An artistic vision brought to life
Inspired by the concept of a hot air balloon rising in the sky, nine reef sculptures become larger towards the surface, like oxygen bubbles rising in the ocean. Wonder Reef has been designed to attract and sustain a rich diversity of marine life and withstand cyclonic conditions yet appear light, buoyant and floating in the ocean. Over time, complex marine communities will take centre stage, creating a ‘hanging garden’ for divers to explore and admire.
This world first buoyant design is the outcome of a collaboration between global reef experts Subcon Blue Solutions, large scale sculptural artist Daniel Templeman and the City of Gold Coast, with specialist input from around the world.
A marvel in the making
A wondrous design
At a depth of 30 metres, Wonder Reef’s nine buoyant sculptures soar almost 22 metres above the sea floor. The kinetic nature of the reef sculptures allows them to move with the energy of the ocean, like a giant kelp forest. Cryptic spacing between the reefs and vertical upwelling attracts marine flora and fauna to provide an intriguing dive experience.
A reef of resilience
The outcome of almost 15 months of complex technical analysis and detailed design, Wonder Reef is an extraordinary feat of engineering. This resilient reef has been built to withstand the harsh marine environment including cyclonic maximum wave heights of over 18 metres.
An environmental wonder
The environmental benefits of Wonder Reef are positive with the creation of 32,000 cubic metres of new reef habitat in a previously barren seabed.
The reef is made from uncoated steel to maximise marine growth. Between eight and ten aluminium anodes, weighing 150kg each, are attached to each reef to protect the steel structures from corrosion. The use of environmentally friendly geopolymer concrete helped minimise Wonder Reef’s carbon footprint.
Reef foundations, weighing more than 72 tonne and taller than a bus, gravity anchor the reef sculptures to the seabed, eliminating the need for piling like typical offshore structures.
This new underwater frontier aims to inspire greater appreciation of the marine environment and provide opportunities for globally significant education and research.
An extraordinary feat
Key challenges included the sheer size of the structures and complexity of the conical reef shapes. Steel fabricators converted design drawings into fabrication templates similar to a dress pattern. Fabrication involved more than 2000 person hours over six months, working with 144 tonnes of steel and 298 cubic metres of geopolymer concrete weighing about 702 tonnes.
Given the immense weight of each 80 tonne structure, Australia’s largest floating crane was used to install the reef.