Shane McGrath —Gelber LuftBallon (Dunedin Research Project)

Shane McGrath 15-4-13 IMG_2892bArtist sculptor Shane McGrath successfully built and flew, with the help of friends, a helium-filled yellow blimp today at Customhouse Quay in Dunedin.
Relatively still air conditions twice allowed the ‘friendly’ LuftBallon to gain maximum height – simulating, indirectly, the proposed height (96.3 metres) of the hotel and apartment tower planned for the vacant site across the road at 41 Wharf Street.
McGrath had earlier made sure the planned flight received CAA clearance.
The blimp contained smaller balloons filled with the gas to guard against a sudden downing. A small team of men, including McGrath, coordinated the length and position of the guide-lines, keeping the blimp off surrounding buildings and roads, and out of harbour waters.
The bright photogenic structure – alternately Lemon, Zeppelin, Chrysalis – hovered impressively overhead for half a day, long enough for professional photographers and camera people to take stills and recordings from the site and prominent vantage points around the city.

Shane McGrath (about to launch) 15-4-13 IMG_2894alr

Media 15-4-13 IMG_3108a

Shane McGrath (Monarch albatross) 15-4-13 IMG_3059alr

Shane McGrath 15-4-13 IMG_3199a1lr

Shane McGrath (Linesmen) 15-4-13 IMG_3283a

Shane McGrath 15-4-13 (quay lamps) IMG_3092alr

Shane McGrath (max height over Customhouse) 15-4-13 IMG_3246alr

Shane McGrath (yellow blimp) 15-4-13 IMG_3188alr

Shane McGrath (yellow blimp fins) 15-4-13 IMG_3308alr

Shane McGrath (yellow chrysalis) 15-4-13 IMG_3305

Shane McGrath (blimp in eddy) 15-4-13 IMG_3322alr

Shane McGrath (yellow blimp rear) 15-4-13 IMG_3316alr

Shane McGrath (blimp side on) 15-4-13 IMG_2924alr

Shane McGrath (rising blimp customhouse) 15-4-13 IMG_3313alr

Shane McGrath (maxheight customhouse) 15-4-13 IMG_3183alr

Shane McGrath (blimp rising) 15-4-13  IMG_2908alr

Shane McGrath (blimp retrieved) 15-4-13 IMG_3361alrImages: Elizabeth Kerr

Gerard O’Brien’s outstanding photographs place the Gelber LuftBallon in the city context – see tomorrow’s Otago Daily Times.

█ Enter *hotel* in the search box at right to learn more about the proposed hotel and apartment building for 41 Wharf Street.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


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27 responses to “Shane McGrath —Gelber LuftBallon (Dunedin Research Project)

  1. ### April 15, 2013 – 6:48pm
    Balloon marks proposed hotel’s height
    The developers declined to do it – now an Australian artist has stepped into the breach to show Dunedin just how high the proposed 28 storey hotel will be. The man launched the balloon this morning to do his bit to help what has been a controversial project. And he has the full support of the hotel’s architect.

    • ### ODT Online Tue, 16 Apr 2013
      Artist sends balloon up to heighten hotel debate
      By Nigel Benson
      A balloon went up for the proposed $100 million waterfront hotel in Dunedin yesterday. Artist Shane McGrath launched a “high-visibility project” above the Steamer Basin to demonstrate the height of the proposed 28-storey development.
      “The hotel has the potential to affect Dunedin profoundly, so I wanted to respond to that,” Mr McGrath said yesterday. “It’s not a protest. It’s an artistic, research-based project and I’m not taking a position. I’d rather the audience make their own decisions about what it’s about. A lot of people are for it, and a lot of people are against it. I’m just trying to give an approximate indicator of the height. I wanted to encourage debate and add to the ongoing dialogue. I don’t know what the outcomes will be.”
      The 4.5m by 2.4m balloon was a practical object for measuring height and also referenced barrage balloons, which were used in wartime to indicate a city was under attack, Mr McGrath (36), of Melbourne, said. “I originally wanted to do it on-site. As an artwork, that was an important element. But I was told by the owners that I’d be prosecuted for trespassing.”
      Read more + Video

      Mr Rodgers (Betterways Advisory Ltd), your response to the artist’s project was nothing short of sour grapes. During the morning and up to 1pm, two uplifts took the balloon to full height – this was recorded. An indication is an indication.

