Lonely Planet Writer

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor celebrates 400th anniversary with a colourful floating sculpture

The ever-bustling Plaza Mayor in the heart of Madrid is celebrating its 400th anniversary this week, and to mark the occasion, visitors to the historic spot can see a stunning, vibrant sculpture by American artist Janet Echelman floating overhead.

1.78 Madrid suspended above Plaza Mayor.
1.78 Madrid suspended above Plaza Mayor. Image by (c) Janet Echelman inc 2018 / Joao Ferrand

On show until 19 February, the piece is called 1.78 Madrid, and is constructed with layers of engineered fibre designed to be lightweight and flexible while also being 15 times stronger than steel by weight. The sculpture sees the material being braided and knotted together in order to create one big piece that is designed to change and shift with wind and weather, and at night, the structure becomes an eye-catching sea of colour when lights are projected onto it.

The piece is constructed with layers of engineered fibre designed to be lightweight and flexible.
The piece is constructed with layers of engineered fibre designed to be lightweight and flexible. Image by (c) Janet Echelman inc 2018 / Joao Ferrand

Based on the cycle of time, the sculpture aims to celebrate the positive evolution of culture and society throughout the ages. “In the last four hundred years, people have gathered at Plaza Mayor to witness bull-fights and Spanish Inquisition burnings. Today we gather together with art that explores our concept of time, to discuss ideas. This is a hopeful trajectory for humanity,” Janet Echelman said.

The sculpture is available to view until 19 February.
The sculpture is available to view until 19 February. Image by (c) Janet Echelman inc 2018 / Joao Ferrand

1.78 Madrid has also been designed to travel to other cities, following a theme of interconnectedness, and is the newest addition to the artist’s Earth Times series which begun in 2010 and saw works being displayed in cities across Europe, Asia, Australia and North and South America.

1.78 Madrid was designed so that it could be transported to other cities in the future.
1.78 Madrid was designed so that it could be transported to other cities in the future. Image by (c) Janet Echelman inc 2018 / Joao Ferrand

Plaza Mayor is where Madrid became the seat of royal power and dating back through history, it was where the splendour of imperial Spain was at its height. Today the spot is an architectural high point of the city and attracts tourists from all over the world. The site is also significant to Janet Echelman, as it was the spot that the artist created her first sculpture that was integrated with architecture.

More information on Janet Echelman’s work is available at her official website.