Portland State University

Portland State University

Portland, OR


Bicycle Bill sculpture designed by PSU Architecture professor and students unveiled

By PSUArchitecture
May 1, '19 6:53 PM EST

"Anthropocene," a new sculpture designed by Assistant Professor Aaron Whelton with the contributions of architecture students Jonathon Brearley, Griffin Lutz, Kip Olkowski, Molly Jacobs, and Kagan Reardon, was unveiled on the PSU campus on Friday, April 26. The sculpture underscores PSU's commitment to bicycling and clean air, as well as the passage of the Bicycle Bill in 1971. 

The dedication ceremony included remarks by Professor Whelton; Phil Wu; Rex Burkholder, founder of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Coalition for a Livable Future; Ian Stude, director of Transportation and Parking Services at PSU; Jillian Detweiler, executive director of The Street Trust; and Al Densmore, a longtime Oregon political leader who cosponsored the Oregon Bicycle Bill (ORS 366.514) in his first term in the Oregon House of Representatives. 

The sculpture honors the legacy of PSU English professor Sam Oakland, who was an avid cyclist and leading advocate for bicycle transportation in Oregon starting in the 1960s. In 1971 he organized a mass bike ride of approximately 400 cyclists from Portland to Salem to call attention to the need for improved bike and pedestrian routes and trails in the state. His activism contributed to the passage of the Oregon Bicycle Bill later that year. 

"It's not often in your life that you have a chance to play a small part in the Oregon story, and this [bill] is truly one of the important parts of the Oregon story," said Densmore. "Truly this was an amazing accomplishment, thanks to the courage and, as I like to say, the power of a simple but profound idea." 

The initial concepts for the project were generated by students in Whelton's ARCH 426/526 parametric design and fabrication class in Spring 2018. Constructed from 177 steel pipes in two different diameters, which are supported by waterjet cut steel plate, "the sculpture is an abstract representation of a human figure and bicycle rendered as an array of parallel pipes. Part of the allure of the project is the way in which the figure fades in and out as you move around it," said Aaron Whelton. 

In student Jonathon Brearley's description of the sculpture, "A hollow biker pushes forward into clean air. . . celebrating the positive impact biking has on the air we breathe." Brearley, now earning his Master of Architecture degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, flew to Portland to attend the ceremony with his fellow student designers.

In creating the sculpture, the designers were “thinking about making an object that has a sort of directionality, that is progressive and has a forward momentum, and we think that those things embody what the Bike Bill made possible, with Sam Oakland’s contributions,” said Whelton.

"Anthropocene" is the latest addition to PSU’s campus art collection and the third installment in OEC’s "Art of Loving Oregon" series of art projects celebrating Oregon's legacy of environmental protection. The project is sponsored by Cycle Oregon, Kaiser Permanente, Portland Design Works, Showers Pass and Biketown, as well as via a grant from Travel Oregon. 

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