  2. Anonymous

    Truescape must be scratching their heads and wondering how they got their projections so wrong…oh that’s right, they won’t be.

    • Anonymous

      I’d be interested to see if photography of the balloon was taken at similar vantage points from the Truescape photography to see how the heights match up.

      • Elizabeth

        Anonymous, although a bit late now……

        As a witness stationed at the Cross Wharf on flight day, I can confirm the balloon’s rope was measured and marked at intervals up to the maximum height stated by the applicant for the proposed waterfront hotel. Anyone good on computer can work the trajectories for the Truescape viewing positions against the proposed height of the building – you don’t need the balloon for that. The balloon gave a significant public reading/view indication for the potential adverse landscape effects which could not be mitigated.

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    Why? Who hired them?

    • Truescape were commissioned by the applicant Betterways Advisory Ltd.
      Note: Truescape provided the first set of images, not the second lot.

      Either way they were deliberately useless as a measure…

  4. Hype O'Thermia

    I once asked a property developer friend if he could recommend a valuer. “A valuer for buying, or for selling?” he asked.

    • There’s only a few valuation firms in town and from their track record it is relatively easy to figure out who to use for what. Your friend is spot on.

      • Added three more pics (two for scale).

        • At ODT Online:

          Balloon Exhibition in Dunedin
          Comment by Blue Oyster Art Project Space on Tue, 16/04/2013 – 11:51am.

          The documentation/results of the balloon launch will be exhibited at The Blue Oyster Art Project Space (24B Moray Place) from next Wednesday, April 24 until Saturday, May 25. For those who want to meet the artist he will be present at the Exhibition Preview on Tuesday, April 23 from 5.30pm – 7.00pm at the gallery.

  5. Dave

    Looks good. How awesome will it be to see a sexy shimmering glass tower rising up beside the ugly and neglected Dunedin waterfront.

  6. Anonymous

    Reading above and between the lines, there appears to be a little disagreement between the reporter and the sub-editor(s) on this story, but for the most part an interesting piece of newsworthiness. The front page story was certainly embraced by ODT readers today and many were astounded by the photo’s impact. The threat of being trespassed by the land owners and the “whimsical” comment by The Lawyer were very telling. But with politics it is difficult not to be skeptical. Why is it that at the eleventh hour the newspaper pulled together this type of centred reporting? Going full circle, my feeling is the decision has already been made, the Chairman instructed and Sir received notice of that decision. No doubt a Memorandum was typed up and issued to appropriate staff to open up the hotel floodgate. More often than not, in politics it is already a foregone decision before the public gets the full story. Maybe I’m taking that skepticism too far but with both Stakeholders’ interests at stake and Stadium Councillors involved, the decision process is likely to be flawed and not in the best interests of the city.

  7. Dave

    Lol I’m certainly not Steve Rodgers or any of his team Elizabeth, not in that line of work! I just genuinely think the videos and pictures of the proposed glass hotel look really cool and I like the idea of a big hotel and apartment complex down by the wharf.

    I’ve just been in Auckland for a few days and they’ve done a great job with their waterfront with hotels and bars and restaurants, Dunedin would do well to have its own version. Especially given the warm welcome Christchurch seems to be giving to overseas-funded projects up there, it would be a huge shame if Dunedin’s closed mindedness forced the development to be built elsewhere.

    • I have sympathy for your view Dave, that’s what ‘we’ (designy types and members of the design professions) wanted with a Dunedin twist for the Steamer Basin in all consultation workshops prior to the Harbourside Plan Change.

      THEN the harbourside businesses (not all but enough of them) in cahoots with the Chamber of Commerce appealed the Plan Change decision and slung the community’s visions OUT in favour of protecting their own patch (certainty for existing business and allowing for offshore oil/gas exploration service base development), such that we now have only the zone south of the Steamer Basin for mixed use development including commercial residential.

      It’s a killer for Dunedin (and Urban Design) that only a small number of people will now get to map and conduct harbourside development — and a killer generally, for everyone that wanted better public access to the water. Those lovely gentlemen tied up with Betterways’ bid for 41 Wharf St (who would promote Don Anderson’s long-held vision for major mixed use development south of the Steamer Basin), I mean where do you get your development capital from in a broke city? Answer: a fast boat from China…

      No-one submitting on the Betterways’ hotel and apartment building application said they didn’t want new 5-star hotel accommodation in Dunedin. None. Most did say (paraphrasing) they want that accommodation to be sympathetic to Dunedin’s existing form, scale and cultural heritage. Most don’t like the dated, ubiquitous, overbearingly tall slab design proposed for the subject site – given this is widely recognised as one of the most strategic sites at the Steamer Basin; and the cumulative adverse effects on significant views and unique cityscape (built environment).

