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Earthquake to art: Bay Bridge steel repurposed

on December 4, 2018

After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused the collapse of a section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, engineers realized it would be cheaper to replace the eastern span with a more seismically-sound design rather than retrofit the old bridge. Once crews completed the new span in 2013, the California Department of Transportation, better known as Caltrans, began the demolition of the old bridge. Using explosives, Caltrans crews took down parts of the bridge over five years.

There was a lot of interest from Bay Area artists to make steel from the original bridge available for repurposing. The Bay Bridge Steel Program was created in a partnership with The Oakland Museum of California and the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee. Applicants wishing to use the steel had to propose projects for the public and meet other criteria including celebrating the bridge’s importance as an iconic structure.

In 2017, The Bay Bridge Steel Program awarded 15 artists, designers, and design firms parts of the bridge. Some only asked for a single rivet. Others asked for much more. Sean Paul Lorentz, a sculptor in Petaluma, was one of the artists and is currently designing his first large-scale abstract expressionist sculpture. It is an 85 foot long, 15 foot high cantilevered piece.

Click through the photo slideshow above to see Lorentz’s work on the sculpture and play the audio piece to learn how he created it.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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