As the weather heats up, children and adults alike can experience a unique attraction in Boston – the Greenway Carousel. The carousel is a lively addition to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a mile-and-a-half stretch of contemporary parks in the heart of the city. Opened last August, the Greenway Carousel takes center stage across from Boston’s iconic Faneuil Hall and features eclectic animals fabricated from glass fiber-reinforced plastic.
The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, steward of the parks, enlisted the help of local elementary school students, encouraging them to draw pictures of animals they would like to see on the new carousel. More than 175 drawings were submitted. “Much to our surprise the children started drawing pictures of local animals of the land, sea and air,” says Charlie McCabe, director of public relations for the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. Working with Jeff Briggs, owner of Briggs Design and lead sculptor on the project, the conservancy picked 14 characters: a sea turtle, cod, lobster, peregrine falcon, grasshopper, harbor seal, squirrel, rabbit, fox, skunk, whale, barn owl, sea serpent and a set of butterflies.
The Greenway Carousel in Boston features 14 fiberglass animals native to New England. One of them is a lobster, shown here in production with sculptor Jeff Briggs.
Briggs has been designing carousels for more than three decades and always uses fiberglass with a polyester resin matrix for his pieces. “It is a remarkably strong, energy-absorbing material, yet extremely lightweight and ideal for use in these figures,” says Briggs. Sam Vita, owner of Creating Designs and Fabrication Inc., based in Bohemia, N.Y., fabricated the FRP animals using hand layup.
Design and fabrication on this meticulous project took three years. One of the challenges was ensuring the distinctive animals fit prescribed dimensions: Each one had to be approximately 54 inches long, 36 inches high and 14 inches wide. “When designing a character that is long and narrow, such as the codfish, the only option was to curl the tail above or below its body to fill the allowable dimensions,” says Briggs.
One character was particularly tricky to create: “The falcon really pushed the parameters of the carousel art to the nth degree,” says Briggs. “The piece takes up all of the available – or ‘primary’ – space.” To ensure it fit, Briggs created a model of the falcon prior to making the finished product. First he built a 1:10 scale mock box of the available space, then he constructed the model falcon pieces inside the box. After completing this scaled-down version, Briggs made a full-sized box and assembled the FRP falcon inside it.