From Covid, to Vivid
Pulse, Patterns in Nature, and navigating a cancelled festival


Whether you live in Sydney or simply just browsed the ‘Sydney’ tag on Instagram, then you’re sure to have come across Vivid – the annual light, music and ideas festival that dominates the city centre for the best part of 2-weeks in winter.
The nightly display of colour and noise, and the experience of weaving your way through endless dense crowds is something that everyone should experience at least once. As a designer, seeing the distinct light sculptures and vast projections dominating the buildings is highly inspirational – this is the kind of design that stops you in your tracks and forces you watch in admiration.

So, imagine the feeling of a first-year design student who is given the opportunity to take part in all of this!

In late 2019, I worked on and developed sculptures for Vivid 2020 as part of a university elective with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). It was a highly collaborative effort and alongside 16 other students we set out to develop four large scale, multi-media light sculptures, each representing one of the classical elements – earth, wind, air and fire. Our group of four chose earth. Seeing this as an opportunity to draw on more than just rocks and gems, we pushed our thinking towards nature, and the living and breathing aspects of earth. Our plan was simple in theory – construct a tree made entirely of recycled metal.

What followed was a 12-week process, extending past our deadline and working deep into early 2020. As our group grew smaller, leaving us with just 13 collaborators, our tree design grew and adapted, building off a central structure to create an organic twisted design. Over time it continued to change and evolve, growing longer roots for stability, and a glowing heart created out of melted plastic.


The process was arduous – days of work would be taken down, then put back up again in a different position, then taken down once more. After that came the complex electronics and coding, all under the watchful eyes of the Vivid curators, until finally we had a sculpture we were proud of. ‘Patterns in Nature’ was born and ‘Pulse’, the living breathing tree, was lit up. With a winding trunk coated in metal and chain, twisted metal roots covered in rusty gears and streams of light beating out of its glowing plastic heart, it was a sculpture that truly felt alive.

Sadly however, we were interrupted, by natural causes. This sculpture was originally made for Vivid 2020, which was, of course, cancelled. We resubmitted in 2021 and were cancelled once again. While not officially part of the Vivid 2022 line-up, UTS decided to run a separate satellite event, allowing our sculptures to finally see the light of day after two and a half years.

With many of us having graduated by this point, the installation at UTS felt like an appropriate send-off from university life, but more importantly the culmination of the biggest project any of us had ever worked on.

Seeing the sculptures built, wired, and coded up and running was a fantastic feeling. It was beautiful to watch kids run up, point and yell, and see people stop to take photos of our work.



As many designers will attest to, working on such a huge project can be a rollercoaster of emotions – many days we would be frustrated and exhausted with aching legs and sore backs. But as brutal as the design process can be at times, creating something beautiful and impactful is always worth the blood, sweat and tears – you forget about the frustration and find yourself sitting and just watching the lights.

Written by:
Jude Horsburgh,
Experience Designer