In February 2015, the City of Kirkland purchased roughly 30 historical pieces of the Kalakala, the world’s first streamlined passenger vessel. The Historic Kalakala
(PDF-7 MB) was built between 1933 and 1935 at the Lake Washington Ship Yard in Kirkland’s Carillon Point.
The Kalakala was dismantled in Tacoma, WA and the City seized an opportunity to save some of its own history. This Iconic Salvage
(PDF-285 kb) included purchasing a wheelhouse, doors, valve wheels, a section of ornament hand railings, the top window section above the car entrance doors in the bow of the ship.
The City of Kirkland’s vision is to repurpose the salved pieces for an art installation that commemorates the historic ferry and Kirkland’s early history as a regional shipbuilding center
A Citizen Committee with members of the Cultural Arts Commission was formed to explore possible art concepts and locations. The committee’s objectives included:
The pieces should tell a story about the ferry and the community’s history
- They could be incorporated in a new art installation, kinetic or static
- They should help to brand the city and be iconic
- People should be able to touch them and interact with them
- Their location or placement should be considered a permanent home
- They can be part of some recreational opportunities on the waterfront
- Technology should be embedded into an artistic display of the pieces and help tell its story
The concepts below were revealed at a Public Open House
on January 31, 2018.
Concept 1: Rik Allen
—This work reflects my interest in vessels of exploration. Sculpting many incarnations of a simple icon has brought me to explore its folds of cultural and personal projections; as ship, exploration, vessel, as well as curiosity, self and journey.
The Kalakala expressed a hopeful future imbued in its slick surface, clean lines and Art Deco decor. In 1935 it must have looked as though it came from another world. A fast, sleek, cutting edge design in the Puget Sound landscape could only inspire a sense of progress and a region building toward the future.
The Kalakala being born of the fire that leveled the ferry, Peralta, was built from its hull. It served the water plays of Puget Sound, and upon retirement was dug into the earth and served as a processor. Now it would be most fitting to emerge from its disassembled state to reach to the sky.
It seems most suitable in my mind that the Kalakala should once again inspire future generations as a symbol of exploration and hope. Perched on its pad, pointed toward the sky, it will embark on and write the next chapter in the Kalakala’s remarkable story.
Concept 2: Brent Bukowski
—Legendary Vibrations (working title)—Developing a design around the iconic salvage of the Kalakala has been a challenging assignment to say the least. The preliminary design process involved several false starts, in which abstract configurations, four-storey replications and everything in between were explored. All said and done, I present to you a design in which art converges with history, as to honor this Art Deco masterpiece.
The design I propose will utilize all of the pieces acquired by the City of Kirkland, as well as miscellaneous marine components sourced from the region, and a variety of structural steel and perforated sheet metal. The iconic salvage offers an excellent representation of many of the distinctive features of the Kalakala, and will be used to create four frameworks (to scale) of areas specific to each of its four decks. The wheel house, portholes, car doors and the hatch will be restored as closely as possible to their original condition, and all reproduction panels will be fabricated in perforated sheet metal as to plainly differentiate it from the original components, while providing the imagery of what was once intact. The Car and Promenade Deck frameworks will each feature a large-scale multi-layered relief constructed from reclaimed materials and/or historic images; the Passenger Deck and Flying Bridge will be built up with perforated metal to original form. Each of these frameworks can stand alone or could be combined into two 2-level installations, resulting in four separate spaces where one can contemplate the vibrant history of the Lake Washington Shipyards and one of its most notable creations, the Kalakala.
Concept 3: Paul Reimer
—When I came to Kirkland and explored the pieces of the Kalakala I was overcome by the sense of history they contain. As I stood and looked through the portholes I could almost feel the spray on my face and the motion of the ship. I could hear the sound of the waves and the voices of the passengers. I could imagine the atmosphere and style that was unique to the Kalakala.
I want to recreate that experience with this artwork. I will create an interactive sculpture that will allow people to climb aboard the Kalakala and feel that history and understand how unique and extraordinary this ship really was.
The sculpture will be an accessible and interactive multi-level structure. The top level will represent the original wheelhouse of the Kalakala. It will be constructed using the salvaged “wheelhouse” for the rear portion and the two “car doors” will be reformed into the forward portion. The “rudder trim” will be installed into the sculpture’s wheelhouse and will serve as the ship’s wheel. The deck of the upper level will be constructed of steel and will be approximately 10’ high off the ground.
The lower level of the artwork will be constructed at ground level using the “porthole” sections. One section will be attached to the underside of the upper deck below the nose of the wheelhouse. The larger of the “porthole” sections will be attached at ground level forward of the main sculpture. Having the portholes at different heights will mean that people of all sizes and abilities will be able to easily access them.
Also at ground level, at the sides of the sculpture, I will use the salvaged “window frames” to hold plaques containing information about the Kalakala and the sculpture.
Visitors will access the upper level via a set of stairs fabricated from steel and made to feel and look like an original part of the Kalakala. The salvaged “railings” will be used as railings for the stairs and for the upper level deck providing safety and visual Art Deco style impact. In addition to stairs, a ramp can be added making the upper level wheelchair accessible.
The sculpture will be 18’ high. The total footprint of the artwork, including the series of framed plaques will be approximately 38’ long x 32’ wide.
Concept 4: rhiza A+D
—The story of the Kalakala, rising from the ashes of the Peralta to her salvaged state, is a mixture of commitment and indifference. Though her form is gone, her story persists and her visage resounds in collective memory. We propose the careful transformation of what remains back to the origin of her namesake, a mythic bird.
In her story we see the Greek Phoenix, a bird that regenerates from its ashes. Many cultures share this myth. In the the Egyptian Bennu, a rebirth deity took the form of a heron. A wading heron making her home close to shore among the reeds seems a fitting generative image to guide the Kalakala’s metamorphosis.
We would use the salvaged pieces to create a neighborhood bridge entitled Kalakala: Flying Bridge. This bridge will be both art and infrastructure, and will echo its last incarnation as a ferry—for a ferry is a floating bridge.
Sited along the West edge of Terrace Park, where City land abuts the Cross Kirkland Corridor, Kalakala, Flying Bridge becomes a connection to the Lakeview neighborhood, Terrace Park, and Lakeview elementary school. An experiential public artwork to transport the Kalakala legacy forward.
The bridge is low to not restrict neighboring views and internally illuminated for safety at night. Interpretive panels on the salvaged wheelhouse “ribs” tell the history of the Kalakala and neighborhood shipyards. Its routes could be on a map of the sound, orienting viewers through its portholes overlooking Lake Washington.