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Sculpture Jason deCaires Taylor’s Museum of Underwater Art in Australia is a stunning work of climate-change activism

He’s on a mission to “change how we view our natural worlds.”

Sculpture Jason deCaires Taylor’s Museum of Underwater Art in Australia is a stunning work of climate-change activism
[Illustration: Matt Chinworth]

As a marine sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor has made the ocean his showroom of choice: He has installed more than a thousand cement sculptures in marine “museums” around the world, from Indonesia to Mexico. In April, he debuted two of his most ambitious—and technically challenging—installations yet, as part of the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which will eventually encompass four artworks. On a mission, he says, to “change how we view our natural worlds,” Taylor’s pieces incorporate elements that convey how warming ocean temperatures are devastating marine life. His Ocean Siren sculpture, for example, a stainless steel and acrylic figure of a young girl that rises above the water off a pier in northern Queensland, has solar-powered lights that change color, in real time, based on the water temperature in the nearby reef. The sculpture turns dark red when temperatures reach levels that can cause coral bleaching, offering a bleak visual cue to people onshore to what’s happening beyond their sight. Here’s a closer look at Taylor’s other completed MOUA installation, the Coral Greenhouse.

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An Underwater Greenhouse

The A-frame Coral Greenhouse—the largest MOUA installation—is set on the sea floor of the John Brewer Reef and is accessible to snorkelers and scuba divers, who can swim through the 137-ton structure to view it up close.

Science Class

Taylor plans to install monitors to record indicators of the reef’s health, such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity. “When tourists scuba dive the site, it will evolve from being a water-sports activity to both a marine science and a cultural experience,” he says.

Life Aquatic

Instead of typical plants, this greenhouse grows coral. Taylor placed 22 sculptures of gardeners inside the structure. They—along with all of the greenhouse’s pots and shelves—are made of pH-neutral marine cement that is amenable to coral growth.

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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