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Diving into design: Creating the world’s most iconic underwater experience

Artist Daniel Templeman smiling in black and white.
Wonder Reef sculpture artist Daniel Templeman. Image supplied by Daniel Templeman.

Wonder on the Gold Coast is an innovative and collaborative project between the City of Gold Coast, Subcon and large-scale sculptor Daniel Templeman. One of the key requirements from the City of Gold Coast was to make sure the attraction is iconic. With Dan Templeman’s creative expertise, Wonder Reef will be a truly iconic experience – he took the concept of buoyant reef sculptures and designed a phenomenal underwater experience to be discovered and enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

The journey to bring Wonder Reef to life will culminate soon when the purpose-built dive attraction is deployed 2.5 kilometres off The Spit, Main Beach, on the Gold Coast. The purpose-built attraction is a long-held project being delivered by the City of Gold Coast to diversify the tourism offering.

Daniel said “Wonder Reef is designed to provide an unreal underwater experience. It will inspire the public to get out in nature, get their dive ticket and interact with the living sculptures in a totally unique way. Explorers of the reef are unconstrained by gravity – which conceptually has enabled new dimensions for me as an artist.”

Sculptors always consider work in 360 degrees, but this mammoth project takes it even further as divers will view the living art reefs from all angles – above, below and also through! The mammoth steel flutes enable divers to explore the reefs in 360 degrees, swimming through them in an upwards spiral to get up close and personal with the intricate flora and fauna on their journey.


Artistic rendering of divers exploring Wonder Reef with abundant marine flora and fauna. Image supplied by the City of Gold Coast.
Artistic rendering of divers exploring Wonder Reef with abundant marine flora and fauna. Image supplied by the City of Gold Coast.

Each of the nine buoyant flutes are tethered to the seafloor by massive 72Te Reef Foundations which secure the reef in storms whilst providing habitat for reef-associated fish species with a deep dive experience down to 30m. The kinetic nature of the sculptures means they will gently move with the currents like a giant kelp forest. Openings, ledges and cryptic spaces allow light, currents and oxygen to flow through the sculptures, creating ideal habitats for flora and small fish and invertebrates. They also create a framing device to look through to different areas of the reef and discover flora and fauna in more detail. The large spacing between the flutes and foundations also becomes habitat for larger species of fish that will call Wonder Reef home. 

Our Founder and Director Matt Allen is ecstatic at the success of the collaboration. “Daniel really stretched our thinking throughout the process. There were aspects we needed to do technically to ensure the nine buoyant reef flutes would thrive in the environment, but he added so much depth to the concept by considering the aesthetics as well. One of the brief requirements was to make the project iconic – Daniel’s work enabled that.”


Three Rings sculpture in Suzhou, China by Daniel Templeman. Image supplied by Daniel Templeman.

Daniel’s portfolio of public art includes the Three Rings at Olympic Sports Park, Suzhou, China, Confluence at Brisbane Magistrates Court and Hyphen at the border at Tugun. He’s always been fascinated with gravity and his art often stands in defiance of it. The Gold Coast concept created the opportunity to explore this concept and convey ideas around weightlessness, buoyancy, ecosystem and space for a truly unique experience for visitors. 

Wonder Reef is an inspirational and immersive adventure unlike any other in the world. Every visitor to Wonder Reef will observe the living art through a new perspective – and repeat visitors have the opportunity for a completely different experience each time they come to explore it. 

Wonder Reef, a jointly funded project between the City of Gold Coast and the Queensland Government under its Growing Infrastructure Tourism Fund, will be deployed offshore in August 2021. Project delivery, overseen by the City, has involved securing Queensland and Commonwealth Government approvals including a permit under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, engagement with the local dive industry, statutory authorities, marine scientists and the tourism industry. The project needed to obtain a 50-year seabed lease from the Queensland Government for the dive precinct. A long-term commitment to the ecotourism venture includes ongoing environmental and engineering monitoring for the life of the dive attraction in accordance with approvals.

The reefs will develop into thriving ecosystems over the next 6-8 months before the world-class reef attraction opens to the public in early 2022. 

Learn more about Wonder Reef here.