Audio Transcript for Wright's Triangle by Richard Serra

Wright’s Triangle, which was completed in 1980, was Richard Serra’s first outdoor public commission. Serra first wanted to place the sculpture at the bottom of the slope, by the steps leading into Red Square. But the site was too marshy and unstable for his proposed 101 ton Cor-ten structure. The problem was solved when Serra chose the present site, where the sculpture sits on a buried concrete cube that links the University’s utility tunnels.

The next decision involved the orientation of the triangle on the site. The three openings are aligned with the three paths which meet at this spot. Still, by placing the sculpture in the middle of a major thoroughfare, the flow of pedestrian traffic is interrupted. Perhaps, Serra wanted the viewer to think about the idea of a wall – what it is like to confront a massive barrier. By interrupting movement through the space, the walls also engage the viewer in a different way than traditional sculptures. Rather than looking at the work to admire its materials and internal relationships, the viewer is encouraged to walk along the sculpture and measure her or himself against its size. Upon entering the sculpture, the experience changes. A barrier becomes an enclosure, a respite in the middle of the busy thoroughfare.

Serra said:

“The presence of sculpture is different from that of architecture or other kinds of form building. It can point your awareness and orientation to spaces and places in a way that architecture cannot. My sculpture is basically about walking into, seeing through, and walking around a structure that reveals itself as it reveals the decisions that underlie its construction. In Wright’s Triangle the interior division creates a passage with parallel inclined walls; an opening at either end of the passage allows you to enter into a large open triangular space. There is a certain ambiguity between the experience of the exterior and interior of this particular piece. Walking around the exterior of the sculpture does not inform you about the different spaces that are contained inside and vica versa.”

“Notwithstanding the fact that sculpture is generically different in presence and function from architecture I could relate this particular sculpture to Pre-Columbian architecture – to an architecture that is based on more primary building units of great density and mass and very simple erection methods. Macchu Picchu immediately comes to mind. The building mode of lean and balance is probably closer to a pre-Columbian mode of building than to the strict vertical/ horizontal post and lintel system that to me typifies Western architecture.”

“…Wright’s Triangle is the first sculpture with an internal division. Subsequently I built a piece in Paris at La Défense called Slat [1983]which is a 40' high tower that from the outside appears to be a monolith but has an internal division inside. You walk into it and pass from a triangular section into an open parallelogram. It is a direct outgrowth of Wright’s Triangle.”