Election Section

COMMENTARY 350,000 Pounds of ‘Spaceship Earth’ By PETER SELZ

Friday August 06, 2004

The proposed David Brower Memorial Sculpture is simply preposterous. The time of bronze statues of generals on horseback disgracing our parks is long behind us. Now, it is proposed that the City of Berkeley accept a huge bronze statue of David Brower cli mbing a globe. This monster will weigh 350,000 pounds. It is to be 20 feet high and 15 feet wide and will withstand “any ground motion, even an earthquake.” It is to be made of Brazilian blue quartzite with bronze pieces in clusters to represent the seven continents with a bronze likeness of David Brower trying to scale the globe. It is named “Spaceship Earth,” a name coined by Buckminster Fuller, who would surely turn in his grave. It is the work of a retrograde Finnish sculptor, Eino, a longtime friend of Brian Maxwell, the founder of Powerbar, and will be offered by Maxwell’s widow to the City of Berkeley. It is to be erected at the traffic circle at the end of Spinnaker Way and thus dominate the great view to the Bay. The area is already blemished by the horrible “Guardian,” which was plopped down one dark night without approval of the Civic Art Commission. 

Among the citizens of Berkeley there are few who are more deserving to be remembered than David Brower. A truly significant environmentalist, Bro wer should be remembered by an environmental artwork. There are a good number of wonderful environmental artists, whose works tread lightly on the earth, and whose work could be integrated in the land, possibly in César Chavez Park. For example, Andy Goldsworthy has been commissioned to create a work for the garden of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, which, like much of his work, will heighten the visitors’ awareness of the beauty of nature, something which would have been close to David Brower’s heart. A competition for a work by environmental artists could be announced. 

An even more appropriate memorial would be to ask the Maxwell family to direct funding for a David Brower Memorial toward the desirable project of daylighting Strawberry Creek o n Center Street, something that would give a beautiful core to the city. David Brower remembered having played on Strawberry Creek as a child, and was instrumental in opening the creek in what is now Strawberry Creek Park. The opening of the creek in Cent er Street was strongly recommended by members of the UC Hotel and Conference Center Citizens’ Task Force this spring. The segment of the creek is very close to both the Powerbar Building and the site where the David Brower Center will be built. What an appropriate memorial this would be to the memory of this great environmentalist to be enjoyed by the citizens of Berkeley! 


Peter Selz is the founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum and a former curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.