North America premieres major works by Janet ECHELMAN

North America premieres major works by Janet ECHELMAN
"Water Sky Garden", Richmond Olympic Oval, commissioned by City of Richmond, BC; "Her Secret is Patience", Downtown Civic Space Park, commissioned by Office of Arts and Culture, City of Phoenix, AZ

Artist Janet Echelman's Water Sky Garden premieres at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games official speed-skating venue, at the Richmond Olympic Oval, and will remain a permanent legacy long after the games become memory.

Water Sky Garden is a monumental immersive art environment that provides circulation and connectivity between the Olympic venue, the main road, and the waterfront. Visitors are welcomed along a curving red boardwalk. Above their heads suspend soft sculpture-nets that undulate in the wind and illuminate at night to become what the artist calls "sky lanterns". The red footbridge leads visitors through a series of ponds featuring the artist's "water drawing", produced with streams of air bubbles that also remediate the quality of the run-off water that makes up the pond.

The artwork reflects the multi-layered cultural identity of the City of Richmond and the surrounding Vancouver region. The nearby Nitobe Japanese garden and the Sun Yat Sen Chinese garden were key references for the artist, in terms of their framing of views, material presence, and the shaping of pedestrian experience through paths and reflective ponds. The red cedar boardwalk follows a curving path modelled after the Chinese Dragon Dance, and the red "sky lanterns" refer the local Chinese festivals. Nets have a special relationship with the site, as the native Musqueam Band continue to teach their children to fish using nets at this particular bend in the Fraser River, and this area was historically home to a fishing and canning industry that employed many ethnic groups.

The 75 ft. diameter steel rings of the sky lanterns are suspended 50 ft. in the air from cables integrated into the structure of the building and landscape. The netting is machine-knotted and hand-baited from a custom twine of colorfast, 100% UV-resistant Gore Tenara® Architectural Fiber made of PTFE, the same material most commonly known as the non-stick pan coating Teflon®.

The environmental component of Water Sky Garden includes the recirculation of run-off water from the architecture's 5-acre roof. The water is cleaned through aerating fountains and used to irrigate plantings. The water garden serves as a wetland treatment pond that provides storm water retention, water quality treatment, and water storage for irrigation use. 50% of the site is planted with native or adaptive species that absorb heavy metals, prevent siltation, and remove other impurities from water. They also provide a native habitat for birds, mammals and aquatic life, and recreate an authentic native wetland garden experience for visitors.

In the United States, Janet Echelman's recently inaugurated Her Secret is Patience, located in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, was announced winner of the award for "Best Public Art" by the Phoenix New Times Reader's Choice Awards. The project also received the Crescordia Environmental Excellence Award for the category "Art in Public Places".

This new civic icon suspends 100 ft. above the ground from a 100 ft. wide steel curved armature over the new 2-city-block Civic Space Park in the middle of downtown. Responding to the desert winds, the piece welcomes all to come and watch the "wind choreography" play across the net. During the day, the ethereal sculpture is visible high above heads, treetops, and buildings. At night it glows with an illumination program that changes color gradually through the seasons. The title comes from a quote by the poet philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." Video "Her Secret is Patience" can be viewed on

Both commissions are the result of collaboration between the artist and team of award-winning engineers, architects, planners, and fabricators. More information, photos, and videos can be found on

Richmond Design Team:
Cole Brown Henry Consulting, public art consultants
Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden, architects and urbanistes
Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, landscape architecture
Fast + Epp, structural engineering
Buro Happold, net engineering
Peter Heppel Associates, aeronautical engineering
Speranza Architecture, consultant
Vince Helton and Associates, fountain mechanical
Joseph Scott, lighting design
Photo: Christina Lazar-Schuler
Thanks to City of Richmond Public Art Program

Phoenix Design Team:
Buro Happold, net engineering
Peter Heppel Associates, aeronautical engineering
M3 Engineering, steel structure engineering
CAID Industries, design build firm
Speranza Architecture, consultant
Arup USA, Inc, conceptual design phase engineering
Paul Deeb, VOX, lighting
Photo: Christina O'Haver
Thanks to Office of Arts and Culture City of Phoenix