Pulse, Philadelphia, PA Green line phase, 2018


With the goal of transforming historic Dilworth Park (outside Philadelphia City Hall) into a focal point for the city's thriving downtown, the Center City District commissioned Echelman to create a permanent artwork inspired by the site’s historic associations with water and transportation.

Embedded in the new park’s 11,600-square foot fountain, “Pulse" traces in the surface of the fountain the paths of the subway and trolley lines that converge under Dilworth Park. As trains pass beneath, four-foot-tall curtains of colorful atomized mist travel across the park fountain’s surface following the transit lines that that bring more than 70,000 passengers to the site each day.

“Pulse” utilizes a high-pressure misting system of specialized pumps that create an ultra-fine, fog-like, cool mist that quickly evaporates. The ephemeral mist is made of filtered, softened water onto which lighting is projected so it is completely safe for children to play in.

Described by the artist as “a living X-ray of the city’s circulatory system,” the vibrantly colored mist curtains move across the fountain and mirror the footprint of the trains below, evoking the steam rising from the city’s first water pumping station that was located on the site at the beginning of the 19th century, as well as the steam from the trains at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station that were across the street. While celebrating the site’s rich history, “Pulse” also embraces the future with cutting-edge technology.

Echelman and her team worked closely with Center City District in fine-tuning and testing the mechanisms that provide the work’s dramatic multicolor LED illumination and traveling mist, and adjusting them for daylight and nighttime hours. Echelman created the color for each line by blending multiple individually-colored hues of light, drawing inspiration from the ethereal paintings of Mark Rothko.

Echelman began designs for "Pulse" in 2009 with construction and integration within the plaza completed in 2011. With the public opening of Dilworth Park in 2014, the underground infrastructure for the first phase of the artwork was completed. The green line phase of “Pulse” opened on September 12, 2018 when the mist and lighting components were unveiled. The launch of the first phase (green line) will help support fundraising to complete the remaining two sections of Pulse, which trace the Market-Frankford (blue line) and the Broad Street (orange line).

“I’m thrilled to see Pulse come to life – my first permanent artwork using cool mist with colored light,” said Echelman. “When I started work eight years ago, this was a forlorn plaza. So it’s especially exciting to see the colors come alive in this beautiful park. The art traces layers of Philadelphia’s history of water with water. With the successful opening of this first phase, I feel great momentum towards completion of the blue and orange lines to activate the entire park.”


Atomized water particles and colored lighting
Installation Dimensions: 60 ft. length x 230 ft. width x 5 ft. height


Artist: Janet Echelman
Studio Echelman Team: Melissa Henry, Daniel Zeese, Cameron Chateauneuf, Drew Raines, Melanie Rose Peterson, Rachel Kaede Newsom, Becky Borlan, Daniel Lear
The Olin Studio: Susan Weiler, Richard Roark, Ben Monette, Greg Burrell, Kasey Toomey
ARUP Lighting: Brain Stacy, Christoph Gisel
Urban Engineers: Andrew Scott
Kieran Timberlake: Steve Kieran, Marilia Rodrigues
CMS: Nadine Nemec, Chris Cook, Roy Kaplan
Center City District: Paul Levy
Images: Sean O'Neill, Melvin Epps, Sahar Coston-Hardy


Dilworth Plaza, Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia, PA, USA