At age 22, Queensland-bred designer HY William Chan became one of the youngest people commissioned to create work for the recent Vivid Sydney Festival, the largest celebration of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Chan’s work Palette of Urban Green, showcased next to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, consisted of 100 timber palettes repurposed into environmentally-responsible light sculptures.  The wood materials were sourced from local, ecologically-sustainable plantations, and constructed to resemble high-rise towers. In doing so, Chan juxtaposed the marriage between the natural and built environment. At night, the pallets were brought to life using energy-efficient LED lights and high-frequency sensors that responded to audience’s movements.

Chan is a recipient of the Queensland Government TJ Ryan Memorial Medal in architecture. Currently based in Sydney, the designer works for HASSELL, and is also finishing an Honours dissertation in architecture. QUEENSLANDERSIGNtm recently caught up with Chan to get the scoop on his Vivid experience and plans for the rest of the year.

What was your process for constructing the five light sculptures for Palette of Urban Green? How long did it take to conceptualise, install and present these works?

From concept to reality, my exhibit took six months of intense work. However, the process isn’t only about the design or construction. I’ve had to develop new skills in securing sponsorship and budgeting, engineering requirements, lighting and sensor technologies, safe work methods,  public liability and insurance, and marketing. With a team of university students, we built all five light sculptures in two days, but this could only happen once all the planning with the various consultants were completed. Also, the manufacture of the LED lights, pallets, steel columns and one-tonne concrete bases had to be carefully arranged to meet the extremely tight deadlines to ensure project delivery.

Describe your experience exhibiting at Vivid Sydney Festival, and the feedback you received from the community.

Being involved in such a high calibre international ideas festival has been genuinely rewarding, even with all of the challenges along the way, especially the unexpected ones. As a designer, I’m used to creative problem solving but this experience has allowed me to learn and really push the boundaries of architectural design.

The responses to Palette of Urban Green have been overwhelming and encouraging. It’s a humbling experience to be on site, and see the community experience my artwork and interact with so much delight. People have expressed their surprise in the unexpected use of pallets, as they only realise it when they immerse themselves closely with the installation. It is inspirational that well considered design can have such a positive impact to the public. It definitely has furthered my passion for people-oriented design.

What are your career plans for the rest of 2012? 

I’m looking forward to concentrating on my Honours dissertation in environmentally and socially sustainable architecture. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to engage in research on a field trip overseas as part of my thesis. At the same time, I’ll continue to design for HASSELL, working on interdisciplinary and community-based architecture or urban design projects. My involvement sitting on the National Council of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and as a youth mentor for the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia will develop my design thinking skills on a new sustainability project in collaboration with the Green Building Council of Australia.

You can find out more about HY William Chan on his website, or follow him on Twitter.



Image of HY William Chan and artworks courtesy of Isaac Leung.


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