April 28, 2013
by Anna Huntington, community arts coordinator for The Sculpture Project
What does the 35-foot-high Black Hills spire in the Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water have in common with the natural, fantastically eroded Needles in Custer State Park that inspired its shape?
For one thing, it's going to be a challenge to sculpt.
Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, of Denmark, initially considered carving his monument into the Needles, but decided against it because the slabs were too thin to support his work.
Thin granite is going to be a challenge for sculptor Masayuki Nagase, too, when it comes time to carve the Black Hills spire at Main Street Square.
Why? Both the Black Hills and the Badlands spires in The Sculpture Project are hollow.
The spires, at the intersection of Main and Sixth Streets, are built around stainless steel supports and are constructed to accommodate light, bas-relief sculpting. The granite cladding starts out 8 inches thick at the bottom of each spire, transitions to 6 inches, and then four inches. At the top of the Black Hills spire, the stone is 3 inches thick.
Nagase has remarked that the granite on the spires will need special care. His design plan calls for collecting handprints from community members which he will sandblast into the spires in an upwardly spiraling pattern, reflecting hope for the future of the Rapid City region.
When the Square opened in November 2011, people's thoughts were on the future, too, and all the positive changes they hoped the new public space would bring to our community. Organizers put together a time capsule containing mementos of our time – letters from kindergartners about their future career plans, a letter from a long-time Rapid City resident who has witnessed enormous change, aerial photos, a copy of the Rapid City Journal, a Rush hockey puck, and more.
Appropriately, they placed the time capsule inside the Black Hills spire. See the small door in the bottom right of the photo above - just large enough to crawl through. It's cramped inside, most of the spire's interior is taken up by the heavy-duty support sytem. There is room to stand and to also accommodate the time capsule as well as the water pipes for the falls that flow from the spire in the summer, representing the water that flows from the Black Hills, hydrating and giving life to the Great Plains basin.