The famed arts venue's sails appear to ripple before collapsing in this new public art installation.

Imagine walking by your city's most celebrated landmark only to have it collapse like a falling curtain at your feet. Is it something I did? you might guiltily wonder.

In Sydney, at least, the blame rests with a team of artists who work exclusively in the medium of light. German collective Urbanscreen debuted its illusion in late May during Vivid Sydney, a light-and-music extravaganza going on until June 11. Their target: Jørn Utzon's modernist masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House, which always has suffered a bit in the just-sitting-there-doing-nothing department.

Urbanscreen gave the monolith weird life with a rotation of hypnotic, videomapped projections. Gigantic humans appear on the building's fractured faces. Some move around within the confines of the facades like they're trapped inside, while others climb out to disappear into the night air. The famed "sails" of the opera house – inspired by the segments of an orange, and alleged to fit together into a complete sphere – then start to shimmer and ripple in an imagined sea breeze.

The montage ends with unexpected violence as the various sections of the building suffer simultaneous structural failure. It's like David Copperfield whisked the entire venue away, although without all the expensive trickery.

This isn't Urbanscreen's first heavy performance. In 2009, the group staged a projection in Hamburg based on the dreams of houses. Then there are these morphing faces on a building in São Paulo and a merry band of parkour enthusiasts climbing up this structure in Bremen, Germany. How many car crashes has Urbanscreen's art caused? Who cares: This stuff is fantastic!

For more details on the Sydney piece, this video has the artists explaining how the "big job" came together:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

    Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

  2. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  3. Amazon HQ2

    Without Amazon HQ2, What Happens to Housing in Queens?

    The arrival of the tech company’s new headquarters was set to shake up the borough’s real estate market, driving up rents and spurring displacement. Now what?

  4. Amazon HQ2

    New York’s Ejection of Amazon Is the Start of a Movement

    NYC lawmakers who led a resistance campaign against HQ2 are declaring victory. And already, they have plans to escalate their opposition to tax incentives.

  5. A photo of a new car dealership
    Transportation

    Subprime Auto Loans Are Turning Car Ownership Into a Trap

    A record 7 million Americans are three months late on their car payments, revealing what could be cracks in the U.S. economy.