There was a time when the San Lorenzo teemed with life. Travelers came to Santa Cruz from all around to vacation and fish along the river.
This past June, Timerie Gordon and Charlie Prograce of Nielsen Studios Architecture and Design paid tribute to that chapter of Santa Cruz’s history by installing six fishing poles on the edge of the Water Street Bridge. That installation, Fishing Rods, was one of 10 pieces that various local artists installed along the San Lorenzo for the Ebb & Flow River Arts Project.
“[Fishing Rods] was sort of a conversation piece and a statement about what the river was at one point and what it is now,” notes Gordon, an industrial designer by education.
Once they’d come up with the vision of Fishing Rods, Gordon and Prograce had to figure out a way to carry out the plan in a way that was safe and cost-effective while also keeping the display durable and tamper-proof. After finding that deep-sea fishing rods provided the scale that they needed, they added to the fishing lines steel fishing hooks, fabricated acrylic lures and buoys that they’d modified to look like bobbers.
The process of installing the fishing rods on the bridge proved to be difficult and risky. “The weight of it, and being up off the ground that high so that the passersby couldn’t just get at it—we had to delicately do that and not lose anybody over the side of the bridge while doing it,” Gordon recalls.
The artist adds that it took several people to install each fishing pole. “We had to create a long rod with a hook on the end that held the tension of the bobber so that somebody could put the pole into the holder—the same kind of steel pole holder that is attached to a boat,” she says.
Gordon is the wife of Nielsen Studios’ principal architect, Christian Nielsen, who also serves on the City of Santa Cruz Planning Commission. As business partners, Gordon and Nielsen have done architecture and design work for local establishments like the Seaside Company, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Penny Ice Creamery and L’Atelier Day Salon and Day Spa.Nielsen and Gordon both attended Rhode Island School of Design, which is situated by the Providence River. At that time, efforts were being made to unearth and revitalize the river. “At one point, the city had paved over the river that runs through the city,” Gordon explains. “Just like our city, they basically designed their city to turn their back on it or not acknowledge it. Now it’s a thriving epicenter for lots of events and really exciting things.”
Gordon, who served on the City of Santa Cruz Arts Commission for several years, sees Providence as one of many regions that could serve as an example for Santa Cruz to follow. “We just happened to be personally attached to the story of Providence, but San Antonio’s had that experience; there’s Chicago, Portland… there’s a whole host of examples where only good comes from engaging and incorporating these natural resources into your urban fabric,” she offers.
For more information on Nielsen Studios, see nielsenarchitects.com.