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Boston Unveils an Enormous, Rainbow-Colored Spiderweb

The 600-foot-wide artwork, hanging hundreds of feet in the air, required 100 miles of rope.

A photo posted by Janet Echelman (@janet_echelman) on

Boston is at last prepared for a Mothra attack with a new public sculpture that looks like a colossal, psychedelic cobweb.

The untitled piece hangs above the Rose Kennedy Greenway and was made by local artist Janet Echelman, who has installed similar webs seemingly in every city on the planet. This one is a doozy: Though it appears lightweight, the 600-foot-wide entanglement weighs 2,000 pounds and required 100 miles of rope and a half-million knots. The thing is so massive there were actually official conversations about it maybe snaring birds. (The Greenway folks concluded the "bottom line is that birds avoid it since they see it similar to a forest or cluster of trees—it reads as a solid mass.")

Here's how Echelman describes the piece, which will hover until its removal in the fall:

The sculpture's form echoes the history of its location. The three voids recall the "Tri-Mountain" which was razed in the 18th-century to create land from the harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood, before the Big Dig buried them and enabled the space to be reclaimed for urban pedestrian life.

The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. When any one of its elements moves, every other element is affected. Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather. Its fibers 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.

Just as impressive as the object's immensity is the labor that went into putting it up. You can get a good taste of it in this fantastic time lapse from Julian Tryba, showing a small army of cranes erecting the net through night and day:

A photo posted by Janet Echelman (@janet_echelman) on

A photo posted by Janet Echelman (@janet_echelman) on

A photo posted by Janet Echelman (@janet_echelman) on

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.