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Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks

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 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 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.”

Funded by Awesome Without Borders (May 2014)