The majestic building of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, complete with a beautiful façade and decorated with the Greco-Roman styled columns, is an iconic landmark of the city. By its attractive looks, the building creates an innate desire to enter the library and discover the unknown treasure trove of wonders that it preserves for the interested persons. However, before setting a single step inside, it would be interesting to explore the lawn of this grand library where stand many significant sculptures.
Initially, the grassy lawn in front of the library's grand entrance on Swanston Street was enclosed by a picket fence, which was subsequently replaced by a wrought iron fence, along with gates in the 1870s. However, the lawn became an open space, when the fences were removed and diagonal pathways were created in 1939. The forecourt includes a number of significant statues, which include the strange sculpture of a building sinking into the ground.
The sinking building, known as the architectural Fragment, symbolizing the downfall of civilization, was designed in bluestone by the Dutch artist Petrus Spronk as part of the Swanston Walk Public Art Project and was installed on the pavement on 12 January 1993. Taking inspiration from the Greek mathematician Pythagoras and the Pythagorean Theorem, Spronk wanted his bluestone piece to resemble the portico of the library sinking into the pavement. At the first glimpse, it seems that a huge building is being swallowed in quicksand and only the top corner of the building is peeking out from the sidewalk. It seems that the weight of the huge number of books in the library is responsible for its sinking.
The strange and unusual piece of art was commissioned by the local council as part of the city’s art program and it is a nod to the old college campus lore about failed architectural design. Originally, the significance of the sinking building was explained as the crushing weight of knowledge that the students are expected to learn. However, the myth has evolved from the story of dorms sinking because of the students and their furniture or gyms sinking due to the weight of the water in the pools. Nevertheless, it is probably not a very comfortable sight to see different things halfway into the ground.