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The cycles of time, sculpted in fiber

Projects | May 1, 2018 | By:

In recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, artist Janet Echelman created a netted installation that sought to recall the many experiences at the plaza … in four centuries that included everything from bullfights and Spanish Inquisition burnings to modern festivals and artwork, a timeline Echelman described as a “hopeful trajectory of humanity.” Photos: Joao Ferrand, Studio Echelman.

Madrid’s historic Plaza Mayor, a popular gathering place and tourist destination, celebrated its 400th anniversary in February 2018. In honor of the occasion, the city of Madrid, Spain, commissioned an original sculpture by American artist Janet Echelman.

Known for colorful large-scale fiber sculptures, Echelman created an installation—1.78 Madrid—that explored the cycles of time. It was the newest edition to her “Earth Time Series,” which she began in 2010 and has exhibited in different iterations in cities across the globe.

The number “1.78” refers to a single physical event that shifted the earth’s mass, speeding up the planet’s rotation by 1.78 seconds. The work examines the way in which systems of the physical world interact with one another. In fact, the sculpture’s materials demonstrate this concept. As the form floated above the plaza between February 9–19, people could see that when one element in the sculpture’s network moved, every other element was affected.

The installation was composed of layers of a highly engineered fiber 15 times stronger than steel by weight. Echelman used 77 miles of colorful extruded fiber, braided it and shaped it with 600,000 knots. The result was a vibrant, voluminous form that changed shape with wind and weather. Lightweight and flexible, the sculpture is designed to travel to cities around the world as a physical manifestation of interconnectedness. For more information, visit

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