Audiences in Melbourne are about to be transported, visually and aurally, to Antarctica, courtesy of architect and madcap technologist Roland Snooks. Today, his giant 3D-printed iceberg, Floe, glides into the Grand Hall of NGV International, part of the institution’s first-ever triennial. Comprising 70 individually printed polymer panels created by advanced automated robotic arms, the project builds on Snooks’​ research at RMIT University into complexity theory, which investigates how technological design processes can emulate naturally occurring forms. 

Polymer naturally possesses an ‘ice-like quality’, says Snooks ‘beautifully refracting and reflecting light’​ of the hall’s striking stained glass roof. Stretching over heads like an icy canopy, the sculpture evokes both terror and awe. In turn, it highlights essential issues around climate change by celebrating the mythic beauty of ice formations, that one day, might only be remembered by their artificial 3D printed counterparts.

The work was inspired by a haunting soundscape by Philip Samartzis, which resonates around Floe in the Great Hall. Samartzis traversed Antarctica in 2016, recording the groans and cracks created by shifting ice shelves. It’​s both Samartzis and Snooks aim that Floe doesn’t become a glacial memorial. They hope the work challenges the perception of Antarctica as ‘an unchanging landscape, suspended in time and place’​, instead emphasising its fragility, and our responsibility to preserve it.