Asked to express the spirit of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work and mission in a sculpture, and to create a heart for their new global campus in downtown Seattle, we created “Impatient Optimist.”

The voluminous form is composed of ultra-lightweight fibers that create an ephemeral presence in the Seattle sky. The artwork is Echelman’s most delicately complex sculptural form yet, suspended between two buildings on the campus.

During the day, the sculpture’s hues interplay with the changing colors of sky. At night, it becomes an illuminated beacon as colored lighting sequences are projected in real time as the sun rises in each of the foundation’s global offices. This connects the work happening in the campus to the tangible services being delivered to people around the world.

The sculptural form is derived from visualizing the “shape of a day.” Echelman considered what it means to be able to experience life in its fullest color – looking skyward for optimism. She took photos of the Seattle sky every five minutes for a full day. Her studio analyzed the color data and graphed the results radially to generate the basis for the form.

The sculpture net is a physical manifestation of connectedness. The number of knots alludes to the notion that the work of a single person can affect a million lives. When a single element of the sculpture moves, every other element is affected.

Impatient Optimist is visible to the public at all times from the campus overlook, as well as from several vantage points nearby.


Spliced and braided PTFE, UHMWPE, and polyester fibers with colored LED lighting
Dimensions of net: 120 ft. length x 80 ft. width x 40 ft. depth
Installation Dimensions: 300 ft. length x 175 ft. width x 55 ft. height


Art: Janet Echelman
Studio Echelman team: Melissa Henry, Daniel Zeese, Ben Winters, Cameron Chateauneuf
Lighting: ARUP - Brian Stacy, Toby Lewis
Engineering: ARUP – Clayton Binkley
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Lynn Perkins, Debi Hudacek, Norma Miller, Richard Andrews
Install: Net Services – Dan Nunn
Photography and Time-lapse: Sean Airhart, Ema Peter
Video: Sean Airhart, 1123 Productions


500 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA, USA