WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering professional services firms, is to partner with UK-based charity the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) to provide pro-bono professional services support from Australia for Commensalis, an artistic commission to mark the history and recovery of whales on the island of South Georgia.
Located in the South Atlantic Ocean as part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia is one of nature’s paradises, teeming in wildlife.
An impressive feat on its own, the Island’s current state is even more awe-inspiring when contrasted against the recent human activity that took place on its shores, which was once the world’s largest whaling centre.
From the early 20th century until 1964, whaling operations had a devastating effect on the land and marine life. Over 175,000 whales were slaughtered during the years of the industry.
South Georgia’s resurgence is seen as modern rarity: an eco-system in recovery and a beacon of hope for conservation activities worldwide.
In 2020,SGHTawarded an artistic commission to Scottish artist Michael Visocchi, to create a sculpture called Commensalis: The spirit tables of South Georgia.
The sculpture will help interpret Grytviken’s past and will celebrate the recovery of South Georgia’s wildlife.
To support the completion of Commensalis, WSP will provide structural design and fabrication advice, geotechnical engineering materials and durability, sustainability and net zero advice and planning and approvals advice.
Michael Visocchi said: "As an artist my work has always attempted to deal with our interaction with nature and with landscape. This is what drew me to applying for this commission in the first place. It also isn’t often that ‘site specificness’ or responding to a particular context is written into a commission brief so prominently. I hope the scale of this work in some way evokes the majesty of these extraordinary creatures and also fits seamlessly and meaningfully in this special site. I hope it also communicates the full magnitude of this story, a story of humankind’s quite often troubled relationship with other species and the environment, but also humankind’s ability to steer eventually towards enlightenment."
"The challenge of bringing this artwork to life is the remoteness of the place and the harshness of the weather it must withstand. That is why I am delighted that WSP is involved with all their experience and expertise in developing engineering solutions around the world, and I am looking forward to working with them as the project progresses."
Stewart Garden, Technical Executiveat WSP,said:“Fabricating and installing this sculpture on a remote island in the South Atlantic will be such a unique challenge. Leveraging our Future Ready™ methodology will enable us to think beyond the conventional so that we can plan and design a sculpture that’s ready for today as well as the future.
“For our people at WSP, who come from engineering, logistics and transport backgrounds, it’s quite exciting to put our problem-solving skills to the test with this unique piece of work and contribute to this lofty goal.”