Eyes on the Street

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

As the stainless steel the sculpture shines in downtown Vancouver, and illuminates the area people take notice. The most significant component of the sculpture is 18 feet high, and the smaller one is 12 feet tall.

Eyes on the Street

They are positioned close to each other and inform each other, therefore influencing each other and mirroring each other. The artists were influenced by City Planner Jane Jacob who said, that “there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those who might call the natural proprietors of the street.” Referring to the eyes of the many residents in areas of high density. They are always there providing a recording of the life on the street and in the environment.

The Inspiration

Artists were looking for ways to create public works that communicate concepts of unity and security with the people that inhabit the space. And evoke a feeling of community. And Vancouver-based sculptor Marie Khouri believes she has done just that with her sculpture Eyes on the Street.

The process started in the palm of Khouri’s hand, with a small clay version of the sculpture. After that the piece was then 3-D scanned, up-scaled in Styrofoam, carved, and then sent to a New York foundry to be cast in stainless steel. To create something uniquely Vancouver.

Khouris says no foundry in Canada that could cast a sculpture of that scale. Creating it was labour intensive, with Khouri sanding and polishing the massive creation.

The Planning

Eyes on the Street—which took 14 months from inception to installation—marks the first collaboration between Khouri and artist Charlotte Wall, who provided valuable support on the administrative side of the project.

“That allowed me to start working on concepts that could make it accessible for people to really view the final product,” Khouri says.

The installation will stand in water and add to the reflective quality of the sculpture.

“When you’re working with stainless steel, it’s a mirror. It reflects the clouds, the sky, the buildings and people. So it’s there and it’s very big, but at the same time it’s not there,” Khouri says.

Southwest False Creek was once industrial and mostly vacant after Expo 86. Therefore needed some help. Khouri read a great deal of work by urbanist author Jane Jacobs and using this inspiration to help form her concept of the sculpture. As a result Eyes on the Street captures the beauty of the area and all that Expo brought to the city.

“She always spoke about how densification in a way was the heart of the city,” said Khouri.

The abstract sculpture is of two eyes and is meant to watch over the False Creek site, symbolizing safety, watchfulness and community.

One of many Vancouver Public installations

Eyes on the Street is one of many recent public-art installations in Vancouver. That bring beauty to the area whenever anyone walks by. Khouri has now created 16 public art pieces for the city. Together with the other pieces are bringing life to the area.

“It’s important to see who is going to live in it. If there’s going to be families, children, or more adults. Are you in the heart of downtown? Are you in a remote place? All these things come into play and trigger an idea that’s going to go in that direction,” said Khouri.

And so when creating the piece Khouri thought about the site and how it may evolve over the next 10 to 20 years. She wanted the piece to exhibit a timeless quality to the people in the community and overall Vancouver.

“As an artist, you work in your little hole and in your workshop. You’re all alone,” said Khouri. “There’s nobody there to say it’s good or bad. And then you’re done, and you place it, and people see it and say ‘wow!’ So it’s only there where I get to see the impact of the piece. And then it’s gone because I move on to something else. But it stays with them. It belongs to them; it’s for them.”

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