Waterfront park about to set sail

Artist shares his creative vision in advance of Monday’s groundbreaking in Vancouver

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

Did You Know?

Larry Kirkland has created art installations at several locations in Washington and Oregon, including:

 Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

• Safeco Insurance Co., Seattle.

• Main library, Bellevue.

• Portland International Airport.

• University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.

• Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.

• Kaiser Permanente, Portland.

The faint echo of a sailing ship, shaped in steel.

The delicate shadow of the Columbia River system, cast in bronze.

Those works of art will be part of Vancouver’s waterfront park. Designer Larry Kirkland described some of the creative process Friday as he and developer Barry Cain led a walk-through at the Vancouver Waterfront project.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for Monday. Kirkland has another commitment that day, however, so he used Friday’s session to share his vision of an iconic community space.

Kirkland always looks for elements that represent the place where his art will be installed, he said. In Vancouver, the park’s most prominent feature will be a 90-foot-long pier over the Columbia River.

In a different blueprint, the pier might be supported by a couple of dozen pilings. But in Kirkland’s design, the pier is suspended by cables anchored to a 70-foot steel mast. It represents the mast and rigging of a sailing ship that once plied the river.

“On a clear day, you will be able to see Mount Hood through the Interstate 5 Bridge,” he said.

“There is an interesting thing about the pier,” Kirkland added. Without the support of pilings all the way out to the end, engineers wondered whether it might be a little too flexible. But it was designed with special internal reinforcing, “so kids won’t get out to the end and bounce,” Kirkland said.

The V-shaped pier will join a list of Kirkland’s public art projects that include work at Pennsylvania Station in New York City; Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan.

In Washington D.C. alone, Kirkland has designed art for the American Red Cross Headquarters; the National Academy of Sciences; and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial — which was what sold the project’s master developer on Kirkland.

When he went to Washington D.C., the memorial for disabled veterans “really showed me what he’s capable of,” said Cain, president of Gramor Development. “They don’t design those monuments for 10 or 20 years. They design them for forever.”

Lighting designer Charles Stone is another member of the pier’s creative team, Kirkland said. Among other world-class projects, Stone designed the lighting for the renovated Washington Monument.

The other art element will be a water feature — an 180-foot-long interactive relief map of the Columbia River system.

“You can trace it with your fingers,” Kirkland said.

It will end in a pool 4 inches deep, with a slight movement that brings to mind water on a beach.

“You’ll get the sense of the long journey from the headwaters to the Pacific,” said Kirkland, an Oregon State University graduate who now is based in Washington, D.C.

That stretch along the Columbia site already is a great place to spend time, Cain said.

“I come out here some times and just watch the beautiful river,” he said.

And when the pieces come together, Cain said, they will add up to a destination point.