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Community / Public space

Boston's giant new spiderweb sculpture, inspired by the city's highways

This weekend, artist Janet Echelman installed an absolutely enormous sculpture in Boston. It’s no lump of bronze or concrete, though: instead, its 600 foot span is woven out of 100 miles of rope and includes half a million knots.

While Echelman is a Boston native, the untitled web sculpture has a lot in common with other pieces she’s as installed in cities around the world. Such as, well, all of these:

Like the artist’s previous sculptures, Boston’s new installation is huge, and, while appearing delicate, weighs over a ton. It took 20 hours and 50 workers to hoist it to its current position. 


Unlike the other pieces, however, Boston’s sculpture doesn’t represent anything fancy, like the “single fullscreen Google Chrome window over 10m pixels in size” of the similar sculpture created in conjunction with Google. No, according to Echelman, its six bands of colour represent “the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood”.

Here, she’s referring to the John F. Kennedy Expressway, which ran right through the city until a few years ago, when it was diverted into a tunnel and replaced by the mile-long Rose Kennedy Greenway park. The new sculpture hangs across one section of the park, and, Echelman hopes, “knits together” the new urban landscape.

On her website, the artist also says the piece was designed to contrast with the steely lines of the skyscrapers it’s suspended between:   

Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather. Its fibres are 15 times stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight, making the sculpture able to lace directly into three skyscrapers as a soft counterpoint to hard-edged architecture. It is a physical manifestation of interconnectedness and strength through resiliency.

Here’s the web under construction: 

And here’s a couple of close-ups:

The piece will stand in Boston until October.

All images: Janet Echelman.
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