ALMA, India Basin, San Francisco, CA

Concept, Context, and Reference

Starting in the fall of 2015, I will be fabricating the sculpture Alma for the city of San Francisco. Alma, the proposed sculpture for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, will celebrate India Basin’s rich boat-building past while providing a lasting symbol for its promising and ambitious future. The sculpture will abstractly represent full sails as they assume form by the force of the wind: uplifting, dynamic, dramatic, and poised as a bird in flight. Alma is proposed as a landmark that will define the upper end of India Basin while serving as a beacon for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. At night, LED lights will project a soothing, soft amber color to illuminate the sculpture.

Alma, the Scow Schooner

Between 1850 and the early years of the 20th century, the best routes around the San Francisco Bay Area were its waterways. India Basin was a bustling harbor and shipyard. The many scow schooners built at the dry docks of Hunters Point shuttled hay, produce, and supplies around the bay. Born at Hunters Point Shipyard, Alma is the last local scow schooner afloat and is the oldest documented vessel on the West Coast still certified to carry passengers. A flat-bottomed scow schooner, Alma was built in 1891 by Fred Siemer, who named it after his daughter. The proposed sculpture Alma is inspired by the sails of this historic schooner and directly appropriates its name in tribute to a vital and rich boat building past.

For centuries, the joyful vision of billowing sails on the San Francisco Bay has been a delight to its residents and visitors. In fact, the great Seal of the State of California, c. 1849, depicts sailboats on the San Francisco Bay, symbolizing economic strength and societal wellbeing. Moving forward, sails seen out on the bay represent a sense of freedom, tranquility, a lust for life, and the vitality that are characteristic of the people of San Francisco. The proposed sculpture Alma symbolizes these attributes.

Sculpture, Foundation, and Materials

The dimensions of the proposed sculpture are 21’6”h x 13’6”w x 13’d. The foundation that the sculpture will be bolted to is a 15’ x 15’ x 1’ subterranean concrete slab, reinforced with rebar, located 2’ under grade. Three 12” diameter concrete columns attached to the foundation will rise 6” above grade. The sculpture will be bolted to these three columns.

Low-lying foliage will be continuous throughout the landscape and run under the sculpture. The sculpture will be seamlessly integrated with the landscape and will appear to be floating or rising out of the foliage.

The proposed material for the sculpture is marine-grade stainless steel, or 316L stainless steel, an extremely corrosion-resistant material that will hold up very well in the marine environment over time and need very little maintenance. The proposed maintenance is pressure washing twice a year.

The proposed surface finish is “glass-bead blasted,” which renders a shimmering, modeled, finely textured, low-reflective satin surface that does not require any added coatings.


The proposed lighting is in-ground LED up-lighting placed in four locations directly under the sculpture area. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Building is open day and night. At night, LED lights will project a soothing, soft, and welcoming amber color, illuminating and reflecting off of the shimmering stainless steel sculpture. The sculpture Alma will have a dramatic presence both day and night.