Ship Shape Shifting Time 1992-2013

ISLAIS  CREEK  San Francisco, California, 1992

Commissioner: San Francisco Arts Commission

Consultants: Keller Mitchell & Co., Landscape Architecture,  John Winder and Associates, Architects.  Robin Chaing and Company, Architects

Site Poems by George Quasha

Commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission 50’(h) x 442’ (l) x 35’(w) / Steel, Stainless steel cable, Solar powered Lighting, pavement block, landscape


The Islais Creek Project involves improvements to an 860 foot-long public access area along Islais Creek and the I-280 freeway.  Design elements include a canopy sculpture and a sustainable habitat to revitalize the ecology of the area. The overall design recognizes both the lives of indigenous peoples as well as the more recent waterfront industry that shaped the current identity of the site.

Artwork pays homage to the World War II “Liberty” cargo ships that survived that war, and became the backbone of the country’s postwar cargo fleet in San Francisco ports. The ghost image of one of these ships is evoked here. The sculptural representation of the ship’s bow and stern, and the paving below trace the ship’s actual built dimensions 50’x 442’x 35’. The historic cast iron bell and docking cleats complete this commemoration of the site’s maritime history.

Cargo shipping inspired the most dramatic component of the design. The ship metaphor is reflected in the design of the site’s hardscape as well as that of the suspended steel sculpture, which outlines the form of a ship 50’ high, 441’-6” long, and 35’ wide. This structure brings monumentality to the site and enhances its relationship with the surrounding human-made infrastructure and architectural forms. Landscaping plays an integral role in the improvement of the shoreline. Vegetation choice honors original ethno-ecological “industries” of the site—hunting and gathering—by emphasizing native species.

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