500-meter “Sky Ladder” is Pyrotechnic Stairway to Heaven

Craft & Design Science


Colossal reported earlier this week that Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang (who does a lot of pyrotechnic-based art) had finally succeeded in executing his Sky Ladder piece. Readers may remember Guoqiang from his gunpowder art and that time he filled the Guggenheim with suspended LED-exploding cars. Sky Ladder was realized at Huiyu Island Harbour, Quanzhou, Fujian, on June 15, 2015 at 4:49 am. From the Colossal piece:

Titled Sky Ladder, the piece burned for approxmiately 2 minutes and 30 seconds above the harbor and was the fourth and final attempt to realize the performance. Guo­-Qiang had earlier attempted Sky Ladder in Bath (1994), Shanghai (2001), and in Los Angeles (2012), to varying degrees of success, but never considered his vision complete until now. He first imagined a ladder of fire as a child and has pursued the idea for 21 years.

The ladder, made of 5000 meters of fuse material and golden-colored fireworks, was held aloft by a Helium balloon. The ladder burned brightly for approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds.



Local residents chipped in to help deploy the ladder, making it a real community effort, one of the themes of the piece. Guoqiang saw the piece as being symbolic of his childhood, his village, relatives, and friends. And as a symbol of hope.


You can see more about Guoqiang’s Sky Ladder and other works on his website.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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