Acclaimed British sculptor and marine conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor has recently completed the Coral Greenhouse, his first-ever underwater building and the largest installation at Australia’s newly opened Museum of Underwater Art in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Constructed in nearly a year’s time, the monumental project weighs around 58 metric tons and comprises diverse scenes of study — from marine science and coral gardening to environmental art and architecture — to raise awareness and understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and its ecology. In addition to providing a fascinating new dive site for scuba divers, the Coral Greenhouse and its 20-plus “Reef Guardian” sculptures will provide new reef habitat for local marine creatures.
Specially crafted for the ocean within a natural inlet of John Brewer Reef, the 12-meter-tall Coral Greenhouse and the surrounding sculptures are made from pH neutral cement compounds, zinc anodes and corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel. Triangular cross sections feature low centers of gravity for stability while the extensive cement base with integrated cyclone tethers protect against adverse weather conditions. Figurative sculptures — cast from children from local and international schools — as well as locally inspired gardens and paving are placed in and around the Coral Greenhouse as a reminder of our precious relationship with the marine world.
“The design of the greenhouse is biomorphic, its form determined by the forces of nature,” deCaires Taylor said in a press statement. “As the Greenhouse is slowly colonized and built upon by the reef, it will be gradually absorbed into its surroundings, illustrating an organic architectural philosophy which centers on the unification and connection of designs to their surroundings. The porous skeletal structure provides a space suitable for ever changing marine conditions, a refuge for marine species. It allows for excellent overhead light penetration and dive access.”
Located offshore from Townsville, the Coral Greenhouse is accessed via three large 2-meter entrances. There is expansive floor space to give divers enough room to comfortably rest and explore the artworks.
Photography by Matt Curnock via Museum of Underwater Art