The cost of Sydney's crazy, giant ribbon sculpture just exploded to $11.3 million

An impression of the new $11.3 million version of Cloud Arch in Sydney. Source: supplied

Three years after lord mayor Clover Moore announced the City of Sydney would spend $3.5 million on a soaring 50-metre high, ribbon-like steel sculpture by the Japanese artist Junya Ishigami spanning George Street in the CBD, the price of the project has more than trebled to $11.3 million.

The figure is $3.5 million more than the original $7.8 million budget for three public artworks the council planned to commission spending as it prepares to convert George Street into a pedestrian boulevard.

Plans for a $2.5 million oversized milk crate by Egyptian-born Sydney artist Hany Armanious in Belmore Park near Central Station were subsequently scrapped.

Today council released the revised design for Ishigami’s “Cloud Arch” saying it almost doubled in size after a number of technical challenges with the initial design.

The project is now eight metres higher at 58m and will use 140 tonnes of steel.

Moore blamed the increased size and a 43% rise in steel prices since December 2015 for the massive cost blowout.

City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore in 2014 when the original design was unveiled. Photo: Simon Thomsen

The sculpture is expected to be in place by March 2019. It will span from the QVB across George Street to the intersection with Park Street, with light rail and pedestrians moving underneath.

The council believes it will be a major tourism attraction similar to Chicago’s Cloud Gate and St Louis’ Gateway Arch.

Moore said Cloud Arch is the most significant artwork to be built in Australia for decades.

“Our residents and businesses have consistently told us they want more public artwork. Cloud Arch is our gift to the people of Sydney – a stunning marker of the day the city is finally handed back to its people,” she said.

The council said technical constraints under George Street involving rail, pedestrian and car tunnels altered the location of the sculpture’s footings, which in turn required alterations to the artwork’s structure. Delays in the light rail construction have also delayed the project and increased the cost.

The loop of the arch has also been enhanced to better frame Sydney Town Hall and QVB, council said.

Staff proposed covering the cost blowout by reallocating savings from the public domain budget and argued that the sculpture was still far cheaper than similar projects in Chicago and St Louis.

Moore said it will become one of the most photographed landmarks in Sydney.

“The value that this artwork will add to the city centre cannot be underestimated,” Moore said.

The cost blowout has already caused concern among some councillors, especially following the recent political fight with the state government over homeless people in Martin Place.

But the project has several high-profile backers, including Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe, who did not comment on the increased cost but said “Cloud Arch will be of interest to visitors and will add to the many attractions that Sydney has to offer.”

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said increase in the scale of the design will make it even more compelling.

“I have no doubt it will bring significant international attention to Sydney,” he said.

Council will meet next Tuesday, August 29, to consider the latest report on the sculpture project.

Cloud Arch looking east with the QVB on the left. Source: supplied

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