{ Category Archives: sunnyside menagerie }

Sunnyside Conservatory Opens

newsomSF Mayor Gavin Newsom loves our Sunnyside Menagerie project (photo: Bill Wilson)

Sunnyside Conservatory officially re-opened to the public over the weekend with a bang. People crowded into the conservatory’s historic, octagonal building, hundreds spilling onto the paths of the tiny, botanical jewel of a park. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom joined other state and city officials in an uplifting dedication ceremony, making a heartfelt speech that drew special attention to our Sunnyside Menagerie project, a wowhaus public artwork commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission. Ene and I were honored that the mayor made the effort to single us out, taking the time to pose with one of our 24 bronze sculptures, installed throughout the park.

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Ene with Mayor Newsom and SF Arts Commission’s Judy Moran (photo: Bill Wilson)

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Mayor Newsom cuts the ribbon, officially opening Sunnyside Conservatory

trilogators2kids love playing with our Sunnyside Menagerie creatures, especially the ‘trilogators’

We were especially moved to see the neighborhood kids interact with the sculptures, and loved watching kids of all ages seek out and count the creatures, invent names, touch and play with them. I designed and made the creatures intending for them to become beloved icons for generations, hoping that they would be adopted by the community, developing their own folklore and patina from daily interaction. I was very proud to see them so well loved already.

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To follow the backstory of Sunnyside Menagerie please click here and scroll down.


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Wowhaus Haps

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I hit the ground running upon my return from the first leg of our Kohler Arts Residency in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Our plate will be quite full over the next 6 months while we develop a project focused on non-motorized transportation for Kohler, which will begin to take shape in earnest when Ene, Aili and I return to Wisconsin in April. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights from the world of wowhaus:

  • Ene updated the wowhaus website to feature our most recent work: www.thewowhaus.com
  • Wowhaus is interviewed in-depth in the Style Counsel column of the December issue of San Francisco Magazine, which hits the newsstands in the coming week.
  • Our Sunnyside Menagerie project will be open to the public soon (see poster below), and all are invited:

Conservatory Reopening Final Poster

Otherwise, I’m focused on clearing the decks and readying my woodshop to make interior furnishings and fixtures for a private residence in Marin (more to come), which will occupy the majority of my time from early December through late March. We also have two active public art projects in San Francisco, one in Oakland and one in development in Walnut Creek, California, which will be the largest lenticular mural we’ve made, if all goes according to plan. I’ll do my best to post progress and ephemera on these pages, and hope you’ll continue to stay tuned!


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Sunnyside Menagerie Update

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

Following years of planning leading to over a year of extensive renovations, Sunnyside Conservatory is nearing completion, and wowhaus recently made a final site visit to confirm locations for our Sunnyside Menagerie prior to installation. Thanks to the Conservatory designers’ wonderful feel for period detail and dedication to following the collective vision of the community and agencies of the City of San Francisco, the Conservatory has been updated to code while respecting its fantastical, nineteenth century origins. Our cast bronze creatures of the Sunnyside Menagerie were funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission and will be installed early next month by Atthowe Fine Art Services. The official opening ceremony is tentatively scheduled for early December. Please stay tuned for details!

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Sunnyside Conservatory (restoration), Western Elevation, drawn by Andrew Maloney, Project Architect

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original 19th century interior, Sunnyside Conservatory

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two of the Sunnyside Menagerie creatures, sited outside of the restored Conservatory


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Sunnyside Menagerie Update

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one of three ‘grumpus bumpus’ sculptures, in situ

Our bronze sculptures for the Sunnyside Conservatory in San Francisco have been cast, cleaned up and are ready for patination. We met with the people at Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry the other day to discuss options. I would love to leave the sculptures ‘raw’ and let the bronze gain a natural patina through oxidation, touch and decay/erosion, but the air of San Francisco is very saline and might tarnish the raw metal into verdigris too quickly. During the Rennaissance, bronze sculptures were typically buried to gain an ‘antique patina’, a process intended to imitate the sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome, which were often retrieved from underground or beneath the sea. Patina on bronze is now usually achieved through the application of acids and chemicals, and the options for surface finish are staggeringly numerous. We’ll go with a very natural finish, darkening the recesses and leaving the high spots bright, with no attempt to disguise the material.

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‘cakesydillo’ sculpture, ready for patina


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Casting in Bronze

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pouring molten bronze into molds for our series of sculptures for Sunnyside Conservatory in San Francisco

We were thrilled to witness the bronze casting of our series of sculptures for the Sunnyside Conservatory Menagerie yesterday at Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry. It has been an honor to collaborate with artisans skilled in the ancient art of lost wax casting and opens up a world of possibilities for our future public projects. While the technique is more resource intensive than any we have employed to date, it has me thinking about the trade-offs and potential rewards of purely aesthetic experiences over a longer time frame. I wonder if there is a metric to compare the impact of things designed to stimulate the public imagination against the effects of the extraction of resources that brought them into being.


fine dry sand is aerated to coat the silica-ceramic molds (see above) for casting bronze

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Comparative Menus

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menu of bronze patina finishes, Artworks Foundry, Berkeley, CA

To me, making is best the more closely it resembles cooking, and a day of making-related meetings is best when it orbits around eating. Our day began yesterday dropping off the completed and finally-approved creatures for our Sunnyside Menagerie Project at Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, where they will be cast in bronze using the ancient lost wax technique.

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silica-ceramic slurry stirring vat

The foundry’s artisans will build rubber molds of the sculptures to produce multiple wax positives. I will then apply final detailing to the waxes, which will have new molds constructed around them, specially designed to allow the melted wax to escape as it is displaced by molten bronze. The final bronzes will then be cleaned up and patinated using a combination of chemical treatments to achieve the balance of protection, surface patterning and coloration appropriate to the site. For thousands of years, bronzes were either left raw or were initially buried, gaining patina by interacting with environmental elements, achieving their surface and color patterning slowly over time. I would prefer to leave the bronze raw, but the salinity of the air in San Francisco may act too quickly on its surface, leaving it dull and greenish.

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menu at Vik’s Chaat House in Berkeley, CA

Ene and I stopped at our favorite restaurant for lunch a few blocks from the foundry before crossing the Bay for an afternoon presentation for the San Francisco Arts Commission. Vik’s Chaat House serves beautifully prepared, unpretentious Indian ‘street food’, ordered a la carte and eaten off of paper plates with (biodegradable) plastic sporks. I used to eat at Vik’s two or three times a week when I had a shop in West Berkeley, but enjoy reserving it for our occassional forays into town even more, and find it a necessary compliment to country life.

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Sunnyside Conservatory Menagerie

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I’m putting finishing touches on a series of creatures for our Sunnyside Conservatory Menagerie project for final approval from the San Francisco Arts Commission before they are cast in bronze. The Conservatory building and grounds are currently under thorough renovation, and the creatures will be permanently installed over the summer as a complement to the original, exotic flora planted by the original owner, W.A. Merrals over 100 years ago.

Merrals was a Victorian-era mining engineer and inventor of international repute who invented a gas engine, a ventilation system for the New York City subway system, and the “Merrals Safety Aeroplane”, a bamboo-framed balloon powered by four gas engines of his own design.

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The concept behind our menagerie is to complement the Victorian sense of wonder and discovery by suggesting plausible creatures that might inhabit the gardens surrounding the building. The result is a series of four creatures hybridized from actual fauna associated with the native origins of the plantings. I took the liberty of making references to our own pets, and have made the sculptures in the guise of a fictional, forensic anthropologist, over the past six weeks.

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Photos: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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