Watch this stunning timelapse of the Greenway’s new aerial sculpture taking flight

5/03/2015 - Boston, MA - A new aerial sculpture by artist Janet Echelman was suspended above the Rose Kennedy Greenway on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Topic: EchelmanGreenway(4). Story by Malcolm Gay/Globe Staff. Photo by Dina Rudick/Globe Staff.
A new aerial sculpture by artist Janet Echelman above the Greenway. –The Boston Globe

Several hundred feet above Rose Kennedy Greenway, there’s now something impossible to miss: Janet Echelman’s sweeping fiber art sculpture.

The Brookline artist’s one-ton installation took shape over the weekend, when a calibrated group effort of six cranes secured more than a hundred miles of twine, knotted and intertwined to form a dynamic display of public art. Echelman’s aerial sculpture joins the Greenway’s return of large-scale photography pop-up, The Fence, by New York-based Photoville.

In case you missed it, Julian Tryba, a photographer and videographer, captured some amazing timelapse footage of the sculpture going up:

Echelman’s unique technique to aerial sculpture was inspired by a trip to India. A Fulbright scholar and painter at the time, she was forced to find an alternate medium to create works for an exhibition when her paints never arrived. She discovered her approach through the fishing nets in the seaport of Mahabalipuram. Her signature designs have since flown high in the skies of Amsterdam, Seattle, and Sydney.


As is her connectedness with each project, Echelman’s Boston approach is deeply connected to the neighborhood’s history.

“In the 1700s, where we’re standing in the Greenway was water,’’ she said. “It was a harbor where ships had crates of tea that started this country. Then we chopped down the Tri-Mountain to fill the water in and create land. If you fast-forward to the 1950s, Boston wanted to create an elevated highway through its dense downtown, drew a line, and it was so.

“Now, a generation or more later, our values have changed, and we have reclaimed that space from the automobile and returned it to the people who live in this city and enjoy it. We have a beautiful Greenway threaded through the middle of our dense downtown, reconnecting the city with the waterfront. My sculpture is the lacing together of the urban fabric.’’

The view from above! —The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

The sculpture is made of 542,000 knots that weave together a twine-rope mesh, which is suspended over approximately half-an-acre of the Greenway. The striped design was inspired by the six former traffic lanes now removed by the Big Dig.

Echelman, an ’87 Harvard graduate, named her work “As If It Were Always Here,’’ a callback to Boston’s resilient, transformative past. She won the chance to design a work for the Greenway through a competition two years ago. After winning, she visited buildings surrounding the space to gauge whether they had the capacity to support the sculpture. Designed using custom software from Boston-based Autodesk, the sculpture’s fibers can withstand winds of up to 100 mph.


“When I visited 125 High Street, the custodial staff asked me to come look at the basement wall,’’ she said. “I asked ‘Why,’ but then they showed me granite blocks. They said, ‘This is the original seawall from when John Adams had his office here.’ And that’s what started my thinking about Boston’s ability to transform itself in ways that others may have thought was impossible.’’

You can check it out on the Greenway through early October.

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