Francisco Carbajal with a model of Unified Peaks. Photo / Babiche Martens

Have You Seen Francisco Carbajal's Twisting, Sparkling Sculpture?

On Waiheke Island, the eco-passionate designer's piece mirrors the push and pull of the ocean

The wellbeing of the environment and a frustration at the way the building industry treats it is at the heart of Francisco Carbajal’s dynamic Sculpture on the Gulf work. Unified Peaks is Francisco’s ode to protecting the island he grew up on and where he still lives.

“Waiheke is such a beautiful place, you don’t understand how lucky you are until you meet others who’ve grown up in the city,” he says. “I feel this huge connection to the moana. It provides so much here, in terms of activities and food. It’s a huge part of our lives.”

The high-profile biennial exhibition is the ideal platform for this eco-passionate designer. His piece is intended to spark conversation about the way in which we build things, the twisting and sparkling of his large warped panels mirroring the push and pull of the surrounding ocean.

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Unified Peaks is crafted from materials scavenged from building sites and then upcycled: old scaffolding poles and plastic strapping woven into perforated screens.

“It’s looking at materials on the fringe of construction sites that you don’t normally repurpose or reuse,” he explains, referring to the cast-offs that would otherwise be destined for the tip. “By finding new ways to use them we will hopefully encourage a new type of thinking.”

Excessive waste, along with an average buildings’ high embodied energy — the energy used to manufacture a product — has been of huge concern to the designer during the 10 years he’s been in the industry, and which he’s now committed to improving through his work with his eco-focused architecture practice, FNC Designs.

He even wrote his Master of Architecture thesis on the topic, arguing that New Zealand’s focus on reducing carbon emissions needs to expand to incorporate these considerations, alongside better understanding and treatment of what happens to materials at the end of their life, something he hopes legislation will one day address.

“There’s not a huge understanding or knowledge of the impact of materials,” he says.

Proceeds from the sale of his sculpture will go to developing his new architectural tool, LCAlink (combining CAD software and a construction materials database), to help streamline the process of calculating a building’s carbon footprint.

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He acknowledges there are plenty of businesses out there that want to improve their practices but implementing some of these changes is often time-consuming, costly and complex. But he envisages the new tool as a starting point from which to investigate more sustainable options or offsetting solutions.

In the meantime, Francisco hopes his dynamic sculpture will encourage people to reflect on the immediate — and not-so-immediate — environment.

“It’s smooth but it’s also violent. You can also apply that to the industry — there are good sides and bad sides.”

Sculpture on the Gulf runs until March 27, Matiatia Coastal Walkway, Waiheke Island. Entry $15pp. For details, go to

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New Zealand Herald

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