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Nicole Larkin

Alumni Award for Cultural Contribution
Using technology and innovative techniques, Nicole is creating 3D models and data sets that could help preserve our nation's ocean pools.
Nicole Larkin

Most Australians head for the beach in summer. Not Nicole Larkin (BDesArch ’11 MArch ’14). In August of 2017, she hired a campervan and, husband in tow, hit the Pacific Highway. But instead of surfboards and fins, she had packed cutting edge technology, including cameras, drones and CAD software. The architect-sculptor was planning to spend six weeks surveying the coastal ocean pools of New South Wales.

Her goal was to create 3D models and datasets that could be used to preserve the pools – some of which are 200 years old – or maybe even construct new ones. She chose to go in winter because she needed a clean, empty space to get accurate data.

The information she gathered during trip has become a project called The Wild Edge. It began in 2013 as part of her Master of Architecture at the University of Sydney, after a discussion with her tutor Dagmar Reinhardt about Australian beach culture. Much has been written about ocean pools and their cultural and historical significance. But Nicole still felt something was missing.

“Ocean pools have been looked at from a lot of angles,” she says. “But no one had ever attempted to document them from an architectural standpoint and I thought, I’m an architect, my domain is design. I’m going to look at them from that aspect.”

Her trip up the coast gave her a vast amount of important information, including beautiful aerial photographs and fun interactive 3D models of the pools that allow viewers to effectively see under water – and under rock too. It’s a fascinating and invaluable cache of information that is accessible to anyone looking to conserve an ocean pool.

Since graduating from the University of Sydney, Nicole has worked with Tzannes architects whilst also pursuing projects like The Wild Edge, and the creation of her large-scale sculptures. In keeping with the oceanic theme, two of her works have been shown at Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi.

For the 2016 exhibition, she created Dynamics in Impermanence, a freestanding pavilion made of laser-cut birch plywood. Installed on the headland near MacKenzies Beach, the elegant structure cast a webbed silhouette as the sun travelled overhead.

She says it was the University’s “fantastic workshop” that helped give life to her sculptures.

“We were very much encouraged to try new things and experiment with laser cutters, 3D printers, plywood and engineered material. It’s a total credit to the University that they supported all of that.”

Nicole grew up in Sydney’s inner west, but like many Australians, her family spent holidays on the coast and the ocean has played a central role in her adult life. Now it’s not the holidays, but her projects that draw her entire family to the seashore.

“I remember on installation day for the second Sculpture by the Sea, I had the whole family there and sandwiches were brought and people were pitching in. And thank god that I have that help! I really love having a way to involve them in the work I do.”