Rico Worl Public Art: Intersection redesign
Worl, a local artist who was approached by the City and Borough of Juneau on design ideas for the intersection, said one thing, in particular, stuck out to him about that area of downtown during a weekend day in October 2017.
“For this corner, I ended up just sitting there and figuring out what that corner felt like,” Worl said in his design studio downtown Tuesday. “What I discovered is when you are on foot in downtown Juneau, you are probably going to go through that intersection. When I was out there, it was just nonstop. It was like a public gathering space just by circumstance.”
Worl said the lines represent the flow of water that is the intersection and the fish stamps represent the people themselves “swimming through the water” of that intersection. From above, the intersection represents a salmon fin. However, he said the design is something that is meant to be taken in at ground level “where you feel the flowing lines.”
The intersection is the biggest of the new art projects that are part of the CBJs Downtown Street Improvements Project. Worl said he worked with city Chief Landscape Architect Michele Effers and Project Engineer Lori Sowa on the projects. CBC Construction, Inc., Southeast Earthmovers, Compass Construction and DOWL, an engineering consultant, constructed the designs. The concept, Worl said, stems from making that part of downtown a “cultural district.” While Tlingit art is showcased now, Worl said the space may broaden out to the various cultural histories associated with Juneau.
Designing the intersection meant more than just doing the artwork. Worl said the project was a learning experience about street architecture. He said he had to learn details about the turn radius of vehicles and what portions of the project fit in where.
“It was about knowing what makes an intersection work,” Worl said. “Trying to be aware of both was a huge learning curve.”
He said he watched the design of the intersection “in very slow motion” and the project did change from what he initially envisioned.
“I got a text one day that one of the construction workers thought there should be more fish stamps down and I said, ‘Yes, please,’” Worl said. “Another thing I noticed is that some of the fish have slits for eyes. I don’t know who it was, but it was probably somebody in the construction crew who thought these fish needed eyes and took a little bit of ownership on that.”
Worl has guided the downtown projects. He said as part of a collaboration effort, he asked other local artists to be a part of the plans. Worl worked with Clarissa Rizal on the first medallion showcasing the Tlingit core cultural values on South Franklin Street. That medallion has a Tlingit script on it stating “Haa Shuká” which represents honoring our ancestors and future generations.
The other finished medallion, which sits on the northwest corner of the Front Street and Seward Street intersection, features art by Crystal Worl. Another medallion, also sharing the phrase, “Haa Shuká,” will be at the triangle intersection of Franklin and Front in the fall. Worl is working with Alison Marks on that one. Lettering on all the medallion designs was done by Christy NaMee Eriksen. Adam Dimmitt contributed by cutting all the metal on the medallions.