John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The huge, globe-trotting waterfowl will make its American debut in September.
Attention, big-game hunters! Pack your elephant gun into your crocodile-skin bag and get ready to hunt the ultimate prey: a mega-swole rubber ducky so tall that humans probably look to it like delicious breadcrumbs.
Just kidding – please don't shoot the duck. (Or stab it, which actually has happened before.) While this inflatable waterfowl's monstrous size makes it look intimidating – just imagine its sonic-boom quack blowing cars and people down the street – in reality it is a "friendly" entity that "has healing properties," according to the Dutch artist who built it, Florentijn Hofman.
Since it launched in 2007, the ducky has graced humans with its benevolence in Amsterdam, Osaka, Sydney, Hong Kong and other ports of call. The creature's arrival in Pittsburgh this September for the art-and-culture International Festival of Firsts marks its first U.S. appearance.
Expectations are already running high. "The Rubber Duck has captured the imaginations and the hearts everywhere it deployed. How can you not be drawn to a four-story Rubber Duck?" says Marc Fleming, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. "It is going to be HUGE."
The bloated bird will be lifted by crane into the water below the West End Bridge on September 27, and a tug and a guide boat will then prod it toward Pittsburgh's Sixth Street Bridge. Over the next few weeks, it will visit various locations along the Allegheny River, always under a watchful eye. "The duck requires around-the-clock attention and security," says Paul Organisak of the Pittsburgh trust. "It will be manned the entire time it's here."
Anybody with an interest in abnormal-sized animals should check out Hofman's other sculptures, which might not be as famous as the ducky but are exquisite in their own way. There's this creepy dead fly in Mexico, for instance, or the upside-down bunny in Sweden, and of course the frog-with-a-party-hat in Japan.
Sometimes the playful, color-infused sculptures mask a serious message, like with these "Slow Slugs" in France that represent weighty stuff like "natural decay and the slow suffocation of commercialized societies." The ducky's message is a bit more upbeat. As the artist explains in this video of it paddling around Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour this May, the artwork is meant to make us think about how we're all joined together in a "global bathtub":
Top image: The duck dominates the skyline in Sydney (zonz/Flickr)