The Concept


The Whale

A life-scale bronze sculpture of a breaching humpback whale will rise from a circular pool of water. The whale is arched backwards, spiraling in a roll to its left. About half its body length - twenty feet or more -- rises above the surface of the pool. Inertia carries the right flipper skyward as a result of the spinning breach, its tip almost as high as the whale’s snout. The left flipper meanwhile slants seaward, its tip dragging the surface.

Complex water features enhance the dynamic effect of the sculpture. Mist hangs over the whale’s head, simulating its foggy blow and creating rainbows on sunny days. Water sheets from both flippers, cascades from the whale’s body, and plunges back into the pool. Jets directed against the whale from below create a lively dance of whitewater where the sculpture breaks the surface. Viewed from its left side, the whale arches overhead, and its eye, about 12 feet above the surface, is focused downward to regard the viewer and create an interactive experience. Meanwhile, its right eye, on the whale’s higher side, regards the sky. From this side, the experience is less personal— we are merely observers watching a wild whale do its thing. Walking a quarter way around the pool brings us under the whale’s head. From this vantage point we can see its flaring nostrils and both of its great flippers, each almost 1/3 the length of its body. Halfway round from there, the whale falls away from us. We look up over the rise of its belly and over the twenty or more parallel grooves or pleats of its throat and gullet. These grooves are the hallmarks of rorquals—a group within the larger category of baleen whales, including the blue, humpback and minke--whales whose pleats allow tremendous expansion of their gullets to ingest tons of seawater along with herring or krill when feeding.

The Pool

The pool is an infinity pool, where the water surface meets the rim, like a level saucer filled to the point of overflow. It must be large enough to contain the sculpture without suggesting that the whale’s breach would carry it outside the rim—it must be a whale-worthy pool. The surrounding mountains reflect themselves in the pool. The rim of the pool is elevated about two feet above the surrounding walkway. At night the whale and waterworks are gently illuminated. The play of purling riffles on the pool surface is reflected by the bronze whale. A walkway of paving stones surrounds the pool and on at least one side widens to form a plaza with benches and a drinking fountain and an approach walk surrounded with green lawn, trees, and flowers to create a park-like setting.

The Site

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has contributed the land for the sculpture and fountain at a strategic site on the downtown waterfront, recognizing that in doing so it is releasing extremely valuable property.