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Engineering thriving marine communities creates a tourism oasis

23 September 2021

Innovative engineering fuses art with nature to ensure the living dive attraction Wonder Reef creates thriving marine communities. 

“The attraction will be educational as well as recreational – almost giving the feeling of swimming through a mystical marine forest”, said Doug Treloar, the Consulting Engineer for the City of Gold Coast from engineering firm Cardno. 

“It’s the first time engineering of this nature has been used for the tourism industry rather than for oil and gas and marine habitat projects. In depth analysis of met-ocean parameters and movements of the Dive Attraction Flutes was required to ensure ultimate safety of the divers as they swim through the underwater sculptures, as well as long term serviceability.”

A world first for dive tourism and engineered reefs alike, Wonder Reef is a buoyant underwater living sculpture garden designed to withstand the challenging marine environment off-shore of Main Beach on the Gold Coast. 

The underwater living sculptures – designed by Subcon for the City of Gold Coast in collaboration with Daniel Templeman – fused art science and engineering to create one of the world’s most epic, must-see dive holiday destinations.

To ensure the reef could survive in one of Australia’s harshest marine environments, Core Marine was contracted to carry out hydrodynamic modelling of the structures. In doing so, they studied how the buoyant sculptures move in the dynamic wave conditions and how the corresponding forces interact with the structures and marine communities. Core Marine considered every detail, from the amount of ballast to the buoyancy and tethering length to ensure the dynamic sculptures can safely withstand the cyclonic storm conditions.

“Wonder Reef is built on Subcon’s proven expertise in engineering with nature to build thriving marine  ecosystems. Over many years we have experimented and refined our reef designs to maximise the benefits provided to the marine environment. In turn, this enables ocean communities to thrive in harmony – including diverse marine flora and fauna, dive visitors, marine scientists, research institutions and local economies,” said Matthew Allen, Founder of Subcon. 

Specifically designed ledges and openings, combined with the kinetic nature of the sculptures and wave forces will enable a diverse ecosystem to be established. Eventually, the structure will take a backseat to the marine flora and fauna as it flourishes over time. 

Safety and environmental considerations are also of the utmost importance to all project stakeholders. The team considered the end-user experience so vessels can safely be moored alongside the reef and divers of all experience levels can access the attraction at different depths.

Wonder Reef provides a unique tourist experience to the Gold Coast, with opportunities for visitors of all abilities and experience to enjoy and discover the abundant marine life. The iconic sculptures have been successfully installed and will be open to the public in early 2022.

Learn more about Wonder Reef here.

Project Credits

Daniel Templeman 

City of Gold Coast 

Subcon Technologies Pty Ltd  

Core Marine

Think Structural 



Media enquiries: Matt Allen | +61 422 267 244 |