Four degrees of separation in South Houghton “Cocoon”

On April 1, representatives with the RTA, the City of Tucson and Pima County participated in ribbon cutting and the basic installation of the public art piece known as The Cocoon. Fans of the piece emphasized the fact that the definition of cocoon is “to envelop or surround in a protective or comforting way.“.2014-06-22-15.10.10

Just how protective and comforting the structure is recently became a subject of debate. Many questioned how a metal structure could provide comfort in Arizona’s scorching summers. As a result, the Arizona Daily Independent sent a team out to investigate.

On Sunday June 22, 2014 at approximately 3 p.m. the measured 100 degrees approximately 50 feet south of the “protective cocoon” according to a hand held thermometer.

The second measurement was taken at 3:11:37 p.m. inside the center of the “protective cocoon” which was empty, and judging from the lack of foot prints in the trail that passes through the “protective cocoon,” is not an uncommon condition. The thermometer quickly registered a temperature of 104 degrees (as indicated in the picture).

It is no wonder that after the installation, joggers, bicyclists, and drivers stared in amazement as they came upon the multi-pipe sculpture, now known as the tunnel to nowhere. The tunnel-like structure sits next to the paved pedestrian path alongside a newly widened portion of Houghton Road.2014-06-22-15.11.37

The three mile stretch of Houghton Road Corridor Improvement Project is estimated to cost $22 million, according to project manager M.J. Dillard as reported in the Arizona Daily Star on August 29, 2013. It includes a six-lane road with rubberized asphalt, landscaped medians using native plants and water harvesting, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus pullouts and the public art project.

The $200,000 plus weave of metal pipes provides no real shelter from the sun or other elements and in fact acts as an oven. The sculpture is composed of stainless steel and will reportedly feature low-level LED lighting that will be illuminated at night to allow for “unique shadows” to be cast upon people as they walk through it.

The Cocoon has had standard engineering, construction and risk management reviews.

It is unclear whether the risk management team assessed the risk to small children who might see it as a perfect climbing structure with no soft landing surface below it. Apparently, that problem has been solved by some “artistically” placed white placards with black lettering that say “not designed for climbing,” for those children who can read.


  1. This thing can certainly take a place among “The Ugliest Things In Tucson” and is a contender for Numero Uno!

    • You missed the artistic arrange of toilets up in the Northwest?

      Of course, the most venerable piece of “art” we have is at Reid Park – the upside down dead trees that were originally painted fire-engine red.

      Two of my children want to be professional artists. I look at their efforts and just shake my head – they’ll never make a living at it…

  2. Tell a Meth-Head it’s really made out of brass and maybe they’ll steal it and pawn it off to a metal recycler.

  3. The only thing attractive about this …..”art”….. is it is anattriactve nusance waiting for some kid tall off of and generate a lawsuit by Witten’s wife just like he sued the county .

  4. Buttttt, its art here in Baja, AZ. As long as 1% of the monies for the project are earmarked for “art” then this is what you will get. Some stainless tubes welded together and a name placed on it to make people think that it really is art. I am sure thousands of the people that drive past are impressed with this “art” as I am. NOT. As far as I am concerned its just one more handout to our artistic community who get the dollar a year rents in the COT “warehouse” district so they can practice their “art” at the expense of the taxpayer. Yup, 8th poorest area in the country and damn proud of it. If the A10 dies, we can shoot for the top 5.

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