Richard Serra’s ‘Ballast’ in Mission Bay

The north part of the neighborhood that used to be Dogpatch is now Mission Bay. The University of California at San Francisco has a lot of research facilities there. Lots of new condos, where there used to be beat-up old warehouses and factories.

In a plaza between offices and condos, RIchard Serra was commissioned to install his sculpture ‘Ballast’.

‘Ballast’ consists of two slabs of steel, about 50 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Each slab weighs 70 tons. The slabs lean slightly, about 2 degrees.

To insure stability, piles were driven over 200 feet into the ground. After the prep work was done, they were able to install the plates in less than a day.

Here’s a side view.

The plates are made of Cor-ten steel, a special weatherproof steel. It rusts on the surface, then the rust stops. The rust actually acts as a protective coating.

Fans of classical sculpture, like Michelangelo’s ‘David’, may have a difficult time appreciating this work. Also, photographs don’t do it justice. But truly, these big slabs of rusty steel are things of great beauty.


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