When French artist Olivier Grossetête sent us these images of Pont de Singe - an intriguing "hanging bridge" that dangles from three helium-filled balloons above a lake in the UK - he included a warning. "The use of helium was sometimes criticized," he said, since helium is difficult to extract and, like all molecules, is becoming a scarce natural resource. Yet there's something so compelling about his da Vinci-esque design, which is like shock therapy for the stagnant imagination.
“Replacing the bearings [with a] helium balloon bridge seems to abstract laws of gravity and questions our perception,” wrote Grossetête. And it also challenges us to think about low-impact, temporary design that can respond to its natural environment. As Hurricane Sandy revealed, water levels are rising and we might be forced to develop more infrastructure that can function without land-based anchors.
Pont de Singe builds on an earlier installation called “Suspension Bridge, the passage,” according to the artist, which was also attached to helium balloons. “I like the idea that an object is supposed to connect two mobile spaces, questioning its usefulness,” he said. The bridge is not strong enough for users, so it’s more art than infrastructure, and it is subject to the whims of wind, but its gentle footprint does inspire us to reconsider the relationship between nature and the built environment.