Artist Janet Echelman creates aerial rope sculpture in Boston

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Janet Echelman creates aerial rope sculpture made of super-strength fibres

Studio Echelman has used more than 100 miles of rope to create a sculpture that floats high above a Boston park (+ slideshow).

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

The installation, called As If It Were Already Here, consists of a web of polyester twine and polyethylene ropes, designed to sway gently in the wind.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

Resembling a giant fishing net, the colourful sculpture hovers 365 feet (111 metres) above a portion of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a series of public parks in the city's downtown area. It is anchored to three high-rise buildings bordering the site and weighs approximately one ton (907 kilograms).

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

The polyethylene fibre is 15 times stronger than steel, said the Boston-based art studio, led by sculptor Janet Echelman.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

"The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes," explained Studio Echelman.

"Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather."

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

At its widest point, the sculpture spans 600 feet (183 metres). During the day, it casts shadows on the ground below. At night, it is illuminated and resembles a billowing sheet of fabric.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

"Sensors around the site register fibre movement and tension, and this data directs the colour of light projected onto the sculpture's surface," said the studio.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

The form is meant to evoke a hill on the site that was flattened centuries ago, with the dirt being used to create land in the Boston Harbor.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

The bands of colour refer to traffic lanes on an elevated highway that once passed through the area and was razed as part of the city's Big Dig – a landmark project that involved building an underground highway in central Boston.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

Rope and string are becoming an increasingly popular material for large-scale installations, thanks to its ability to create a high-impact effect with minimal structural interventions. Other recent examples include a Philadelphia church criss-crossed with blue cord, and a string structure of corridors formed around metal arches in a 16th-century French cloister.

The As If It Were Already Here sculpture, on view until October 2015, was commissioned by the Greenway Conservancy as part of its public art programme. The global firm Arup served as the project's engineer.

As If It Were Already Here Boston installation by Janet Echelman

Formerly a painter, Echelman began making sculptures in 1997 during a trip to India, when she started experimenting with fishing nets. She has designed installations for cities worldwide, including Phoenix, Denver, Vancouver and Singapore.

Photography is by Melissa Henry.