Moss poetry: a typographic garden in Paddington

Paddington Reservoir moss poetry

Locally sourced mud and moss was used to create an outdoor gallery of poetry on the walls of Sydney’s iconic Paddington Reservoir Gardens.

The typographic installation, Modern Day Mossages, features words and phrases by emerging Sydney poets pays tribute to John Thompson – founder of Australia’s first resident action group, the Paddington Society.

Modern Day Mossages is the brainchild of Popperbox, a collective of Sydney artists with backgrounds in illustration, design, fine art, comics and software engineering. The original Popperbox team includes Matt Huynh, Tak Tran, Wil Loeng, Kevin Vo, Tina Tran and Haline Ly.

Haline Ly in collaboration with Sonya Gee and Wil Loeng created a moss poem on the reservoir walls that quietly explores growth, nourishment, rejuvenation and the future.

“The typography is made up of living moss, which we attached to the wall using a mixture of heavy clay soil, beer and yoghurt,” says Ly. The designers enlisted the help of artistic horticulturalist Danielle Collier to determine where the moss would grow best, and together spent hours collecting moss for the piece. “This whole project is a little bit of an experiment so we’re not entirely sure if the moss will survive. We’re maintaining it daily, watering it every morning and giving it a little bit of love in hope that it will grow,” Ly adds.

The City of Sydney invited Expressions of Interest from artistic and creative groups to design temporary art installations, photographic or other exhibitions. Modern Day Mossages is one of three projects which will help activate the space over the next 12 months.

The Paddington Reservoir Gardens were given an extensive makeover, transforming the historic ruin into a new public playground with a water feature fish pond, lawns, flower beds and shaded seating.

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Designed by the City Engineer, Edward Bell, the Paddington Reservoir was a key element in Sydney’s early water supply. The former underground reservoir consisted of two 1,023 square metre chambers built in 1866 and 1878 respectively.

The historic reservoir structure reopened in 2009 after a $10 million restoration which includes a sunken garden within the ruins of the western chamber, preserved vivid graffiti art in the eastern chamber and architectural lighting highlighting beautiful timber work and stunning stone throughout the site.