A city on foot

Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway used to be a roaring six-lane highway on the south side of Boston.  Now it is a quiet green space, with flower beds and seats.  And it is an excellent space for art.

I was fortunate to be in Boston when Janet Echelman’s amazing sculpture, As If It Were Already Here, was on display, suspended over the greenway.

sculptureMade of hand-spliced, ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene (UHMWPE) and braided high-tenacity polyester fibres, it is strung between buildings and lit at night. We saw it both by day and night, and it was completely different on the two occasions and it changes every moment.  It will remain until October 2015.

When one element moves so do the others.  It is immensely strong yet delicate as lace as it sways in the breeze.

sculpture 2

9 sculpture






The artist explains that the sculpture spans a space where the highway once split downtown from its waterfront.  There are three voids in the sculpture which represent the ‘tri mountain’ which was razed in the eighteenth century to create land from the harbour. The colour banding is a reference to the six-lane highway, interstate 93, which was buried in the Big Dig, a megaproject whose construction phase lasted from 1999 to 2006 and was the most expensive highway project in the USA.   The greenway was created on top of the highway, contributing to Boston’s network of parks and green spaces.

Greenway sign

Janet says that the sculpture embraces Boston as a city on foot, and certainly this area of downtown is now a pleasant place to linger and walk.  The Rose Kennedy Greenway has grown up a lot since I visited it in 2011.

Greenway 2011

Greenway 2011

Fort Channel Park


It is likely that this sculpture is providing a boost to nearby restaurants, from which people can watch the ever-changing shapes and colours.


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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