LOOKOUT is the foundation stone for a new place and a new community. It encourages a relationship with the ocean and the horizon: the sculpture faces out towards the Bay to the lively silhouette of San Francisco’s Downtown. Its singular body stands for the collective body; it is offered in the spirit of a friendly contribution to the neighborhood and will accompany its growth. In its attitude, the sculpture is alert, alive and attentive. It is a lookout, encourages looking out and itself looks out.
Its form is a translation of a tall twisting body, with one arm comfortably clasped to the chest and the other, hanging loose. Whilst being monumental in dimension and mass, it is as playful as a tower built by a child from blocks of wood. Individual representation is replaced by the overall feel or set of the body, using a bold, simple and stable structure to celebrate the relationship between body and ground.
The sculptural language is derived from the ‘Blockworks’ series that I have been developing over 20 years, which tries to physicalize the pixel. Over time, the blocks have become increasingly bolder and larger. The mutual relationship of these bigger blocks has become more playful, allowing cantilever, propping, and pier and lintel construction. The work demands a certain engagement with the interplay of masses in creating the balance of form and feeling. In a time of increasing mobility and virtuality, this mass of material insists on first-hand experience.
Inspiration for LOOKOUT has come from fundamental architectural structures, whether the Cyclopean walls of Mycenae, the Trilithons of Stonehenge, or the buildings of Mies van der Rohe. The essential forms of architecture are here translated through modernism into a tectonic structure, in which each piece plays its part in a dynamic whole.
Treasure Island is a land reclamation project originally made to celebrate the Pan-American world; it is literally an island made of sand. In dialogue with this, LOOKOUT will be literally rooted. The Waterfront Plaza position on the axis of California Avenue is the perfect site for a work that can be viewed from afar and enjoyed close up. The slabs, stacked to make a tall vertical structure, become a foil for the flatness of the Bay, the promenade and the horizon. It will be the first imaginative object that visitors encounter; a way-marker clearly visible from the ferry to the left side of the terminal and seen by new arrivals as visitors step onto terra firma. Though tall, it has no plinth and shares its ground with all the walkers on the promenade. People are invited to sit on its massive feet. The effect of being close enough to touch the vast slabs of cast iron, this concentrated earth material, is powerful.
Solid cast iron is an appropriate and dynamic material from which to make a robust sculpture for Treasure Island. This material has proved itself in over 200 years of use in shipping and marine environments. On this scale, it will last more than 1000 years. It will react to exposure to the local elemental conditions and form a rich red organic surface, needing no maintenance.
The iron slab construction allows us to make a sculpture at scale and mass with achievable engineering. LOOKOUT will be cast and engineered in America. It will be 9 feet wide by 11 feet deep, 49 feet high, made in three parts, and will weigh 205 tons in total. The three parts will be joined by a spigot system that ensures stability. Below the paved surface there will be a pile and cap foundation, anticipated to consist of a cap of 12 by 12 by 2.5 feet deep, and 8 battered piles, 14 inches in diameter to a depth of 80 feet. Additionally, the foundation will include a base isolation system that will mitigate any future seismic movement. The foundations will not be visible.
In the context of this man-made island and an increasingly digital world in which the Bay Area plays its part, this expression of dependency on the earth and rootedness within the elemental is perhaps useful. The work will persist in the vicissitudes of time and tectonic activity. Whether in the bright sunlight of a spring day, or on an afternoon of sea mist spreading across the Bay, it talks of our determination to construct a habitat while simultaneously being engaged with the elemental. LOOKOUT faces southwest and when the weather is fair, it will gain from full sunlight exposure throughout the day and from rich evening light - perhaps one of the most beautiful times to be in the Bay. The red oxide of the material glows in these conditions. The mass of the work will absorb heat and will radiate it well into the night.
Gazing out towards sea and the city, to its future and beyond, to all that is happening around the Pacific, I want the work to carry a sense of confidence about its part in the future and its ability to endure. The challenge of any work in shared space is that it should not only be astonishing on first encounter, but through long familiarity, will retain its power to enchant, engage and evoke imaginative projection. LOOKOUT is an icon for the island, indelibly linked to peoples’ experience of living in the new world that will evolve there.
LOOKOUT responds to the promise that this island, returned to the people of San Francisco, will be a place of engagement with our fellows and with nature.
View larger image of proposal.