Huntsville lost a unique piece of public art today, albeit temporarily. Some loved it, some hated it, some just didn’t like where it was located, but there’s no question that Pipe Man did what good art should do: it got people talking.
At its meeting on Monday, October 23, Huntsville’s Town Council agreed to have the floating sculpture removed from its current location in the Muskoka River and, pending consultation with the donor, artist and community at large, come up with an alternative location.
Today, less than a year after it was installed, a Pipefusion crew was in the water to remove Pipe Man. It wasn’t as easy a task as it might seem.
Pipe Man was, for the most part, engineered by “a bunch of dock builders”, said Pipefusion plant manager, Brad Payne. It was precisely counter-weighted to keep it floating freely; four chains secured it to the riverbed 35 feet below the surface and allowed it to rise and fall with the water level.
And it’s big – extending 18 feet above the water and 20 feet below, the sculpture weighs 20,000 pounds. The depth of the river at that location was ideal; it needs at least a 30-foot depth to accommodate the below-surface structure.
Prior to removing the sculpture, Pipefusion staff sent down cameras to assess its condition below water and were amazed at how little wear there was on the chains and how well it was performing after one year, said Payne. It appears to have been functioning perfectly, making today disappointing for those who helped engineer and build it to see the project succeed but, at the same time, not.
Divers went down 35 feet to unhook the chains, requiring a three million candlepower spotlight to see through the dark water. Using a barge specially built by Pipefusion for the task, staff used a 17,000-pound winch to grab hold of a tether on Pipe Man, hidden below the surface, to pull it off balance until it floated on its side so that it could be moved onto a waiting trailer.
“This has been a long process from the outset,” said Jan Nyquist, owner of Pipefusion. “All of us at Pipefusion are deeply saddened with the removal of Pipe Man. The Town of Huntsville has lost something very special today. Pipe Man was a great piece of industrial art with a historical theme not to mention an incredible engineering feat in a unique location never tried before in the country.”
Apparently being bold, different and daring was too much for some members of our community. The councillors and mayor listened. I am proud of my staff and all individuals in our town including the artist who played a part in the evolution of Pipe Man.
Pipefusion removed the sculpture at their cost, just as they installed it.
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