As much as maize, or mountains, or llamas, woven bridges defined pre-Columbian Peru. Braided over raging rivers and yawning chasms, these skeins of grass helped connect the spectacular geography of the Inca empire: its plains and high peaks, rainforests and beaches, and—most importantly—its dozens of distinct human cultures.
Now a traditional Inca suspension bridge will connect Washington, DC to the Andean highlands. As part of the Smithsonian’s upcoming Folklife Festival, which focuses on Peru this year, a dozen indigenous craftsmen will weave together grass ropes into a 60-foot span. It will be strung on the National Mall parallel to 4th Street Southwest, between Jefferson and Madison Avenues, where it will hang from several decorated containers (in lieu of vertical cliff faces) and hover—at its ends—16 feet above the ground. It should be able to hold the weight of ten people.