Picture a map, with a circle designed to draw your eye to a particular place. That shape is telling you where to look. Now imagine it rendered in 3D, and plopped down on a freeway bridge. That’s what’s going on with a massive, wheel-shaped streetlamp in Calgary.
Standing roughly 55 feet tall, the steel hoop, which is formally known as “Travelling Light,” is the blue of an impossibly clear sky. It frames the landscape behind it, as though you’re looking through a viewfinder. The work was conceptualized by the Berlin-based collective inges idee, and built and installed by local companies. The wheel was completed in 2013, and has been inciting puzzlement and a dash of ire ever since.
The project was bankrolled by the city’s public art initiative, and the nearly half-a-million dollar price tag left some citizens bristling. “Some still see red over giant blue ring,” the Calgary Herald reported in 2016. A handful of locals grumbled to newspapers that the project was an eyesore, and either overly simplistic or the exact opposite: It struck them as either a big circle, plain and simple, or else something so lofty and profound that it was utterly inaccessible. In 2015, one resident tweeted a photo of a jumbled heap of office chairs, and joked that that sculpture was an improvement over the blue ring. Even the mayor told reporters that the hoop was “awful” and “terrible,” according to the Herald, and a former alderman told the paper that the installation was a colossal “waste of money” that “makes me sick every time I see it.”
Public art isn’t always popular, but it often gets people talking, and nudges them to see their surroundings in a different way. Look at the hoop, or peer through it, and make up your own mind about what you see.