University of Calgary

Heavy Hitter

Submitted by alumni on Wed, 11/04/2015 - 23:45.

Heavy Hitter

When artists think big, real big, they turn to fabricating companies whose studios can resemble a metal shop, wood shop or auto-body shop
by Ellis Choe

Ken Heinbecker, BComm’08, with a creation by artist Dan Corson.Ken Heinbecker, BComm’08, with a creation by artist Dan Corson.

When marketing whiz Ken Heinbecker, BComm’08, helped Heavy Industries snag the building of The Bow’s iconic Wonderland sculpture, the fabricating company’s first million-dollar-plus contract and its first major steel project, he had no idea what a crowd-pleaser it would be.

Since then, Heavy Industries has built the controversial Travelling Light (a.k.a. the “blue ring”) in north Calgary, the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park and others around the planet.

What is your favourite public art installation that Heavy has built?

It’s a sculpture called Aufschwung, in Munich, Germany. It’s a Baroque-style cupid whose profile has been elongated about 31 metres and wrapped into a corkscrew-like shape. It was difficult to build given its texture, shape and degree of precision.

What has been Heavy’s most challenging installation?

It was Wonderland because of its sheer scale. It took 4,633 metres of steel rod, more than 11,500 welds and 14 full-time welders, around the clock, about 18 months to design, engineer and fabricate the pieces, as well as six months to construct on site.

Were you an engaged student at UCalgary?

Yes. A lot of the experience I use today I gained at Haskayne, as well as in student clubs where I organized events, built websites and lead and managed teams. My profs in my last year were amazingly helpful in renegotiating my schedule so I could start here part-time.

If you could get another degree, what would you study?

I’d take architecture. A lot of people I talk to are architects.

If you could design a work of art, what would it look like?

Personally, I like geometrical things. I’m working on a stool that’s also a bench that’s also sculpture that’s also pop art.

The “blue ring” (Travelling Light) got a bad rap. What do you think of it?

Personally, I think it’s awesome. The freestanding ring [situated on a road overpass along 96th Avenue N.E., just west of Deerfoot Trail] is an engineering feat that’s a clever solution to a very challenging site. At 60 km/hour, you’ve got a split-second to see it, understand it and get challenged by it. The simple circle, a metaphor for travel, is perfectly positioned there — considering you’re at a site where planes, trains and automobiles are going by continuously. So many projects just fall into the bane of indifference. This is at least spoken about and everybody sees it, so I think it’s very successful.

Where do you want to see the company in five years?

It’s very rare to find one business that includes cutting-edge design software and expert designers that can back it up. That’s why you hear about the Peace Bridge [crossing the Bow River in Calgary] being built in Spain, getting finished in Germany and then shipped over here, because there’s no one in between Spain and Germany that could have worked on it. In five years, I want us to be the no-brainer for that kind of work. U