A potentially major piece of outdoor sculpture combining highly symbolic objects with fountains will be announced today as part of the proposed TransPotomac Canal Center on the Alexandria waterfront.
A pedestrian plaza descending in three spacious tiers to the Potomac, the project will be the first large-scale American work of a noted French husband and wife team, Patrick and Anne Poirier.
Their distinctive work, with its massive jets and falls of water combined with mythological symbols, evokes the grandeur of Versailles.
Savage/Fogarty Companies Inc., developers of the $125 million office complex on the northern end of the Alexandria waterfront, describe the creation tier by tier. At the top level there will be "a huge bronze arrow which appears to be thrust from the heavens into the beginnings of the fountain area." Next will come "a series of marble artwork sculptures intermingled with the waters of the cascading fountain," and near the bottom will be an obelisk viewed from an amphitheater overlooking downtown Washington.
The esthetic nature of the Poiriers' work is so old that in this age of tailored modernism, it seems practically new. The selection committee appointed by the developers included Jack Cowart, the National Gallery of Art's curator of 20th-century art; Jane Livingston, associate director and chief curator of the Corcoran Gallery of Art; and James Demetri, director of the Hirshhorn.
Cowart said the final selection was reached by consensus.
"The Poiriers are important figures in the return to narrative art," he said. "And it especially applies to the character of Washington . . . So their mythological bent in recent years was one of the deciding points.
"They have a major international reputation," Cowart continued, "and they are brilliant at relating pieces to what is around them, especially to water. That was another of the deciding elements -- the way this relates to the contemporary architecture that will surround it."
The Poiriers worked on the Alexandria project with landscape architect Paul Friedberg, who designed Pershing Park in downtown Washington. The project itself, which will cover 10 acres, will also include a restored lock of the TransPotomac Canal that carried barge traffic from Alexandria across the river to the C&O Canal in Georgetown.