"A social space that is simultaneously physical and virtual" - art critic Mary Louise Schumacher

Studio Echelman installed its largest, most interactive sculpture installation to date at the TED Conference’s 30th anniversary, March 2014. The monumental aerial sculpture spanned 745 feet between the 24-story Fairmont Waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Center, challenging the artist to work on her most ambitious scale yet - over twice the size of her largest previous sculpture.

The sculpture was presented with an original, interactive work created in collaboration with artist Aaron Koblin, Creative Director of the Data Arts Team in Google's Creative Lab. At night the sculpture came to life as visitors were able to choreograph the lighting in real time using physical gestures on their mobile devices. Vivid beams of light were projected across a massive scale as the result of small movements on spectators’ phones.

In the daytime, the sculpture’s delicate yet monumental form is subtle, blending in with clouds and sky. A complex matrix of 860,000 hand and machine-made knots and 145 miles of braided fiber weighing nearly 3,500 pounds span 745 feet to make up Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks.

In order to achieve such scale and complexity, Echelman turned to Autodesk, a leader in 3D design software that seeks out interesting design problems. Autodesk collaborated with Studio Echelman to create custom 3D software to model the sculpture and test its feasibility. “The software has allowed me to explore density, shape, and scale in much greater detail,” says Echelman. “We can manipulate our designs and see the results immediately. We’re able to push the boundaries of our designs further.”

Made entirely of soft fibers, the sculpture can attach directly into existing city architecture. To support the artwork across such a large span, Echelman utilized Honeywell Spectra fiber, a lightweight, durable material 15 times stronger than steel by weight. It is designed to travel to cities around the globe after the 2014 TED Conference exhibition as an “idea worth spreading.”

This project embodies the infusion of art and technology, as both continuously evolve together. “I want people to feel protected, yet linked to open sky,” says Echelman. “I hope that visitors feel more connected to those around them - to neighbors and strangers.”

The title of the sculpture, ‘Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks’, refers to a quotation from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’. Through the interactive lighting component, each person can choreograph light onto the artwork and "it’s about each one of us being one of those stars – those sparks – and being able to paint the skies,” says Echelman.

For more info on this project, and to view a making-of video, please visit


Twisted nylon, braided polyester, Honeywell Spectra fiber, and interactive, colored lighting
Dimensions of Net: 300 ft. length x 110 ft. width x 40 ft. depth
Installation Dimensions: 745 ft. length x 475 ft. width x 175 ft. height


Artists: Sculpture by Janet Echelman, Interactive Art by Aaron Koblin
Sculpture Design Team: Studio Echelman: Melissa Henry, Daniel Zeese, Cameron Chateauneuf, Lucca Townsend
Interactive Art: Google Data Arts Team: Doug Fritz, Aleksandar Rodic, Jono Brandel, Max Hawkins, Chris Delbuck, Hyun Ji Bae, Sabah Kosoy, Valdean Klump, Jenny Ramaswamy, Clem Wright
Sculptural Engineering: Arup: Clayton Binkley, Hans-Erik Blomgren, Patrick McCafferty, John Hand, Cormac Deavy
Building Engineering: Glotman Simpson: Rob Simpson, Andrew Seeton
Simulation Software Engineering: Autodesk: Jeff Kowalski, Peter Boyer, Matt Jezyk, Mike Dewberry
Projection & Lighting: Graphics eMotion: Hassan Aziz, Julien Abril, Frank Dufaux, Olivier Delahousse, Louis Fortin; Kinetic Lighting: James Schipper, Geoffrey Galper
Sound Design: CMoore Sound: Connor Moore, Joel St. Julien
Network: Brown Pelican Group: Marybeth Hall, Glenn Hall
Photography: Ema Peter
Install Design: GNW: Elia Kirby, Nate Sills, Belle Cheung
Fiber Craftsmen: John Neal, Les Powers, Steve Gregory, Charles Olson, Brad Wolten, Maria Meza, Brenden Hegarty, Holly Boersema, Amanda Tucker, Jack Pace

Sculpture: Autodesk
Interactive Artwork: Google
Vancouver Co-Presenters: Burrard Arts Foundation, City of Vancouver
Vancouver Supporters: Vancouver Convention Centre, The Fairmont Waterfront, Port Metro Vancouver, Tourism Vancouver
Sculpture Materials: Honeywell Spectra®, Yale Cordage


Vancouver Waterfront, B.C., V6C 0C3, Canada