The artwork for the Traffic Company and Forensics Services Division Headquarters creates a link between the day-to-day workings of this new building and the ongoing evolution of this site and the Bayview neighborhood. It is conceived as a synergy of fixed and fluid elements, a layering of memory and of moments captured in real time.
The concept speaks to the daily work of our public safety agencies: paying attention, looking deeply, the objective ordering of facts, putting pieces together, often in the midst of traumatic events. It affirms the bond between those first responders and their community. It’s a promise that we’ll work the problem through, from start to finish, together. So this project talks about solving problems as a team, using every tool we, as a team, possess. It speaks of the strong tie between public servants and their community, here re-conceptualized as a series of three discrete sculptures sited in the public plaza.
From a distance, the artwork invokes the metaphor of building, based as it is in the foursquare geometry of civic structures. Within these large forms a transparent skin reveals an order inspired by the forensic processes of discovery, collection and analysis. But here, the interior structure holds images and objects that tell a story of site and community.
The reflective and transparent surfaces of the artworks capture light and movement, the material responding to shifts in light and shadow from outside the piece, like a sort of mirror. Within the glass, LED lights trace the events of the day in real time. Connected to a stream of information from San Francisco Open Data, the programmable diodes translate information into light patterns visible day and night. These dynamic layers bring an immediacy to the work and the opportunity for public engagement and discovery that will grow and change over time.
In its interior surfaces and textures and in the half-hidden objects that give context and insight. Like a puzzle, the fragments of history, memory, color, site, shifting perspectives and human engagement call out to be assembled.
Sometimes, glancing at it as they enter or leave the building, people will notice panes that reflect the sky, or bits of the surrounding landscape, or fragments of their own visages and persons. Sometimes, pausing to look more intently, they’ll discern objects partially or fully revealed inside. Some will be immediately identifiable as artifacts from the surrounding community’s past life; some will be just glimpsed, harder to identify, questions in physical form. This layering of the familiar and surprise is an invitation to reimagine and a metaphor for thought, memory, public service and community.
The focal point of the artwork is a 38-foot sculpture sited at the main entry to the building. The intention is to create an iconic landmark that marks the site, visible from the street, freeway, and surrounding neighborhood. This siting also allows for views from the building lobby, plaza, and upper courtyard. As the artwork engages the viewer at multiple distances and has multiple readings, it’s siting at the main entry invites continuing public engagement as one enters or exits the building. Its proximity to the array of flags that anchor the plaza draws attention to the relationship between community and these symbols of national, state and city values. A significant separation allows for ample space for ceremonial events at the array.
Two smaller sculptures frame the north and west edges of the plaza. They introduce the forms and language of the artwork into this public space. One sculpture within the circle of deciduous magnolia trees will capture the beauty of the cycles of nature in its reflective facets and allow for a more contemplative experience of the artwork. At the site’s prow where the plaza meets the corner, the other engages the streetscape and presents an unexpected and welcoming experience for pedestrians and vehicles.
Formally, the artwork references the large blocks of transparent and solid elements of the architectural design. Like the building, the sculpture is grounded in a strong base and transitions to become lighter and more transparent as it rises, allowing for views into and through an interior narrative. Sited at the front entry of this new civic building, the transparency of the artworks emphasizes the larger civic vision of transparency in action and connection to community.
View a larger image of the proposal.