Janet Echelman

2022-23 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at CAST

Janet Echelman "In Tension" Workshop, MIT, 2023. Photo by Sham Sthankiya.
Janet Echelman "In Tension" Workshop, MIT, 2023. Photo by Sham Sthankiya.
Janet Echelman's As If It Were Already Here, Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston, MA, 2015. Photo credit: Bruce Petschek.
Janet Echelman's Bending Arc, St. Pete Pier, St. Petersburg, FL, 2020. Photo credit: Brian Adams.
Janet Echelman's Earthtime 1.26 Jeddah, Jeddah Corniche / Waterfront, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2022. Photo credit: Andrew Williamson.

About the Residency

Professor Caitlin Mueller and artist Janet Echelman collaborate with technologist David Feldman and graduate student Adam Burke to explore and test new opportunities for algorithmic design and engineering simulation to contribute to the creation and production of large-scale tensile sculpture, focusing on the fiber-based material systems and software tools that Echelman has pioneered with her studio.

With her Digital Structures research group, Mueller focuses on the creative integration of performance criteria in design, leveraging advances in optimization and machine learning to improve the fluidity and flexibility of computational design tools. Mueller, Echelman, and collaborators will collectively experiment with the application of such methods to artistic design processes, and test emerging design tools with physical prototypes.

Together, they will also embark on a broader collaborative project at MIT, aiming to establish new connections between technology, art, design, visualization, mathematics, and materials across departments and research groups. Through informal lectures, workshops, and public talks, they will create conversations highlighting the potential of interdisciplinary interests and linkages to spark new ideas and advance knowledge in diverse fields.


Past Events

Independent Activities Period (IAP) Workshop

Building Technology: The computational design, engineering, and fabrication of large scale sculptural rope networks
January 23–26, 2023

More information: MIT Architecture Department

Collaborators at MIT

David Feldman, CAST Distinguished Visiting Technologist 

Caitlin Mueller, Associate Professor of Architecture; Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Gloria Sutton, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, Northeastern University


Janet Echelman is an artist who creates experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. The art shifts from being an object you look at, to something you can get lost in. 

Her work defies categorization as it intersects across disciplinary boundaries, from fine art, architecture, and urban design, to material science, computer science, and structural and aeronautical engineering. Using unlikely materials from fishnet to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with original computational design software to create artworks that have become focal points for urban life on four continents.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, and Fulbright Lectureship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” Her TED talk “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 35 languages with more than two million views. Oprah ranked Echelman’s work #1 on her List of 50 Things That Make You Say Wow!, and she recently received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, honoring “the greatest innovators in America today.”

Her permanent commissions have transformed urban environments worldwide, and include Bending Arc at the newly renovated Pier in St. Petersburg, FL (2020), mist sculpture Pulse (2018) in front of Philadelphia City Hall, Dream Catcher (2017) on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA, Impatient Optimist (2015) at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Every Beating Second (2011) at San Francisco International Airport, Her Secret Is Patience (2009) in downtown Phoenix, and She Changes (2005) in Porto, Portugal.

Website: echelman.com
Social: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

In the Media

“The Boston Society for Architecture announced Wednesday that Janet Echelman’s 2015 sculpture “As If It Were Already Here,”which hung above the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway that summer, is the 2022 recipient of its highest honor, the Harleston Parker Medal. It’s the first time the medal has been awarded to an artist and to an ephemeral work.”

The Boston Globe, January 2023