An explosion of color has taken over the central train station in Zurich, Switzerland. In collaboration with the Fondation Beyeler, Brazilian contemporary artist Ernesto Neto has installed a stunning and monumental work of art that rises 65 feet to the ceiling height of the Zurich Main Station, the busiest train station in Switzerland. Dubbed the GaiaMotherTree, this sculptural and interactive tree-like artwork resembles a living organism.


GaiaMotherTree interior

GaiaMotherTree perspective

Crafted from colorful strips of cotton knotted together with finger-crocheting techniques, Ernesto Neto’s GaiaMotherTree is made all the more eye-catching due to its backdrop—the Neorenaissance architecture of the Zurich Main Station, built in 1871. The sweeping organic structure was shaped and stabilized using drop-shaped counterweights filled with ground spices including turmeric, cloves, cumin and black pepper. The central counterweight that hangs above a giant outline of the world in the heart of the GaiaMotherTree is filled with 30 kilograms of plant seeds. No nails were used to support the installation; in addition to the counterweights, 840 kilograms of earth was used to secure it.

GaiaMotherTree illuminated

“With GaiaMotherTree, Neto establishes a connection to the story of creation,” read a statement about the installation, which took three months to complete. “The work’s title refers to Greek mythology: Gaia, the personification of the Earth, emerges from chaos, the origin of all things. She is the Mother Earth goddess, bestowing the gift of life, but also the goddess of death, to whom the dead return. Neto places ‘Mother Earth’ at the heart of his sculpture.”

Ernesto Neto portrait

Related: This minimalist timber writer’s studio in Switzerland is suspended in mid-air

As an immersive installation, GaiaMotherTree serves as a community space and visitors are welcome to walk inside and sit on low textile-covered seating. The installation, which was unveiled June 30, has hosted a series of activities including musical concerts, workshops and debates. GaiaMotherTree is open to the public every day until July 29, 2018.

+ Fondation Beyeler

Images © Mark Niedermann, portrait by Niels Fabaek