The Gold Coast's Wonder Reef will be the world’s first purpose-built buoyant reef for tourists. Designed by sculptural artist Daniel Templeman, the City of Gold Coast and Subcon Blue Solutions, the reef, Templeman claims, marks “a new era of blue infrastructure.”

The reef’s public dive attraction, located 2.5km from The Spit at Main Beach, comprises nine conical steel sculptures that are connected to the seafloor by pyramid-shaped gravity anchors, weighing more than 738 tonnes in total.

“Wonder Reef signals a new era of blue infrastructure, where art, science and engineering meet to create an iconic intervention that supports marine diversity, environmental rejuvenation, tourism and creative expression,” Templeman says.

“The reef will capture the imagination and attention of not only divers, but also art-lovers, ar-chitects, engineers, eco-tourists and marine conservationists from across the globe.”

The 22m high vertical structures will create 32,000m3 of reef habitat with diving opportunities up to 30m.

“Over time, the living artworks will create a thriving ecosystem for marine flora and fauna communities to take centre stage, creating an underwater ‘hanging garden’ for divers to discover and explore,” Templeman says.

The $5 million attraction, jointly funded between the City and the Queensland Government, forms part of a 10-year vision by the City of Gold Coast. It is expected to attract over 16,000 visitors to the city each year and more than $32 million in tourism investment in its first decade of opening .

Templeman’s notable sculptures include  His iconic sculptures include Confluence at Brisbane Magistrates Court, the red beacon on the QLD/NSW border at Tugun and the triangular formation at the entry to North Sydney. More often than not, Templeman’s works have become icons of their local communities. 

While Wonder Reef adopts Templeman’s signature ‘unfurling’ style, he says it takes public art to new depths.

“The evolution of Wonder Reef as a sculpture is exciting. Prior to the reef being installed, there were no rocky outcrops or opportunities for life to take hold at the site. Now, we have art creating architecture for a community of sea life where it was previously barren.”

Templeman says the sculptures are created in a manner that exaggerates the phenomenon of buoyancy. Each flute is submerged approximately seven metres below the water’s surface and is accessible to all levels of divers.

“Compliance meant we had to design the reef to withstand a once-in-200-year wave, which is 18.5 meters — that’s almost double the Boxing Day tsunami,” he says. 

“During a storm or when an enormous wave comes through, the sculptures are designed to swivel and move with the ocean’s energy.

"On diveable days, when the swell is under 1.5m, you won't actually perceive them moving at all, but all of that movement oxygenates the plant life which attracts sea life to feed from them, so the sculptures become symbiotic with the ocean.”

Templeman describes the artificial reef as “nine beacons of optimism and invention”.

“I feel quite privileged to be part of this world-first project, but my feeling is that there will be more,” he says.

“I can't wait to dive the reef and experience the sculptures being buoyant in the water, swimming around them and witnessing them from every conceivable angle. I think it will in-spire other artists to think about what they create and where.”

The reef site will undergo up to eight months of monitoring and testing to meet approvals and diver safety before it opens in early 2022.