The Spirit Of Progress: Galvanized for a Truly Striking Result

In the second half of the 19th century, a north eastern railway line connecting Melbourne to Sydney was constructed. This railway line featured a single platform station, opened near Rocky Water Holes in 1872. Today, Rocky Water Holes is known as the Donnybrae Estate. Currently undergoing significant development, the Donnybrae Estate will form part of a larger principality: the Donnybrook and Woodstock precincts within the City of Whittlesea.  

The entrance to the Donnybrae Estate on Donnybrook Road will have a contemporary urban design that features the ‘Spirit of Progress’ sculpture, which was fabricated by Bent Metal, and then hot dip galvanized and painted by Geelong Galvanizing.

The Spirit of Progress sculpture honours the importance of the train line’s influence in Donnybrae’s development. The moving train reflects both the genesis of, and a metaphor for, progress and development in the local area.

The sculpture comprises of two intertwined sweeping arcs in a conical helix and is 5,700mm high and 1,700mm wide. The entire sculpture was constructed in mild steel, with the two arcs weighing just over 500kg each.

David Chaston (General Manager of Geelong Galvanizing) explains, “The steel was galvanized and finished in part with a copper enriched protective coating of Dulux Weathermax HBR. Superior to automotive paint, the combination of galvanizing and the protective coating delivered a highly durable finish with an extended time to first maintenance of at least 25 years.”

“In addition, the coating provides an effective barrier against graffiti and
resists repeated cleaning by most propriety graffiti removal agents; it has
excellent resistance to splash and spillage of most acids. The high build quality of the product specified means that surfaces are scratch resistant, it also allows for suitable sanding for excellent re-coating. The panelled nature of the sculpture surface will allow smaller areas to be masked out and easily repainted if required. Once again, all of these aspects have greatly reduced the client’s ongoing maintenance costs,” said Chaston.

The sculpture features several coloured highlight panels. The colour scheme was specifically chosen to represent several aspects: the muted blues with gold pinstripes are a reference to historic train commuters; the red is a reference to historic car commuters; and dark, burnished copper is utilised as the dominant colour to integrate seamlessly with its surrounds and draw on indigenous heritage. All these coloured panels had to be carefully integrated into the galvanizing process.

“The use of galvanizing on the sculpture has afforded the client several benefits. It has provided the structure with the ideal corrosion protection; there is no other option available that could have delivered the same combination of an aesthetically striking finish, superior durability, upfront affordability, and low ongoing maintenance costs,” said Chaston. 

Early Engagement for Technical Excellence

Geelong Galvanizing was heavily involved during the project’s design phase, collaborating closely with Bent Metal to produce the best possible outcomes.

James Jhong (the Geelong Galvanizing Sales Manager responsible for delivery of the project) illuminates just some of the design aspects that were altered or improved as a result of this collaboration.

“Initially, the internal skeleton structure was quite intricate and would have made the galvanizing process almost impossible. The entire skeletal structure was fabricated from intricate pipework that was bent and rolled to create the desired shape,” said Jhong.

“This posed a significant problem with venting and draining. There was a strict tolerance for venting and drainage holes without affecting the overall structural integrity of the sculpture. As such, innovative design of hole placement was critical to ensure the best possible flow of fluids and gases in and out of the structure.”

“There were also concerns that the plates chosen would cause distortion. Once the skeletal structure was assembled and fabricated, the entire frame was then covered and stitch welded with layers of 3mm to 4mm plate. This meant that distortion became a serious issue,” said Jhong.

Together, Geelong Galvanizing and Bent Metals worked on innovative solutions for the surface area, plate design and stich patterns. Minimising all these aspects made a significant impact in the sculpture’s performance during the dipping process. It ensured that when the steel was delivered, it could be processed immediately and effectively, and eliminated time consuming and expensive rework.

Coupled with the thorough venting and draining solutions for the skeletal structure, these technical innovations enabled the frames to move in and out of Geelong Galvanizing’s system without any major issues. As a result, the galvanized finish was not only beyond what was anticipated, it managed to highlight and accentuate key aspects of the structure to compliment Bent Metal’s overall artistic vision.

A Non-Scalable Design

A major consideration in the design and engineering phase was the creation of a ‘non-scalable’ sculpture. As such, the sculpture had to be engineered to have a flat surface that was also as smooth as possible.

The sculpture was also designed so as not to have any footholds, clothing entrapments or finger grips. All edges and shadow lines are solid (without any gaps) and rounded to a 5mm edge radius, with a maximum of 6mm in or out from the surface, and none are any lower than 2.3m above ground level. In addition, the distance between the two halves could not be less than 230mm at any point to prevent potential wedging resulting from a slip or fall.

The designs were reviewed by two independent playground assessors who confirmed that all was in line with the safety requirements set out in AS 4685.1.

Epoxy Primer for Extra Protection

Bent Metal specified an MIO metallic finish for the sculpture to enhance its elegance. As such, a bronze colour was applied over whip blasted galvanized steel with an epoxy primer designed to deliver enhanced protection for external environments.

Careful turning using overhead cranes was essential so as not to damage the sculpture, which was exceptionally well-executed by the paint division. From there, Bent Metal used their architectural painting skills to create shadow effects using different coatings and colours to create the dazzling end effect.

A Truly Striking Result

Oftentimes, galvanizing is overlooked by designers, particularly for sculptural pieces or projects that require a specific finish. The Spirit of Progress demonstrates that galvanizing, when combined with duplex coating, can deliver a truly striking result. This project has the potential to expand the demand for galvanizing by opening up new markets and applications.

As Chaston noted, the project can serve as an example of the finish that can be achieved, helping to build confidence in the ability of galvanizing throughout the industry.

“Galvanizing has a major role to play in projects that require improved aesthetics, as well as improved durability. A fantastic showpiece of galvanizing and duplex coating, the sculpture is a prime example of a fully protected, durable system that will catch the attention of all that pass by,” said Chaston.

Project Team

  • Owner: Dennis Family Corporation
  • Builder, Contractor and Fabricator: Bent Metal
  • Town Planner and Urban Designer: Tract
  • Galvanizer: Geelong Galvanizing
  • Painter : Geelong Galvanizing.