The Pike, a large-scale public artwork, is finally installed this week at the southwest corner of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street, near the county line bordering Fairfax.
On Wednesday morning, ARLnow saw the salvaged 50-foot-tall wind turbine wing stretched out horizontally waiting for a crane to lift it onto an already installed steel base strewn with thousands of coins from around the world.
The installation of “The Pike” by artist Donald Lipski has begun! The base of the sculpture is dotted with thousands of coins from around the world collected from residents of Arlington County
— ArlingtonVA Arts (@ARL_Arts) May 24, 2022
The physical elevation of the turbine on the base is scheduled for later in the afternoon, said Jim Byers of Arlington Arts. The sculpture will be fully installed by the end of the week, Byers said, with no impact on traffic and with “minimal” impact on pedestrian access. It will have “a slight ‘intrusion’ on part of the sidewalk,” he noted.
An official inauguration ceremony is planned for the fall.
The intention of the artwork is to conjure up images of a medieval spear known as a pike turned into a toll gate, in a nod to Columbia Pike’s history as a road toll.
Nearly 5,000 coins from 117 countries collected from county residents are incorporated into the database. The international currency is intended to bolster Columbia Pike’s reputation as a “world within a zip code”. The location of the sculpture near the border of the two counties is also meant to serve as a symbolic “gateway”.
The concept was conceived about ten years ago and construction began in November.
The artwork was designed by Donald Lipski. He wanted to create something that stood out and united the two ends of the Columbia Pike County part.
“I knew I wanted to do something really vertical that you could see from afar,” he told ARLnow today, standing in front of the two pieces of the sculpture. “I also thought about ending the Air Force Memorial book on the other end.”
He used wind turbines not just because of their “beautiful shape,” but because it reminds us of how much we as a society need to shift to more renewable resources. Using collected coins as decoration on the base was something Lipski had done before, but says it takes on special meaning here in Arlington because of the county’s international population.
“People could walk by here in 20 years and say to their child, ‘Look, there are coins from Bolivia that I gave away when you were just a little baby,'” Lipski says. “I like this.”
Back in 2017, when Lipski first launched his design, there were some concerns about the audience engagement process and the design. The Arlington Mill Civic Association expressed disappointment that it was not given ample opportunity to contribute to the design, despite assurances. Members of the Douglas Park Civic Association said tolls, barriers and blades were not appropriate neighborhood symbols.
“Recognizing that Arlington Mill is the poorest neighborhood in the county, we strongly oppose the implementation of any form of blade as a representative of our community,” the leaders wrote in a letter. “Furthermore, toll gates are never welcoming. Their purpose and design is to stop traffic. They disrupt the flow. This is certainly not how the southwest gateway to Arlington County should be portrayed.
The project also took almost a decade to come to fruition, a “very long” timeframe compared to Lipski’s other projects.
Much of the delay was because the construction and installation of the sculpture was part of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, a multi-year series of street improvements and utility upgrades along the road that runs from the Fairfax County border to just before the Pentagon.
The total project cost for The Pike is approximately $360,000, according to a county public art budget document. This includes a developer contribution of approximately $60,000.
Lipski hopes his art will become something of a county landmark.
“I love it when a part of me becomes something that’s part of people’s lives,” he says. “I know there will be people who will live in Arlington and…they will come home and they will see it and [say], ‘Oh, here we are. We are at home.'”