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Capturing philanthropy

April 1st, 2015 / By: / Projects

At night, colored lighting sequences are projected in real time as the sun rises in each of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global offices, connecting the campus with its services around the world. Photo: ©Sean Airhart; Studio Echelman
At night, colored lighting sequences are projected in real time as the sun rises in each of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global offices, connecting the campus with its services around the world. Photo: ©Sean Airhart;
Studio Echelman

Janet Echelman’s large-scale, aerial creations of thread have captured attention worldwide, so when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Wash., wanted a sculpture that expressed the spirit of the foundation and established the center of its new global campus, Echelman got the commission. Her permanent installation, “Impatient-Optimist,” delicately floats between two buildings, changing shape and color like a captured cloud.

The 120-by-8-by-40-foot woven net consists of spliced and braided PTFE, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and polyester fibers. Echelman used a custom-designed software tool to drape netted forms and accurately model the effects of gravity and wind force on the net’s movements. In broad daylight, the wispy net can be almost invisible; when lit by sunrise, sunset, city lights or Echelman’s sequences of programmed colored LEDs, it can take on subtle or intense colors—or anything in between. The final sculpture, introduced on Feb. 10, hovers over the Foundation’s plaza, instilling a spirit of constant change.

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