Tatton Park is a 16th-century estate on a piece of land in Northwest England that’s been inhabited since the Iron Age. This fall, the park hosted its third biennial, which gathers emerging artists around cerebral topics like myth and memory. This year’s theme—flight—had artists painting decommissioned jetliners and crashing fake UFOs on the estate’s 2,000 acres.
French installation artist Olivier Grossetete took a less direct approach, building a bridge to nowhere called Pont de Singe ("Monkey Bridge"). Grossetete employed three helium balloons—similar to those used to take weather measurements—to create the installation, which sits in the midst of Tatton’s Japanese Garden.
Grossetete has a background in set design. He’s known for his public installations made from cardboard boxes, which he uses to build huge bridges, monuments, and structures that tower over 40 feet above the ground. In 2007, he built a small model of a bridge and set it afloat with a number of balloons, but this was his first experiment with a full-scale footbridge. Both of his parents are physical scientists, and they helped him with the necessary calculations for the structure. "I called my parents first, and then a safety engineer to help me in calculating lift and drag," he tells Co.Design.
The question everyone asks, of course, is "Can I walk over it?" No, but not for the reasons you might imagine. Each balloon can support an extra 120 pounds of weight, so it could easily support a couple of people if it were properly secured. But insurance issues precluded the idea ("especially in an increasingly litigious society," Grossetete says), and putting it in the middle of the pond became a way to deter daredevils.
"Those are all pragmatic reasons for the inaccessibility," Grossetete adds. "But I also think that this inaccessibility helps [Pont de Singe] avoid becoming a gadget or gag at the amusement park, instead becoming poetry. I think our imaginations takes us further than any balloon."