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Design Inspiration - A Work Experience Diary

18 June 2015

Walking through the hive of design and bustle of thinking and creativity my mind stole this spark and ignited its own flame. Men and women at computers with bright sculptures and models in front of them perfecting and applying creativity to every aspect of their work. 

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All of this production lay in a fairly large office that felt warm and cozy with everyone sitting side by side communicating to discuss with each other with projects and ideas.

This was UAP (Urban Art Projects) headquarters, my work experience base for the next three days. UAP has offices in Brisbane Australia, New York and Shanghai and designs and creates public art works around the world.

The start of my day consisted of researching Qatar, a gulf country in the Middle East. This meant scanning through history, animal life, plant life, culture and religion to find something that might provide the basis for UAP’s latest project for the Qatar government. This project was to create a long stretch of art to sideline and brighten up the massive new highway that Qatar built that helped link Bahrain and Qatar.

Second on our list was help make the model for the world AIDS memorial that will be built in Los Angeles. To make the model, Chloe, my work experience partner, and I cut up pieces of softwood into ten centimetre strips and placed them on a huge piece of board according to the map plan that our supervisors gave us. This meant creating three separate models with designs previously thought out. I felt like I contributed to a great cause while laboriously cutting up the small pieces of wood.

Our final task was to redecorate a large but bland wall on the Bund. We were given an architectural plan of this wall and were told to add leaves or other types of foliage to create a 2D or 3D piece of work. Our instructions were to create something simple but that is remarkable and not just another piece of bland art. Our final design was a ripple in the wall with several ginkgo leaves at various angles floating in the water. I really liked the final product as it not only fit the categories of what our supervisor, Eva, told us but also linked in a plant that is commonly found in China.

Chloe and I feel very excited about tomorrow as we venture to the company’ s factory where their thoughts and creations become reality. 

Day 2

The second day of our work experience at UAP, Chloe and I ventured out to the outskirts of Pudong to find out where the real magic of UAP happens.

The morning started with a one-and-a-half hour trip in a car but it was well worth the wait. Entering the cavernous storage area of UAP’s workshop, I suddenly felt very small. The cavern held large metal carcasses of unbuilt projects and bore the mark of hard labor with scratches and indents throughout the cement walls and ripped shreds of metal strewn across the floor. The architects of this systematic recreation were away from their work as there were only a couple of workers still at their posts at the factory belting away at huge sheets of iron fashioning them into bowls.

The work varied, but included pieces from a large food making company which consisted of giant olives with spikes through them, stacks of highly polished citrus fruits and even large decorated plates with noodles atop them. Another part of the factory contained giant metal vertical beams that showed the feeling and effect of what these poles will give the viewers or bystanders who walk through them when they are installed as part of the AIDS memorial in Los Angeles. These figures also showed the height and general size of the project which a model on board, which we worked on yesterday, couldn’t really do.

Our second stop was to the foundry which is where all the casting and metalwork for the company is carried out. The door of the foundry reeked of soot and smoke but the further we got inside the less so. Right in front of our eyes stood a giant bull in the same position as the bull on the Bund, in a dodging stance its bronze gleaming. Lying beside it were two soldiers with gas masks on and guns by their sides. Venturing further in we were confronted by two of an Australian artists’ (Lindy Lee’s) metal splashes which we were told were made by taking molten copper and pouring it directly into cold water which makes it form into peculiar smooth shapes.

Best of all was when we went out back to see the furnaces and, even though they weren’t being used at the time, you could see their huge mass and the general solidity of them with their giant stone ladles. Also out in the back of the foundry were all the casts for the statues with molds ranging from lions all the way to soldiers and buildings.

At the end of the day we found out that both the factory and UAP headquarters contained a bustle of humans collaborating with only one exception, the collaboration in the office was with ideas whereas in the factory it was physical.

Day Three

On our third and final day of work experience at UAP we got to see the product of all this creativity, inspiration and dedication.

To start the day, we took a trip to the headquarters of a Chinese food company that also owns Family Mart. Their base is about a thirty minute drive from the UAP offices but this was bearable. When we reached the compound of the company we were confronted by large colourful balls with the heads of all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac sticking out the top. After some explaining from our supervisors, we found out that these were actually created by a Hong Kong artist who was hired by UAP to create an enticing entrance for the company. Further in, our group ventured through a small park that contained four sculptures all created by UAP for the company as a Food Experience.

The sculptures were laid out in a specific order to show the start and finish of a dinner/meal. That meant the first sculpture was a few scattered sunflower seeds that were polished stone. Up next were towers of nuts that were at least twice as tall as me. Then came a sculpture of someone’s lips which was made out of a matte marble. And last was a toast which was shown as a twirl or wave of shiny aluminium in the center of the park.

As a main feature in the compound there was a large vertical egg made out of aluminium. This egg-like sculpture had many drillings that formed circles within circles. We then found out that this sculpture was made by an Australian artist, Lindy Lee, who specialises in making pieces of artwork with dots or circles. This huge sculpture was about three of me on end and one of myself wide all made out of a shiny metal reflecting all of the light from the nearby buildings. I really liked this piece as it also had an internal light which shines at night creating a star effect.

After another exhausting adventure we returned back to the office to sit down and do some drawings. We were told to design a feature for the courtyard or central space of an apartment compound that had a direct view of the entrance of the compound. Since the project was in Wuxi, a city which has lots of traditional Chinese boats, I decided to create the sculpture using the design of the sails of the traditional boats. I staggered the sails and made them different sizes to create a more welcoming feel. After creating the design drawing, we moved on and had a chat to a man named Rex who is one of the renderers for UAP. This means he takes photographs or drawings and turns them into computer images. I showed him my plan and he turned the image into a 3D model on the computer which was actually pretty cool.

At the end of the day, with sadness in our hearts, Chloe and I left the office to return to our normal lives already missing spending time with people in the office and learning new thing about real workers in a design company.

Charlie MacDonald-Butler, Year 10A