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de Vlamingh Memorial - Perth

Artists Concept

The de Vlamingh Memorial was initiated as part of the Australia-Dutch “Australia on the Map 1606-2006” project to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorations and discoveries in Australia and specifically Willem de Vlamingh’s voyage and mapping of the WA Coast in 1697.

It was commissioned as a public art project by the City of Perth, through a competition process, culminating in the awarding of the commission to Smith Sculptors who designed the Memorial and subsequently carried out the work to completion and the dedication on site, at Barrack Square, by His Worship the Lord Mayor Peter Natrass in 2007.


The Willem de Vlamingh Memorial project is particularly significant as it was the only physical element remaining after the “Australia on the Map” project was completed in 2007, which subsequently developed into the organization known as the “Australia on the Map Division of the Australasian Hydrographic Society”. This was apart from Dr. Nonja Peter’s book: “The Dutch Down Under 1606-2006”.


In 2018, because of the re-development at Elizabeth Quay Perth it was moved to a new location at Riverside Drive Perth WA and rwas ebuilt on site using elements from the Original Memorial with a complete new solar clock face which had to be constructed again scratch.


Willem de Vlamingh Memorial Public Art Project.

Concept  Description:


Although this is a ‘stand- alone’ project it will also play a role as part of the ‘Australia on the Map’ larger national scheme, expressing all that this highly successful project has achieved in this special 400th Anniversary Year of 2006. It also has the capability of encompassing the Globe, taking the story from Western Australia all the way back to the Netherlands and continuing to develop the links that have been forged by the inception of this major initiative.


This de Vlamingh Memorial therefore, is a work that can tell the history of these events, while also speaking to future generations of this moment in time.


The concept is a commemorative work, establishing in this highly symbolic site on the shores of the Swan River ( the ‘Swartte Swaane”), one of the great ‘markers’ in space and time, of the events that led up to this continent of Australia becoming part of the greater map of the World which we all live in and share as human beings, whatever our origins. It confirms the fact that mankind is essentially a ‘wanderer’, destined to sail to the next distant horizon, be it Australia ; that ‘great South Land’…or, onto the stars.


The most important aspect of this project is its role as a NARRATIVE-SYMBOLIC work linking Perth and Amsterdam through the unique device of a Sun-Dial with the capacity to embody many visual and textual references, representing the most significant points in space and time that have led to ‘putting Australia on the Map’.


The role that the de Vlamingh expedition had in this endeavour has many fascinating references and the memorial takes this opportunity to embody these, in that most symbolic of visual lay-out : the MAP itself.


This allows for the project to be a truly interactive work, whereby the visitor can have an educational experience, while at the same time, enhancing the foreshore environment and creating a major tourist attraction and recreational facility for locals and visitors alike. Particular emphasis would be on the Dutch connection, of course with that aspect of the work playing an important part with the links to Holland which would be a major part of the symbolism.


With the map as a basis for the concept, literally forming the ‘floor’ of the memorial and defining the parameters of the area, the centre-piece and focal point takes the form of a GNOMON. This transforms the MAP into a clock face and the entire project into a unique Time-Piece which forms a ‘canvas’ upon which this history and relevant symbolism can be ‘written’ and incorporates a living link in Space and Time between Holland and Australia. The memorial thus becomes a total entity and environment encapsulating all the important information relevant to the project.


This unique ‘marker’ is highly specific to the Swan River area; this point on the globe where de Vlamingh landed and which would be directly connected in time and space to Amsterdam and the Mourning Tower which marks the spot from where de Vlamingh and his crew, the flotilla of the Geelvinck, the Nyptangh and the Weseltje and the other ships of the VOC which set sail on their voyages of exploration into the Southern Ocean.

Reason for selecting Sun-dial as a Concept

The decision to use a sun dial as the basis for this memorial design concept was inspired by the notion of time itself being the operative mechanism of historical events. Our history as a species is defined by our ability to ‘fix’ specific moments in time to mark significant events that lead us to this moment. The mechanism referred to is simply, our Sun as it journeys, predictably across our sky, creating shadows which mankind’s ingenuity has harnessed to its own ends. Thus, our Sun can be considered as a great solar clock which we use to define both our individual lives and the history of human Endeavour.


This concept, we believe, has given us the perfect vehicle to create a truly interpretive, interactive public artwork, celebrating the achievements of de Vlamingh and his crew and their epic voyage to these shores.


Our proposal was to to create a great Solar Clock on the Swan River Foreshore.  Please note Time is Solar based and is completely unaffected by artificial devices such as day-light saving. This Solar Clock  which only function as an accurate contemporary time piece but, would also, through the use of simple shadows, tell the story of Willem de Vlamingh’s voyage to W.A. and his charting of the West Australian Coast. The artwork will also function as a contemplative restful oasis within our contemporary urban environment.


The function of the Artwork time-piece can be categorized into various component elements and their related function within the whole:


A The Gnomon ( or shadow bar)

B The Clock Face

C The Historical References and Plaques



A. The Gnomon:

The gnomon is the heartbeat of the whole memorial and forms a striking vertical feature soaring elegantly to the sky, capable of being viewed from a distance by land and sea and identifying the location of the memorial. It is essentially symbolic of the seafaring nature of the explorations and mapping enterprise of the de Vlamingh expedition.


The design is based upon a stylized ‘sailing’ or maritime motif, involving symbolic masts, sail and rigging. All are symbolic of the subject matter of the Memorial.


This has been kept as simple as possible, evoking a subconscious response in the observer rather than a purely literal, visual interpretation rather than (possibly a timber structure would be historically accurate of the period, but even if this was desired it would not be possible within the budget and would possibly have maintenance concerns) The gnomon elements are manufactured using in stainless steel components and marine grade aluminum. These elements cast the shadows which articulate the concept.


B. The ‘Clock’ Face:

This is formed in Granite


As already described, essentially, the ‘clock face’ has 2 No. time scales. One scale is for local time in Perth set beside another scale for Amsterdam in such a manner,  that the same shadow points to both local time and Amsterdam time simultaneously. We have researched the unique function by consulting with astronomers. Apart from telling the actual time, we would intend that the shadow pointer would perform a secondary function. This entails a complex series of calculations in order to use the shadow pointer to indicate significant dates, apart from time.


For example, one o’clock in the afternoon of 29th December 1696 would be an extremely important reference as this is the date and time de Vlamingh logged his first sighting of Rottnest Island.



C The Historical References and Plaques


Surronding the Gnomon and Solcar Clock Face are 5 x polished gramite bollards which important historic references in relation to de Vlamingh arriving in Australia engraved on the top face.






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