      Dunedin has faltered because the Dunedin City Council – unlike Auckland City Council – has not provided a practical, uplifting, award-winning, community-owned architectural framework for future harbourside development – and worse, DCC has no Urban Design Panel convened to vet a proposal like this in the pre-application stage of resource consenting. This is criminal. Betterways is hijacking the planning process in more ways than one, as well as placing the future of our waterfront at unwarranted speculative risk.

      Then there’s Otago Regional Council, Port Otago and Chalmers Properties… not exactly clear what they’re up to presently.

      • Register to read DScene online at

        ### DScene 17 Apr 2013
        Scathing comments defended
        By Wilma McCorkindale
        Apartments in the proposed hotel for Dunedin’s waterfront could end up being occupied by Chinese students – or anybody else who wants them – project spokesman solicitor Steve Rodgers says.
        Rodgers fronts for Betterways Advisory, a company owned by Chinese woman Jing Song, which is proposing to build the 28-storey, five-star Dunedin Hotel on an industrial site a stone’s throw from the city’s inner harbour.
        This week he defended scathing commentary about the project, levelled by Otago artist Grahame Sydney.
        In an article called Heartbreak Hotel sent to DScene, Sydney voiced several concerns, many already played out during a recent consent hearing – including the hotel’s ability to achieve economically viable occupancy rates.
        Sydney believed Betterways was targeting the lucrative international student market, specifically Chinese students, by including 164 apartments in the project.
        “Are the apartments included to guarantee a dependable income stream which the hotel can never achieve?” he wrote, adding later, “these many floors of high rise cells will be aimed at the wealthy parents of Chinese students, little more than another hostel for the privileged and temporary occupants of university seats.”
        Betterways was looking at the Chinese student market for the stand-alone apartments that were not part of the hotel operation, Rodgers said. However, the company was not specifically targeting international students.
        {continues} #bookmark

        ● Grahame Sydney’s article was too long for publication in DScene. It will be posted at on the Dunedin page, along with other content from DScene.

        What if? notes:
        The New Zealand Companies Office register entry for Betterways Advisory Ltd (3142026) states Stephen Rodgers is the sole director, with LMW Trust Limited (3141813) as the shareholder. Ms Jing Song is not mentioned in the register in connection with either entity.

        • Updated Comment 3:53pm
          A tag has been added to Cannan’s article at Online:
          “This is an excerpt from Dave Cannan’s column The Wash in the print ODT.”

          As sent to ODT Online: NOT PUBLISHED

          [remember when former ODT reporter David Loughrey gave his own opinion (stadium related) a couple of years back and it went out as news via the subeditors — now, the Day Editor Dave Cannan tries it on, plus or minus the subeditors]

          Journalist opinion
          Submitted by ej kerr on Wed, 17/04/2013 – 10:17am.

          The article features here as “Dunedin News”, yet fast devolves into journalist opinion. It’s not marked clearly as Opinion, as we’ve come to expect of the Opinion pages.

          Temporary public art is not the same as the Harbour Mouth Molars (2010) or the Haka Peep Show (2011). Sorry!

          The journalist might like to research the artist’s outputs, rather than try burst the balloon, glibly.

          Thankfully, it’s not the Gelber LuftBallon (name given by the artist) that falls flat.

