Philippe Petit

13.09.2012 in20:38 in Miscellaneous -->


Philippe Petit (born August 13, 1948) is a French high wire artist who gained fame for his illegal walk between the Twin Towers in New York City on August 7, 1974.

Petit was first inspired while he sat in his dentist’s office in Paris in 1968. He came upon an article on the as-yet unbuilt towers, along with an illustration of the model. He then became obsessed with the towers, collecting articles on them whenever possible. Petit also traveled to New York on several occasions to make first-hand observations. Since the towers were still under construction, Philippe and an amateur photographer went up in a helicopter to do aerial photographs of the WTC.

Using his own observations and photographs, Petit was able to make a scale model of the towers to help him figure out the rigging he needed to prepare for the upcoming wirewalk. Petit made fake identification cards for himself and his collaborators (claiming that they were contractors that were installing an electrified fence on the roof) in order to gain access to the towers. Prior to this, Petit sneaked into the towers several times, hiding on the roof and other areas in the unfinished towers, in order to get a sense of what type of security measures were in place.

To make it easier to sneak into the buildings, Petit carefully observed the clothes worn by construction workers and the kinds of tools they carried, as well as the clothing of businessmen so that he would blend in with them when he tried to enter the buildings. He also noted what time the workers arrived and left, so he could determine when he would have roof access. He once even claimed that he was with a French architecture magazine wanting to interview the workers on the roof. The Port Authority allowed Petit to conduct the interviews, but the real reason he wanted to be up on the roof was to make more observations. He was once caught by a police officer on the roof, and his hopes to do the high wire walk were dampened, but he eventually regained the confidence to proceed.

Petit and his crew were able to ride in a freight elevator to the 104th floor with their equipment the day before the walk, and were able to store this equipment just nineteen steps from the roof. In order to pass the cable across the void, Petit and his crew decided to use a bow and arrow. They first shot across a fishing line, and then passed larger and larger ropes across the space between the towers until they were able to pass the 450-pound steel cable across. Cavalettis (guy lines) were used to stabilize the cable and keep the swaying of the wire to a minimum. For the first time in the history of the Twin Towers, they were joined. The ‘artistic crime of the century’ took six years of planning, during which he learned everything he could about the buildings, taking into account such problems as the swaying of the towers because of wind and how to get the steel walk cable across the 140-foot (43m) gap between the towers.

On August 7, 1974, shortly after 7:15 a.m., Petit stepped off the South Tower and onto his 3/4” 6?19 IWRC steel cable. The 25-year-old Petit made eight crossings between the mostly-finished towers, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of Manhattan, in an event that lasted about 45 minutes. During that time, in addition to walking, he sat on the wire, gave knee salute and, while lying on the wire, dialogued with a gull circling above his head.