Robert Raczka

fence/sculpture/bikerack, 2015, powder-coated steel, 52" x 60"


commissioned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust with the support of the ColCom Foundation and fabricated by Colin Carrier, London Pattern, Pittsburgh

As part of a series of artist-designed bike racks for downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, I sought to integrate function, aesthetics, and history. My first concern was function, with the requirements stating that it must be possible for at least 2 bicycles to be locked to it. When I can’t find a bike rack, I do what many bicyclists do: look for a sturdy fence to lock my bike to. Much of Pittsburgh was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and there are still a lot of iron fences around, so I thought referencing that would be a good way to acknowledge Pittsburgh’s history both in terms of the time when it developed and in terms of the city’s past as a major iron and steel producer. Taken together, I feel that those references constitute a relationship to Pittsburgh’s historical context—I would have done something very different in, say, Phoenix.

In terms of the design, I looked at a lot of iron fences, in person as well as in photographs. I wanted it to be sturdy but somewhat simple and graceful, not too busy and, like most fences, not too wide in depth since Pittsburgh’s sidewalks can be crowded. While it looks fairly spindly in the photograph here, it’s actually very heavy steel and weighs a ton—it doesn’t give if you push on it. While I wanted it to reference a 19th century fence, I didn’t want it to be mistaken for one (at one point I did consider the idea of actually using a section of antique fence but decided not to, and it may not even have been feasible given that the design had to conform to American Disabilities Act standards for street furniture, as well as safety specifications prohibiting sharp protuberances and size limits on interior spacing to prevent a child from getting his or her head caught in it).

So I wanted it square-ish like a fence, heavily reinforced where it’s attached to the ground, with reference to traditional design motifs, and yet sufficiently contemporary in appearance that no one would mistake it for 19th century ironwork. There’s still a lot of beautiful ironwork around Pittsburgh so it doesn’t look out of place.



fence/sculpture/bikerack, 2015