally different from other projects. Alan, and the Gibbs Family, have created a unique space with formidable sculptures by both New Zealand and international artists.
We look forward to being involved in new additions in the future.