Bridges are created to carry goods, people and animals across bodies of water, and other divides. When bridges start to wear out and become unsafe, what happens to them can be dispiriting. Despite their years of service and reliability, they are replaced by younger, shinier versions of themselves who haven’t experienced years of people and cars running over them every day. Old bridges are probably sent to the scrap metal yards, where they are striped for metal recycling and left to die. Very sad for the bridges.
One bridge in South Park, a neighborhood in South Seattle escaped this fate in 2012. As the main artery from South Park to the city, it was beloved by the community. Unfortunately, the bridge had been sinking, and wasn’t deemed safe anymore. Also, when the bridge was in use, metal regularly had to be filed down from the middle, as the interlocking sections shifted as the entire boat sank. Local artist, Carol dePelecyn has worked with industrial materials in the past, and as the artist for the new South Transfer Station opening nearby, she saw an opportunity to memorialize the South Park Bridge.
One piece that was created from the South Park Bridge is Memento. DePelecyn took three pieces of the roadway grating from the bascule bridge and placed them to mimic the stop motion of a bridge raising or lowering; the monumental sculpture greets visitors to the transfer station. Integrated within the piece are recycled road reflectors, which play with light and are seemingly suspended in space.
The other artwork, Short in the Tooth, is taken from the center of the bridge’s interlocking structure, and stands like a totem very close to Memento. DePelecyn describes how she named this piece after the bridge’s final shortcoming: “The old bridge reached a point where no more metal could be removed. Therefore, the expansion joint totem is called Short in the Tooth.”
Memento and Short in the Tooth can be found in the meadow outside the South Transfer Station. DePelecyn has been the artist-in-residence at the South Transfer Station since 2008 and is working to integrate artwork into the rest of the site.
The artworks Memento and Short in the Tooth were funded by Seattle Public Utilities 1% for Art funds.
Photos by Stephen McGehee
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program, the Weekly Art Hit has been featuring artworks from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. Check out other art hits here (link to the blog Weekly Art Hits)