River Derwent Heavy Metals Project

Tackling the problem of heavy metals pollution in the River Derwent.

river derwent heavy metals project
Tomb with crystal ceiling by Kit Wise.

“It requires a creative approach because we don't know what to do…We are essentially taking a depressing problem with no obvious solution and turning it into an opportunity for artists, architects and scientists to come together and see what innovative solutions they can create.” – Kirsha Kaechele, Project Founder, Tasmania Times, 3/10/13.

The Heavy Metals Project is a community and environment focused initiative facilitated by the Museum of Old and New Art that aims to raise public awareness of and provide creative solutions to, the problems associated with the extensive heavy metal pollution of the River Derwent in Hobart, Tasmania.  Operating at the nexus of architecture, art and science, the project plays three key roles; it communicates the pollution problem to the public; it actively contributes to the remediation of the contamination by providing a kind of storage site for extracted pollutants; and it provides a hub for the MONA summer market.

Heavy metals are extracted from the river by a troop of oysters that are placed into the Derwent. Once removed, the oysters are heroically encased into a concrete brick and then placed into the concrete ‘waffle’ walls. In the middle of the wall is a ‘tomb’ that slowly darkens as more oysters are placed into the holes of the concrete panels, becoming a reflective space to consider the effects of humans on the natural environment and the role that natural biological systems can make in the remediation of pollution problems.

MADA Investigators
Ross Brewin
Alyslia Bennett
A/Professor Kit Wise
Professor Callum Morton
Monash University Students

MONA Investigators
Kirsha Kaechele
Steve Devereaux
Nick O’Halloran

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
Dr Catriona Macleod, UTAS
Dr Christine Coughanowr, UTAS
Dr Ruth Eriksen, UTAS
Professor Peter Davies, UTAS
Bronagh Kelly, UTAS

Peter Fellicetti, Structural Engineering (Wall)
Dr Vicki Gardiner
Engineers Australia, Engineering (Hatchery)
Scott Parkinson
Shellfish Culture

Materials and Construction
Unique Earth, Rammed Earth
Steven Little Constructions, Concrete and Steel
Cordwell Lane, Timber
Aeden Howlett, Table Construction
MEGS lighting, Lighting
Tasmanian Oyster Company, Basket and Shell suppliers
Zsolt Faludi, Cadmium tiles

South side of wall.

Exterior overall.

Cadmium box with tiles by Zsolt Faludi.

Pre cast concrete panel details.

Northern shading and table.

Tomb entrance.

Tomb at night.

Wall at night.

Rammed earth wall detail.

Mercury vile – part of a work by Biatta Kelly.