Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley
The Metro Gold Line – Foothill Extension Construction Authority set the mandate for me to create a unique gateway that reflected aspects of the San Gabriel Valley region. As with all public art projects, it involved many conversations with the community, listening to their responses and incorporating their input in my preliminary sketches. Understandably, people in the community have a better intuition about local history, myths and legends. Their responses and reactions guided my next steps. The crucial synthesis springs from this exchange of ideas, and the cycle is repeated eventually leading toward a final concept. Hopefully, the end result resonates with the community—a multi-layered composition that people perceive as once both clear and ambiguous.
I drew my inspiration from two sources: the region’s cultural history and its architecture. The large baskets that adorn the bridge metaphorically represent the Native Americans of the region and the growth of agriculture as a primary catalyst to the San Gabriel Valley. They also pay tribute to the iconic sculptural traditions of Route 66 with its oversized commercial architecture such as the nearby windmill atop the Denny’s restaurant on Huntington Drive and the Maya restaurant on Foothill Road north of the freeway. The Iconic Freeway Structure’s baskets join this pantheon of larger-than-life artifacts.
The central theme of my design concept celebrates aspects of the early cultures of the San Gabriel Valley. In addition to celebrating these people, it seemed appropriate to reflect the centuries-old migratory history of the area. Prior to the Spanish missions, these ancient peoples traveled from the interior desert states and great basin area along the San Gabriel foothills on their way to the ocean.
Some of the most notable and recognizable artifacts of these people’s culture are their elaborately designed baskets, which served both a utilitarian purpose and as valuable trading commodities. The baskets as artifacts have survived over the years and are highly prized. Their creation remains an ongoing tradition to this day.
The making of baskets and bridges share similar fabrication techniques. Both have an internal skeleton of interwoven linear material to describe the form, reed and rebar respectively, and filler and surfacing material to give rigidity—stem and clay for the basket and concrete for the bridge. Hence, the skeleton and its skin are manipulated to give expressive meaning as well as provide utility.
The basic bridge is comprised as a carriageway that is supported by a beam across the I-210 that is in turn supported by two vertical columns on either side of the freeway. This simple arrangement creates a giant de facto “post and lintel” doorway for eastbound motorists. Adding to its immensity is the serpentine carriageway, representing the rattlesnake, above with its exposed “ribs.”