As If It Were Already Here, 2015

Janet Echelman

  • The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy brought to Boston a monumental sculpture, As If It Were Already Here, from internationally renowned local artist, Janet Echelman. This incredible installation created a must-see art experience for visitors from near and far from May 3 to October 25, 2015.

    My sculpture for Boston above the Rose Kennedy Greenway spans the void where an elevated highway once split downtown from its waterfront. Knitting together the urban fabric, it soars 600 feet through the air above street traffic and Pedestrian Park.

    The sculpture’s form echoes the history of its location. The three voids recall the “Tri-Mountain” which was razed in the 18th-Century to create lands from the harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood, before the Big Dig buried them and enable the space to be reclaimed for urban pedestrian life.

    The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. When any one of its elements moves, every other element is affected. Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather. Its fibers are 15 times stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight, making the sculpture able to lace directly into three skyscrapers as a soft counterpoint to hard-edged architecture. Its is a physical manifestation of interconnectedness and strength through resiliency.

    In daylight the porous form blends with sky when looking up, and casts shadow-drawings onto the ground below. At night it becomes an illuminated beacon. The artwork incorporates dynamic lighting that reflects the changing wind patterns.

    The work invites you to linger, whether seen amidst the skyline from afar, or lying down on the grassy knoll beneath. It embraces Boston as a city on foot, where past and present area interwoven, and takes over gaze skyward to feel the vibrant pulse of now. It invites you to pause and observe the dance of a physical form with sky, of soft with hard, of human action and the force beyond our control.

    Materials: Hand-spliced Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UNMWPE) and braided high-tenacity polyester fibers with colored LED lighting

    365′ height x 300′ width x 600′ length; Net form dimensions: 250′ length x 125′ width

  • Janet Echelman is known for her soft, billowing sculptures the scale of buildings that respond to the forces of nature — wind, water and light — and become inviting focal points for civic life. Her lightweight fiber sculptures shift from being objects you look at, to something you can get lost in. Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.”

    Echelman’s whimsical work, to be titled, will be a monumentally-scaled, knotted-fiber sculpture suspended hundreds of feet over the central section of the Greenway. The enormous size of the installation will assure that the artwork can be seen from many directions, both up close and far away. This ultra-lightweight artwork will visually knit together the fabric of the city with art. In daylight, it will cast shadow drawings on the ground, and at night it will become a beacon with dynamic colored light. The dramatic sculptural piece will change with the wind and lighting conditions during the day and night so it stays fresh and engaging.

    The Studio Echelman team includes aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, and fabricators. Echelman is from Brookline, and has completed major commissions and installations in Amsterdam, Sydney, Portugal, India, Vancouver, Singapore, and numerous cities across the US.  Her TED talk “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 34 languages and viewed more than a million times.  This is Echelman’s first major Boston commission, and in addition to the Smith Family Foundation, the installation has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, New England Fund for the Arts and ArtPlace America.

  • The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation

    (Richard and Susan Smith, John and Amy S. Berylson and James Berylson, Jonathan Block and Jennifer Berylson Block, Robert Katz and Elizabeth Berylson Katz, Robert and Dana Smith, Debra S. Knez, Jessica Knez and Andrew Knez)

    Major Support by:

    Lynch FoundationAutodesk, Anonymous, and ArtPlace America

    Additional support by:

    The National Endowment for the ArtsGoulston & StorrsThe Fund for the Arts, a public art program of the New England Foundation for the Arts; Robert and Doris Gordon; KHJ Brand ActivationlumenpulseBerkeley InvestmentsAbove Summit; Kevin and Julie Callaghan; Massachusetts Convention Center AuthorityEaton Vance; Robert Beal; Bank of AmericaGreater Boston Convention & Visitors BureauFort Point Operations Channel Operations Board, including Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, John S. and Cynthia L. Reed Foundation; The Evans Family Foundation; the Massachusetts Cultural Council; the Boston Cultural CouncilJulian Tryba Photography.

    Media Sponsors:

    Boston GlobeCBS WBZ-TVImproper BostonianWBURArt New England.

    Hotel & Hospitality Sponsor:

    InterContinental Boston

    Partners & Collaborators:

    Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City of BostonMassachusetts Department of TransportationMassPortMBTAChiofaro CompanyTishman SpeyerCelebrity Series of BostonStudio EchelmanARUPShawmut Design & ConstructionDaniel Marr & Son Co

The Conservancy gratefully acknowledges the following funders for support of our Public Art programs: