Recycling and reusing the Boilerhouse bits

– written by Dr Kirsti Abbott

The Boilerhouse building is in the throes of a clean-up. Coffs Harbour Demolitions, who have extensive experience with asbestos and hazardous material elimination, are very carefully removing and disposing of contaminants, and stripping the award-winning building down to its bare bones. It will soon be a stunning concrete and steel shell upon which we can imagine a contemporary structure to inspire future generations.

We have been meticulously itemising, photographing, tagging and marking thousands of items, both large and small, that reflect the workings, history and significance of the Boilerhouse. Bits and bobs that are of artistic and educational value will be recycled and repurposed into art pieces, playscapes and parts of the new Boilerhouse building. The UNE Discovery team’s vision is to re-use as many pieces from the Boilerhouse as possible and revive parts of Armidale, UNE and the Boilerhouse site with amazing sculptures.

UNE Discovery STEAM-punk Public and Interactive Art

UNE Discovery will work with local artists to create public art sculptures using pieces of Boilerhouse history. Not only will artists be actively involved in creating and building interactive artworks and sculptures, but they will have input into our Boilerhouse STEAM programming and participatory learning environments for children that span the natural world, the sciences, digital technology, engineering and mathematical concepts. UNE Discovery views the arts as an integral part of the learning experience for children and is proud to work with local creatives in this arts initiative.

The sculptural works will feature around the UNE Campus and we also hope to install some around the Armidale township. The sculptures will reflect the diversity in learning and activities which will be on offer in the Boilerhouse Discovery Space for children and their families.

The public artworks will capture the essence of this program across five themes:

1. Natural History: iconic native species (flora and fauna) and landscapes within the New England region.
2. Agriculture: celebrating its past and looking to a future driven by STEAM-powered technological innovation.
3. Indigenous Culture: a focus on the cultural significance of the seasonal patterns of plants and animals.
4. Sport and movement: celebrating our local passion and talents in sport and fitness.
5. Music: celebrating our creative arts community with a focus on interactive sound.

This is an exciting public art opportunity for both stand-alone public artworks as well as the design and/or repurposing of functional items such as street furniture and bike racks.

Original items from the Boilerhouse will also be repurposed within its new architectural design. This will include featured décor such as lights and functional architecture such as gates, walls and furniture. Artists will be commissioned to design and build these items during the design phase collaborating with architects.

By 2021 The Boilerhouse program construction will be in full swing: building and installing interactive play-based experiences for children and their families. Artists will be commissioned to design and make pieces for the Discovery Space using original Boilerhouse items. These might include more sculptures, play-pieces (climbing frames, play equipment) and interactive installations.

This arts initiative, the first of many, demonstrates the commitment of UNE Discovery in recognising the critical role of the arts within childhood learning environments. The Boilerhouse aims to be part of a ground breaking cultural and institutional shift in interdisciplinary education taking place in arts centres, science museums and learning institutions all over the world. Artists will be provided with opportunities to step out of the gallery or theatre to collaborate in an interdisciplinary environment with scientists and educators. This kind of cross pollination will create new and transformative experiences for children, engaging its visitors as curious explorers and fostering the next generation of creative and innovative minds.