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Memorials to Boston Marathon bombing victims move at their own pace

Welder John Mayer works on a seam of a large bronze cirlcle plate that will be on the sidewalk near the finish line and encircle the granite monument to Krystle Campbell.
Welder John Mayer works on a seam of a large bronze cirlcle plate that will be on the sidewalk near the finish line and encircle the granite monument to Krystle Campbell.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

CHELSEA — No artist wants to be rushed or held to an artificial deadline, no matter how solemn the occasion.

That’s certainly the case for Pablo Eduardo, the artist overseeing the memorials to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

City officials had initially pledged that the memorials would be unveiled last year in time for the fifth anniversary of the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

When that day came and went, officials had hoped they would be ready by this year’s anniversary on Patriots Day, April 15.

That won’t happen, either. Eduardo estimates he has at least another eight weeks of work left. He hopes the long-awaited memorials, at the sites where the two bombs detonated on Boylston Street, will be complete this summer.

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Far more important than speed, he said, is getting it right.

“I’ve done projects before to be ready for an anniversary, and they never turn out well,” said Eduardo, a Bolivian sculptor who now lives in Gloucester. “This is going to be there forever. There’s too much emotional investment to do it any other way.”

At his foundry in Chelsea on Tuesday, flanked by Boston officials and fellow artists, Eduardo showed how the memorials are progressing — and how they’ve changed since their original design was unveiled, promising an abstract fusion of granite, bronze, and glass.

More than 50 people have worked on the project, which will cost the city about $2 million. Eduardo said the delays have not affected the budget.

More than 50 people have worked on the project, which will cost the city about $2 million.
More than 50 people have worked on the project, which will cost the city about $2 million. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

“The only thing we went back to the city for was time,” he said.

Initially, the artist proposed a design featuring two obelisks that would rise over the sites of the twin blasts in what would have been a more formal memorial.

The current design, still taking shape in the foundry and now near the Marathon finish line in the Back Bay, incorporated significant input from the families of the victims.

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At the center of both sites will be a circle of dark granite, with small stone pillars that rise and twist into each other, reflecting those who lost their lives in 2013 — Martin Richard, an 8-year-old third-grader from Dorchester; Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; and Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford.

The pillars, connected with bronze, are a rough-hewn granite chosen by each of the victims’ families.

Richard’s stone was taken from near his home in Franklin Park. Lu’s was donated by Boston University. Campbell’s is from Spectacle Island, where she worked and loved to visit.

Each of the families was initially asked to write a message that would be inscribed on a bronze plaque atop each pillar, but city officials eventually decided against the idea. The inscriptions would have been too high and inaccessible to some people.

At a Chelsea foundry, work continued on the Boston Marathon memorial.
At a Chelsea foundry, work continued on the Boston Marathon memorial. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Instead, a narrow, bronze circle will ring each of the pillars. At the site closest to the finish line, where Campbell was killed, the bronze will be inscribed with a brief explanation of how and when she died. It will also include these words, written by a local poet and relatives: “All we have lost is brightly lost.”

At the site in front of the old Forum restaurant, where Richard and Lu died, there will be a similar inscription and these words: “Let us climb, now, the road to hope.”

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Another addition to the design features two bronze bricks with the names and badges of the officers who died as a result of the attack: Sean Collier, a 27-year-old MIT police officer from Somerville, and Dennis Simmonds, a 28-year-old Boston police officer. Collier was killed three days after the bombings when he was ambushed in Cambridge by the perpetrators, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; Simmonds died nearly a year later from wounds he sustained during a gun battle with the Tsarnaevs in Watertown.

On Boylston Street, two white tents now surround both sites, where contractors have been laying new red bricks on the sidewalk, installing granite base stones, and tending to four newly planted cherry trees, which are to bloom every year around the anniversary of the bombings.

The tents will be taken down in the coming weeks to make way for the Marathon, but barriers will cordon them off during the race, city officials said.

The part of the project that has taken the most time, Eduardo said, has been the lights — 21-foot cylinders of carefully wrought frosted glass enmeshed in a hewn, bronze lattice.

The eight lights are meant to symbolize “how we protect our soul and to show the fragility of life,” he said.

Relatives of the victims, who have been briefed on the work, have said they prefer that Eduardo and his colleagues take their time to be painstaking, rather than meet a deadline.

A rendering of the proposed Boston Marathon memorial markers.
A rendering of the proposed Boston Marathon memorial markers. (Stantec)

City officials continue to profess patience.

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“While nothing in the world is perfect, there’s a whole entire team of people working very hard to make sure that this is as close to perfect as possible,” said Patrick Brophy, the city’s chief of operations, who has been monitoring the memorial’s progress. “This has never been done before, so we’re taking an awful lot of time to make it right.”

At the foundry Tuesday, the team was busy using machines to smooth the lattice that will surround the lights and blow torches to remove imperfections in the bronze plaques, among other work.

Eduardo, who has worked as a sculptor for more than 20 years and may be best known in Boston for his 10-foot bronze sculpture of Mayor Kevin White at Faneuil Hall, said he hasn’t felt pressured to complete the work.

“The only pressure we have is to honor the families as best as we can,” he said. “All we can give is our craftsmanship. We don’t want to see any flaws.”


David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.