Team Wins Suffrage-Themed Public Artwork
Author: Heidi North
'Soapbox', a striking architectural sculpture designed in celebration of women's suffrage in New Zealand, will be unveiled in Killarney Park, Takapuna on 25 May, 2019.
Situated on a sloping site overlooking Lake Pupukemoana (Pupuke), ‘Soapbox’, was designed by all-women team Olivia Collinson, Vanessa Coxhead, Stephanie Darlington, Prue Fea, Jayne Kersten, and Madeleine Racz, in collaboration with Jasmax.
The sculpture, composed of steel and deeply pigmented glass reinforced concrete, depicts a large raised dais or speaking platform. The refined nature of the sculpture’s form, and its intricate patterning and textured surfaces, are a reinterpretation of the traditional ‘soapboxes’ used by suffragettes in the 1800s to spread messages about the vote for women. At approximately four metres long and up to three metres wide, ‘Soapbox’ is designed to be both interactive and contemplative; to be observed, stood on or sat upon by the public.
Inspiration for its design was drawn from a quote by suffragette Kate Sheppard: ‘Because women are endowed with a more constant solicitude for the welfare of the rising generations, thus giving them a more far-reaching concern for something beyond the present moment’. (Ten reasons why the women of New Zealand should vote, 1888)
Senior Architect, Prue Fea, says: “Our design pays homage to Kate Sheppard’s persuasive speaking skills and reflects our gratitude to the women who have paved the way for women like us to live self-determined lives. By creating a raised platform to view the lake, we want people to feel empowered and to take a long view of history, one that encompasses the past and future generations. We believe that the voices of women and indigenous people are critical in shaping the future of a sustainable world.”
The dynamic form of ‘Soapbox’, which cost $55,000 to design and fabricate, was designed to emerge from the sloping site at Killarney Park, as if growing up and out to create a solid foundation to ‘empower whoever chooses to journey to its edge’.
Architect Stephanie Darlington explains: “Rather than an impromptu act on a makeshift platform, this evolution references the considered and articulate public speeches of the suffragettes in favour of the women’s vote. The nearby Pumphouse Theatre has established the park as a place for boldness and creative expression. This is continued in the possibility that ‘Soapbox’ presents as a place for rhetoric.”
The deep colour of the sculpture is a nod to the heritage of the volcanic land surrounding Lake Pupuke, and also references ideas behind the soapbox as a platform of strength, expression and empowerment.