Blog Post

First Relocation: El Ancla by Willi Gutmann

Ruta de la Amistad, a series of outdoor sculptures created by famous artists for the 1968 Olympics, form a 17-kilometer route through Mexico City. Over the years several of 22 sculptures have been obscured or threatened by urban growth. Because of these threats and the need for an acceptable solution, the route is on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. The following post, submitted by Patronato Ruta de la Amistad A.C., the nominators of the site, describes the efforts to move one of the sculptures from its original position because of the development of an elevated highway.

Today La Ruta de la Amistad faces its biggest challenge: the construction of an elevated highway passing over it, which is causing the relocation of 10 sculptures. El Ancla (The Anchor) by Willi Gutmann, Station 2, from Switzerland, was the first to be moved, on December 4.

Preparatory works, previous to the movement of this monumental piece, started a few weeks before the operation. They included deconstruction of an outer covering made out of steel bars to protect the sculpture and for it to support all the effort and force from the cranes during its lifting and transportation.

All Saturday, December 3, people worked on last details, from soldering to installing high performance rubbers between the sculpture and the metallic structure as padding. By 8:00 in the evening everything was set and ready for the maneuver, and it all came down to waiting for the Periférico highway to be closed at 11 (as it has been every night because of the construction) to let the cranes begin their work. Beholders started to become nervous, while they took the last pictures of El Ancla in the location it had been for 43 years. With a long night ahead, some spectators took this moment for a coffee break.

A little after 11, without circulation on the central highway, a convoy of yellow lights from all the cranes, tow trucks, and heavy machinery let us know it was time. It took a few hours of increasing anxiety for tow trucks and cranes to assume their positions and prepare themselves. With all cameras ready, the area cleared and a big banner in front of the sculpture, the foundations were cut. The steel cables that grabbed the top and frontal part of El Ancla began to tighten. Finally, a scandalous crack left spectators shocked at this monumental piece floating between both cranes.

Almost immediately, the eight-by-eleven-meter sculpture started turning sidewise in the air and ended with one side on top and its bottom on front showing its insides to all viewers. It remained floating statically for what seemed hours (but was just minutes), until the platform that would carry it for seven kilometers through the Periférico highway, went under it slowly. El Ancla descended unhurriedly and laid down over the platform.

Gutmann’s work of art traveled for an hour between a few men who guarded its sides from urban obstacles and a caravan of vehicles that followed it.

An intense sun accompanied the last maneuvers: the raising to take it off the platform and its descent into the workshop, which concluded successfully the first part of a monumental movement. El Ancla remained a couple of weeks in the workshop located next to la Torre de los Vientos (the Wind Tower), station 6 of Ruta de la Amistad, where it received a full restoration treatment to ready it for its permanent site. This was only the beginning of the first challenge, with nine more to go.