iCinema developed 1:1 scale 3D digital prototype for Balarinji Design Studio and its partners, Event Engineering, Arcadis, and Hassell, on their The Great Emu in the Sky (M12) public art installation. The sculpture is part of a larger initiative aimed at embedding First Nations culture and heritage into the development site covering the new Western Sydney International Airport at Badgerys Creek.

The artwork references the local Dharug Creation Story of Mariong (Emu and Mother Spirit) and how she became the Milky Way by shaking water of her feathers that turned into stars, when she herself ascended into the sky. Her story is told in relation to the Great Emu star constellation that stretches just below that of the Southern Cross in Sydney’s night sky.

The concept encompasses a 40m sphere consisting of complex branches, inspired by Aboriginal Signature Sticks, that reflect site-specific shapes of the local landscape, culturally inspired forms as well as local flora. These have been crafted and integrated by a range of local Aboriginal artists under the guidance of traditional custodians (incl. those of the Mulgoa, Cabrogal, and Cannemegal peoples of the Dharug language group). With capability to light up various components, the Emu will become visible through the structure in different modes, e.g. resting or flying – its footprints lightly lit, accompanied by illuminated seasonal forms. These will only be discernible from certain viewing perspectives, such as to travellers arriving to Sydney by plane, drivers passing it on the M12 highway or pedestrians exploring its immediate vicinity, connecting to Aboriginal storytelling practices that connect land and story in performative ways.

To ascertain the viability of the creative design, Event Engineering developed a 1:32 scale Marquette of the Great Emu sphere, including material sampling to resolve methods, finishes, and durability for the complex sculpture. While this allowed assessing the integration of various design elements, it did not enable an appraisal of the artwork’s integration with the local landscape nor its likely aesthetic allure at 1:1 scale. To afford these capabilities, iCinema digitally rendered the Marquette via 3D scanning and subsequent refinement of the virtual model, inserting it into a 360-degree scan of its intended Badgerys Creek site. Ingested into the Unity 3D game engine, the resultant application has allowed the team of artists, designers, producers and technical directors to interactively explore and hone the Great Emu sculpture in situ through a digitally twinned environment.

Project InvestigatorsDennis Del Favero, Jeremy Sparks, Evelyn Dang, Dylan Shorten, Alex Ong, Dharug Artists, Balarinji
Project Title: The Great Emu in the Sky (M12)
Project Funding: Industry Commission
Project Partners: Event Engineering, Balarinji Design Studio, Arcadis, Hassell