Richard Serra’s Promenade, 2008, being installed in the Grand Palais, Paris. Photo: Lorenz Kienzle.

Richard Serra’s Promenade, 2008, being installed in the Grand Palais, Paris. Photo: Lorenz Kienzle.

Richard Serra

Richard Serra’s Promenade, 2008, being installed in the Grand Palais, Paris. Photo: Lorenz Kienzle.


TECHNOLOGY IS a form of tool making (body extensions). Technology is not art—not invention. It is a simultaneous hope and hoax. It does not concern itself with the undefined, the inexplicable: It deals with the affirmation of its own making. Technology is what we do to the Black Panthers and the Vietnamese under the guise of advancement in a materialistic theology. (The names of the wars have changed.)

Skullcracker Stacking Series, 1969, at the skull cracker yard of Kaiser Steel in Fontana, California, was erected with an overhead magnetic crane. The structures were not conceived in advance. A hand language was learned. (Collaboration existed between the crane operator and myself.) The material primarily utilized: crop, the waste product of the hot roll mill. Cut from the ends of slabs, these large chunks of steel, fifteen to thirty feet in height and weighing 100 to 250 tons, provided a variety of non-fixed relational possibilities. The scale was related directly to the potential of the place. The problem: to avoid architectonic structure, i.e., to allow the work to be dense, loose, and balanced without relying on previous forms or given methods.

Direct engagement with the materials (crop, plate, slab, billets, stools, etc.), that is, the elements involved, enabled concrete identification with each step in the process. Paradoxically, the solutions to the problems of construction (stacking) appear rational, although the process of finding these solutions was not. The apparent potential for disorder, for movement, endowed the structures with a quality outside of their physical orrelational definition. Complete disorientation occurred daily. Work that both trended upward and collapsed downward toward the ground simultaneously was OK. In all, twenty structures were erected in eight weeks—the pieces were put together and taken apart.¹


MY DECISION, early on, to build site-specific works in steel took me out of the traditional studio. The studio has been replaced by urbanism and industry. Steel mills, shipyards, and fabrication plants have become my on-the-road extended studios. My work can only be built in cooperation with city planners, engineers, transporters, laborers, riggers. Usually, I analyze a mill’s capacity, study its equipment, look at its products, consider its most advanced processes applied in making turbines, shells, pistons, nose cones, ingots, etc. I often try to extend a mill’s or shipyard’s tool potential in relation to what I need to accomplish. To be able to enter into a mill, a shipyard, and extend both its work and my needs is a way of becoming an active producer within a given technology, not a manipulator of a “found” industrial product, not a consumer.²


I HAVE USED computer technology for over twenty years. I start with lead models. The information obtained from the model is converted into a CAD [Computer-Aided Design] drawing that is sent to the fabricator, and the collaborative process begins. The fabricator enters our drawing into a CATIA [Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application] program. This digital software creates a virtual model that allows for reevaluation and adjustments that are executed in multiple exchanges with the fabricator. The computer is just another tool, another technology that has become part of the industrial frame. Inventing forms is not dependent on software.


1. A previous version of this text was published in A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967–1971 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), 299–300.

2. A previous version of this text was published in “Extended Notes from Sight Point Road,” in Richard Serra, Writings/Interviews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 168.