Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

'Wings' of Freedom Are Actually Sails, But They're Abstract

A rendering of the "Wings of Freedom" sculpture being proposed for the tip of Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.
A rendering of the "Wings of Freedom" sculpture being proposed for the tip of Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.

A chat with one of the designers of a sculpture that may be built on the San Diego bayfront.

'Wings' of Freedom Are Actually Sails. But They're Abstract
One of the designers of the controversial "Wings of Freedom" sculpture defends the idea to create what he believes may be an iconic structure on the bay.

“Wings of Freedom” is the name of a pair of 500-foot-tall sculptures that might be built right on San Diego bay, at the end of Navy Pier. Two architects have designed a model, and a wealthy donor has pledged $35 million to build the wings. It’s being promoted as a future San Diego icon. But the idea has as many opponents as boosters.

One of the architects who designed the sculpture is Greg Mueller, who spoke with KPBS Morning Edition host Tom Fudge. He said the idea for the sculpture came when he, and co-designer Hal Sadler, were looking at sailboats.


Mueller: We took several images and Hal and I were looking at them and came up with a few that showed ships tacking against each other. And the ones that were the most dynamic were the ones where one ship had stolen the wind from the other and was advancing forward. So we used that image and came with several different forms. So we abstracted the new image from a sailing photo.

Fudge: This is called “Wings of Freedom,” and a lot of people think they’re wings of an aircraft.

Mueller: It’s actually sailing. But it’s been coined “Wings of Freedom,” by the Midway (Museum), which is the sponsor of the project.

Fudge: It’s interesting that you said this is an abstraction. It’s meant to be abstract, not representational?

Mueller: It’s an abstraction. When you look at it you may see wings. Aviation is a big part of San Diego. There are a lot of things that have been invented here. So that’s part of the city’s root. But if you look at it and you see sails, that’s great. If you see wings… It’s up to the beholder. It’s an abstraction.


Fudge: What is this thing going to look like when it’s on the bay? Will it be made out of metal? Will the sun shine off of it? Give us a little more of a feel for what it’s going to be.

Mueller: As it’s proposed right now, we have it wrapped with titanium. The wings are convex, like they are filled with air. So it’s not seen as a flat sheet. So it’s going to reflect light differently with each time of the day. And as you walk around the sail it’s going to change, depending on the light that’s being reflected off of it.

Fudge: Well tell me, why is this sculpture you’re proposing so special, so spectacular, that it deserves to be right on San Diego Bay, that it deserves to be 500 feet tall, that it deserves $35 million of anybody’s money?

Mueller: The design of this is something that really, truly represents San Diego as a whole. It is something that people can identify with, they can interact with, they can be a part of it. The idea of this structure is that it is meant to be visually appealing. It’s meant to have an iconic representation, whether you’re flying in, whether you’re coming in on a cruise ship, whether you are walking the embarcadero, it’s mean to enhance your visit to San Diego.

Fudge: I know some people who hate the name, Wings of Freedom. They think it’s hokey and pseudo-patriotic. What do you say to that, and do you think the name is significant.

Mueller: I think that at this point the name is just the name that is being used for the project. I think it’s up to the Midway, our donor and others as to what the final name might be. But Wings of Freedom, from the standpoint of what this pier meant to San Diego, this is where family came during World War II and said goodbye to their family members who boarded ships to fight in World War II. And this is where they came back.

So the idea of the joys of freedom that we partake in… it made sense.