Giant wire-mesh sculpture to adorn The Bow


July 10, 2012: Giant wire-mesh sculpture to adorn The Bow

The Plensa Head sculpture in front of the Bow Tower.

Photograph by: Christina Ryan , Calgary Herald

Anna is coming to Calgary this fall. She's 12, from northern Spain, parts her hair down the middle and stands about four storeys tall, from the neck up.

Her giant head, in thick wire mesh, is Wonderland by Jaume Plensa.

The interactive sculpture will be taller than the Family of Man statues by the former public school board headquarters, nearly as soaring as the white Trees sculptures by Bankers Hall, but will appear dwarfed beneath 58-storey Bow tower.

As he presented his design Monday, Plensa cracked that if Norman Foster's skyscraper is the big blue curve in the tower's logo, Wonderland is the small red dot.

"Such a huge responsibility to be the small red dot, in between the Calgary community and his beautiful building," the Barcelona-based artist said. "My piece is not at all trying to compete in terms of the scale of the architecture. I'm trying to link the people using the plaza with the city."

Plensa, in speaking about the larger of his two commissioned pieces for The Bow, was as modest as one could be about what will stand as one of Calgary's largest works of public art - financially, physically and in prominence.

In rough terms, saying the city is getting a Jaume Plensa is to the public art world what "getting a Santiago Calatrava" means to the architecture world.

"Dude, we're getting a Plensa!" said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who reminisced about spending hours at the artist's 15-metre video installation in the heart of Chicago.

"The Crown Fountain - a piece of art that engages, delights, enraptures, thrills the people who come by, that makes Millennium Park a place in Chicago where the community lives," Nenshi said. "It's unbelievable and I'm so hopeful that these pieces that we're getting here will do exactly the same."

Large heads have become a Plensa trademark, as has using see-through materials like mesh. Wonderland will offer large portals in either side of the neck, letting visitors enter the sculpture. "People are allowed to walk inside the head and to try to dream about how a head is from inside," Plensa told reporters.

Earlier, his website called the project "Wishing Well," although no fountain feature will exist as part of this piece.

Assembly of the piece begins next week and will take roughly three months. The sculpture should be completed by the fall, as employees of Cenovus and Encana finally start working in The Bow building.

A spokesman for the skyscraper project said the sculpture's cost isn't a figure the developers will release. However, based on what the city demanded as a 150 per cent security for the project, The Bow is paying roughly $2.5 million on public art accents.