Flock: Public Art at the Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility

The Project

The Flock artwork was commissioned as part of the Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility construction project. The artist team of Haddad|Drugan applied to an open international call in 2013, and was chosen by a project-specific selection panel.

Flock was the first artwork, installed near the facility's south entrance. The second artwork, with a working title of Ascend, was installed on the hill east of the facility starting .

Title of Artwork: Flock
Artist: Team of Haddad|Drugan
Site: Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge
Budget: $1.49 million. Two-thirds of the project budget went to Ascend, while one-third went to Flock
Project Completion: May 2018​​​​​

Flock - installed 2017

Flock - installed 2017. Photo credit: Haddad|Drugan. Used by permission.


The Concept

The artists were asked to create an artwork that would:

  • Be responsive to the natural environment, and
  • Create memorial, iconic experiences that reflect the identity of the community, landscape, and facility.

The site chosen for Flock was the gathering spot between the building and the wetland in front of the facility. When seen from a distance, the artwork appears to be a flock of birds rising from the wetland into the sky.

The artwork consists of 42 stainless steel poles, each a bit over 5.5 metres (18 feet high). Two sets of 21 poles form a V-shape flock of birds. Each pole has from one to four wind vanes in the silhouette of a bird. One side of each wind vane is dark in colour and the other side is light. As the wind vanes change orientation with the wind direction, the art provides a sensory experience of light, texture and motion.

Both the placement of the poles and the angle formed by the lowest vane on each pole are designed to point and frame the position of the sun at noon on the Winter Solstice.

Being responsive to the changing seasons, weather and light conditions of the wetland continuously transforms people’s experience of the artwork.

Flock - installed 2017

Flock - installed 2017. Photo credit: Haddad|Drugan. Used by permission.

The Artists

Haddad|Drugan is artist team Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, who specialize in conceptually-driven, site-specific art. The artists’ projects combine an aesthetic concept with a site’s unique dynamics with inspiration from a curiosity of nature, science, sustainability, community and history.

Their artworks are often designed to respond to natural phenomena such as sun, sound, light, wind and water. These artworks engage people in a variety of experiences at different scales, vantage points and conditions which create an experience that is deeply felt and memorable.

With over twenty public art commissions throughout North America, Haddad|Drugan’s work is widely published and honored with a variety of awards. Their most well-known works include:

  • Emerald City, an environmental artwork at the entry to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport,
  • Sun Spot, an iconic set of sculptures for the Denver Animal Shelter, and
  • Water Mark, large-scale sculptures and earthworks that both control and enhance perception of flood events in Scottsdale, Arizona’s Indian Bend Wash.

Both artists hold Master’s degrees in landscape architecture and have taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and University of Washington.

The artists found the site and facility "incredibly inspiring" and early in the project said:

"We are excited by the opportunity to create a unique artwork for the Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility and look forward to collaborating with everyone involved to realize its full artistic potential."

Community Engagement

To develop the concept for this artwork, Laura and Tom met with the community to discuss their research and thoughts about the site.

A survey asked the community their opinion about:

  • Significant or unique features of the area,
  • Outdoor activities they would likely engage in at the recreation centre
  • Favourite seasons, and
  • Favourite outdoor spaces in Calgary.

More whimsical questions asked people to imagine if a movie was made at the centre, what genre it would be, and to draw or describe a mythical creature that might be discovered there.

The community response affirmed the artists’ ideas about locating the art outdoors, and embracing the site’s unique topography and natural environment, engaging views, sunlight and weather. From the input received, there was a strong consensus that the art should embrace the natural environment, especially the striking views to and from the nearby hills.

The artwork designed for the Rocky Ridge Recreation Facility connects people to the unique natural features and wildlife of the site, and creates memorable, iconic experiences that reflect the community’s identity and values.

Paul Sinclair was a community member who took part in this process as a member of the public art selection committee, and he says that he is "pleased to see this vision of the community rise up and become an iconic part of Calgary." He feels that the artwork will "not only enhance the facility but will also draw people to different locations around the entire site, to appreciate it from various viewpoints."