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Transbay Center cancels four-story art installation made from pieces of old station

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Cost turned out to be more than double the budget

A rendering of the now cancelled art piece, a four-story human figure made from broken concrete slabs.
The Tim Hawkinson installation that would have “guarded” the new transit center.
Courtesy TJPA

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority announced last week that, on second thought, it will not commission San Francisco artist Tim Hawkinson to build a 41-foot tall installation for the new Transbay Transit Center made from the pieces of the demolished Transbay Terminal.

KQED reported Friday that the authority pulled the plug on the project after they checked the spreadsheets and realized that the initial $1.67 million budget projection was way, way off. The actual cost would have been somewhere around $3.7 million.

The plan was for Hawkinson to use the rubble of the old bus station to fashion a towering humanoid figure overseeing the comings and goings in the new transit center.

“The artist sees the sculpture as a ‘guardian,’ intended to help travelers navigate a safe journey,” according to the project page. No word yet on whether the rubble will be put to any other, more economical artistic use.

Hawkinson specializes in large-scale sculptures cobbled together from salvaged material.

“His installation, Überorgan—a stadium-size, fully automated bagpipe—was pieced together from bits of electrical hardware and several miles of inflated plastic sheeting,” according to his bio at the non-profit Art21.

Hawkinson’s “Uberorgan” at the Getty Center in 2013.
Marshall Astor

He also once created a giant tree out of cardboard tubes and “placed twelve life-size robotic replicas of himself [on it] and programmed them to beat out religious hymns.”

So even at four stories the rubble statue would probably have come up a little bit short next to the scale of his other works.

“I like to see things rotating in my own work; I like to set things into motion,” Hawkinson said in a 2013 interview, suggesting that a bus and train station might perhaps provide the ideal setting for his work. But it was not to be.