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Monday, March 14, 2011

How Scary Will the New Transbay Transit Center Sculpture Be?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Courtesy of Tim Hawkinson and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
  • Courtesy of Tim Hawkinson and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

It's reasonable to expect that the transformation of the now-destroyed structure once known as San Francisco's Transbay Terminal into a glistening new hub for high-speed rail will be for the best. In its final years, the old Transbay Terminal had become a de facto homeless shelter and generally scary Greyhound Bus terminal.

Yet it appears that the terminal's replacement, to be called the Transbay Transit Center, will have its unsettling aspects as well. Last week, the San Francisco Arts Commission and Transbay Joint Powers Authority announced that contemporary artist Tim Hawkinson has been selected to design a giant sculpture (see artist's rendering, above) for the new facility that will greet commuters at the corner of Mission and Fremont streets. While the design is still only conceptual in nature, it promises to be imposing, if not slightly ominous.

The sculpture will be built from chunks of rubble salvaged from the old Transbay Terminal. These will be shaped into what Hawkinson describes as a 41-foot-tall "guardian figure" inspired by the Native American inuksuit, stacks of stones that served as landmarks and navigational tools in the Arctic.

"I would encourage people to reserve judgments as to the aesthetics of it until we get a better working model of what it will look like," says Arts Commission Director of Cultural Affairs Luis Cancel.

"It's not going to be a subtle piece of work," he acknowledges. "It's an attention-grabber."

The sculpture is one of multiple public art projects that will adorn the Transbay Transit Center, including a floor painting and light installation.

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Peter Jamison


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