          ### ODT Online Wed, 17 Apr 2013
          Up, up and away with hotel debate
          By Dave Cannan
          Scientific it may not have been, but I still found Melbourne artist Shane McGrath’s yellow balloon demonstration on Monday an interesting addition to the ongoing debate about the proposed $100 million waterfront hotel.
          So we’ve decided to add a little more context to yesterday’s main front-page photograph by getting our artist to drop in an approximation of what the 28-storey, 96m-high building might look like, when viewed from Highgate Bridge.
          What do you think?
          Reaction to our story, especially on our website, was, in the main, supportive of Shane’s ”artistic, research-based project”, designed to show, roughly, how high the hotel would be.
          I didn’t really take too seriously the reference to ”art” but Shane tells me the launching of his ”Gelber Luftballon” is all part of an exhibition at the Blue Oyster Art Project Space, due to open next Tuesday.
          Powerful stuff, art. I guess we can now add Shane’s balloon to Dunedin’s other provocative installations such as the Harbour Mouth Molars (2010) and the Haka Peep Show (2011).
          ODT Link + Video (from balloon)

        • Heavens ABOVE, ODT Online published my petty snivelling at 3:37pm

          Shane McGrath Blue Oyster (ballon video) 15-4-13 screenshot arl[screenshot]

        • Another little ODT-unpublished number.

          Yellow balloon
          Submitted by ej kerr on Fri, 19/04/2013 – 12:18pm.
          The effects of the McGrath research(!) this week have not only included tricky camera and video work, colloquialised comparisons of building height, a forthcoming exhibition at Blue Oyster Art Project Space, but also – (yes!) an intense series of parallel and conflicting love-hate conversations across the city. On hard to win topics such as “good and bad design”, satire, cultural heritage landscape, ART, tall buildings – in and out of context, scrupulous/unscrupulous developers, dreaded impositions, architects ‘from somewhere else’, court action, DCC’s red carpet worn thin, borderline excitement (2001, a space odyssey…), independent commissioners, building foundations, political backing, THE FUTURE (!!!), despair, Tartan Mafia, ‘build it and they will come’, hotels v apartments, cheap overseas building labour, trust equals distrust (?), gift horses, sick politics, ticket-clippers, MORE TOWERS (!!!), tumult, naive women, obstructed views, Dunedin needs Help, glazing systems, reflectivity, slabs (that aren’t peanuts, but cheap), deconstruction, and so on. Amazing what a benign ‘gelber luftballon’ cast at the sky for a couple of hours can do to raise temperature, and ideas of… well, value and worth.

          Against a decision that is [possibly] already made, for. Is any of this scientific.

        • [Oh wait! Comment published over 24 hours later — 20 April at 3:32pm ODT Link]

          Minus, my last line – not noted as abridged:

          Against a decision that is [possibly] already made, for. Is any of this scientific.

  8. Peter

    So, Dave, you want the same architectural recipe for all our cities to ‘distinguish’ them from each other? Some call this bland and dehumanising.

  9. Hype O'Thermia

    Anonymous, the balloon story appeared here and on other news media. There’s a point where it just looks incompetent, to ignore a highly unusual local story that isn’t staying nicely within the city walls.

  10. Pingback: 41 Wharf Street Developments | Spark Dunedin

  11. Elizabeth

    Gelber LuftBallon- Shane McGrath: Dunedin Research Project 2013

    As part of CNZ funded research project, artist Shane McGrath responded to the public reaction to a proposed high-rise hotel on the waterfront of Dunedin city. In a city that predominantly has low-rise, historic buildings, there was a shared concern that the 28-storey, [96]m high hotel would be unsympathetic to the surrounding architecture and destroy the city skyline. In order to show how high [96]m really is, McGrath constructed his own balloon and on the morning of April 15th 2013, with the assistance of several volunteers, sent the balloon aloft.

    For the exhibited outcome at Blue Oyster Gallery see the links below.

    Thanks to Blue Oyster Gallery, Creative New Zealand, Elizabeth Kerr, Veronica Stevenson

    Gelber LuftBallon- Shane McGrath: Dunedin Research Project at The Substation
    The Substation Contemporary Art Prize 2014
    Gelber LuftBallon- Shane McGrath: Dunedin Research Project is currently on exhibition at the historic Substation, Centre for Art & Culture at Newport, Melbourne — Shane McGrath had been named an Exhibition Finalist for The Substation Contemporary Art Prize (SCAP) 2014. The exhibition runs from Saturday 16 August to Sunday 12 October. (Link)

    Blue Oyster 2013 promo Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin
    Shane McGrath’s ‘yellow balloon’ project at Dunedin is profiled in an essay by Elizabeth Kerr featured in the newly released Blue Oyster 2013 (105 pages). The book features a selection of documentation, critical writing and responses from local and national contributors and is designed to act as both an archive and a historical reference for Blue Oyster exhibitions, events, publications, talks, debates, openings, closings, offsite projects and performances. Link

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