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Arts in Greater Dandenong

Arts in Greater Dandenong

Springvale Pedestrian Underpass

Artist: Big Fish
Completed: 2002
Location: Springvale Shopping Strip, Springvale Road, Springvale (Melways Ref 79 K9)

The Springvale Pedestrian Underpass was built in late 1969, and is a fairly typical structure of its time consisting of reinforced concrete walls, metal handrails and a tiled interior.

It is functional, allowing pedestrians to get from one side of Springvale Road to the other, gain access from the station to the shops, but its appearance was never given consideration and has become the focus of concern. This concern was the driving force behind Council funding and undertaking a major refurbishment of the structure in 2002.

The refurbishment of the underpass is underpinned by community safety initiatives and demonstrates enormous innovation in the application of contemporary art treatments.

The City of Greater Dandenong commissioned artists from Big Fish Workshop to work on innovative ideas for the transformation of the pedestrian underpass. Big Fish specialises in 3D installations and unique one off projects.

Graphic designer Renata Slusarski created 'Motion' who said that "The Springvale Underpass functions as a conduit for moving people safely from one side of the road to the other. "It is perceived as cold, spare, drab. 'Motion' is an artistic depiction, a celebration of that function as well as a solution to the unsightliness of the underpass."

'Motion' grew from a local image taken at the Springvale Station using a special camera and technical effects.

This image were manipulated on a computer to enhance the colour and mood. The final result was two enormous, digitally enhanced photographic images which stretch almost the full length of the underground tunnel. Along the entrances to the tunnel pedestrians pass smaller and randomly placed images that include snap shots of local people in Springvale.

The colour of the underpass and other treatments including the paint scheme, lighting and cut out sections are all components of the artists' treatments to the site, responding to safety issues and pedestrian concerns.

Community safety issues underpinned many of the design solutions developed by Big Fish. Some of these are easily recognisable and practical to improve site lines and the sense of safety.

Highly polished, reflective steel panels at either end of the tunnel enable pedestrians to see around some of the tunnels blind spots and generally improve site lines.

Four sections of the concrete walls were removed and replaced with transparent sections comprising steel railings and clear polycarbonate sheeting. This has improved site lines from the footpath into the underpass enabling greater casual surveillance opportunities.

Lighting in the tunnel has also been improved through the installation of additional fittings.

The bright colours, dramatic shapes and locally inspired digital imagery not only improve the appearance of the underpass but positively alter public perceptions of it. The site now reflects a place to be experienced rather than avoided - it is a place that is alive and colourful rather than dull and forgotten. These combined subtle differences have had a significant impact.