Monday, 12 March 2012

MELBOURNE FIRE BRIGADE MOSAIC

On the City fringe, on the northeastern side is the Eastern Hill Fire Station. On this site are both the old fire station built in 1893 and now a museum, and also the newer headquarters of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. On the southern, Albert Street side is a giant mosaic mural that makes use of the concrete fa├žade. The mural is made up of over 1 million glass tiles and is titled, ‘The Legend of Fire’. The mural moves from the tales of the Greek Gods, to modern man’s use of fire in science and technology and also, importantly, man’s constant battle with fire.

The mural, commissioned by the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade, was started in 1980 and completed in 1982. The designer and director was Harold Freedman, while the work was carried out by master tiler Tony Barese, Joe Attard and David Jack. There is a narrative unfolding in this mural, beginning at the top and going down. It's an epic spanning centuries, so it takes up about four storeys. 




The Legend of Fire is part romance, fantasy, horror, drama and, according to the huge mosaic, not much comedy. Characters include the wayward Phaeton, who rode his father's (Helios - the sun-god) chariot too close to Earth and started a tragic blaze, raising the ire of Zeus, the most powerful god of them all. A carefully placed bolt of lightning, and the reckless Phaeton was burnt to cinders and order restored to the earth and heavens.
Phaeton and Zeus
Prometheus put his heart before his head and stole fire from mighty Zeus to warm the hearts and minds of cave dwellers. Zeus soothed feelings of disrespect by punishing Prometheus through shackling him to a mountaintop and have a bird of prey come and feast on his liver daily. Ultimately, Prometheus was liberated by Hercules.
Prometheus stealing fire form the gods and giving it to humans
Once fire was gifted to humans, they used it to become civilised as is shown by the left lower panel of the mural. Human industry through using fire is illustrated in the many vignettes of the left side of the panel. The right side of this panel shows fire out of control causing havoc and destruction. The role of firefighters in controlling the blaze is highlighted on the right side of the panel.


That's where Pandora came in. She created a fair bit of havoc after being sent by Zeus to Earth, succumbing to curiosity and opening that little box of miseries. Her relationship to fire rates a big mention in the glowing scenes. This bottom right panel continues the theme of fiery destruction, even showing an erupting volcano and the atom bomb (right).


The mural, made up of glass tiles each painstakingly and individually placed, has a religious tone, with Zeus sitting atop scenes of sufferers, heroes and villains. Mosaic is almost indestructible, so if the station burns down there will be a reminder!

This post is part of the Monday Murals meme.

21 comments:

  1. What an amazing, fascinating mural and epic, Nick! Superb captures! Thanks so much for the history and the photos!

    Sylvia

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  2. Your ending sentence made me smile Nick, lets hope the station stands for many years to come. The mural is just beautifully put together, such a fabulous piece of artwork you don't usually find on a fire station.

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  3. That is just amazing. Wonderful colors too.

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  4. What a dramatic mural. Great pics!

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  5. I'm impressed with this mural, Nick. Very dramatic!

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  6. That's a wonderfully elaborate mural - with Blue AND Red! Woo Hoo!!

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  7. Wow! The mural and the history of it are fascinating, and the work is superb! Thank you SO much for taking the time to explain all the parts - there is so much to see, I imagine one could look at it for a long time and still not see it all! Wonderful capture!

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  8. Don't know what impresses me more:
    A Firebrigade that commissions a work of art of that magnitude, or the artwork itself.
    And of course your brilliant reportage and illustrations of this.

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  9. This mural has plenty of detail. No wonder it took two years to complete.

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  10. This is very special, can imagine it took two years to paint it.

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  11. A really neat way to look at mythology. They should bring the school kids here for a visual lesson. I really like it!

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  12. You are right - not much humour! But a wonderful reminder of an epic tale.

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  13. Wonderful - and a great presentation of it Nick!

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  14. BEAUTIFUL!
    Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Absolutely beautiful. Very elaborate for a fire station. Thank you for all of the wonderful information as well.

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  16. This is a tour de force. Incredible public art thanks to your fire brigade. I am in awe of the composition and the execution in mosaic tiles. Thanks for the guided viewing. Thanks also for participating in this week's Monday Mural.

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  17. Nick, with each of your posts, I am amazed at your city , and those who administer it, and those artists who enhance the place. and all those citizens who live there.

    This legend is so interesting. Indians give a lot of importance to the Fire God. We salute the God in our daily prayers.

    Thanks.

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  18. cette mosaique est magnifique, une superbe creation et impressionnante


    Publicity ;o) Every Friday (and the Weekend), The Challenge "Walk In The Street Photography"

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  19. It's marvellous. I have some old shots of this.

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  20. Beautiful mosaic, driving by I never noticed its details. Nice photos.

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