A "Floating Net Sculpture" Might Be Headed to Downtown Miami

A giant levitating sculpture, like this one in Phoenix, might soon come to the Magic City.
A giant levitating sculpture, like this one in Phoenix, might soon come to the Magic City. Photo courtesy of Janet Echelman
With more than a million people expected to flow through it in the next year, Museum Park is shaping up to be one of the most visited spots in Miami. In anticipation of the mass of visitors, city official Timothy Schmand, who oversees exhibitions in the newly renovated space, is reviewing possible art installations on which the crowds can feast their eyes.

For example, he and his colleague Jose Gell recently surveyed the public park and pondered where one unique work could be placed. Unlike the park's current public art, which sparsely fills the space, the giant installation they discussed last month would not be placed on the ground but suspended in the air.

Schmand is particularly interested in bringing a jellyfish-looking net sculpture by Janet Echelman to downtown Miami, where it would float in the air just above the lawn in Museum Park. Theoretically, spectators could lay on the grass and interact with the work via their smartphones, impressing luminous ripples and other designs on it. Echelman has installed similar works in cities around the world, including London, Sydney, Madrid, and most recently Santiago, Chile.  Schmand says he's excited about the possibility of bringing the glowing sculpture to the Magic City, but he says there are still logistical questions that need to be answered before it could be installed.

First, the material of the floating sculpture must be strong enough to withstand stormy weather, which is a fact of life in Florida. Second, there's the question of exactly how the piece would be suspended.

But Echelman, the Boston-based artist (and TED talk speaker) behind the ghostly net, says the answers are pretty simple.

In a phone interview, she says that the material is the same used by astronauts (apparently the fibers are 15 times stronger than steel) and that her studio can engineer the work to withstand 200 mph winds. One of the biggest difficulties she faces in her work, she says, is dealing with snow accumulating on her nets — not a problem she'd face in Miami.

As far as how her piece would be installed, Echelman says masts could be planted in the park to suspend the work, or it could be tethered to neighboring skyscrapers. She has worked with property developers in the past to bring her installations to fruition.

As far as funding for the work, the office of Jorge Pérez, the local billionaire who has partnered with the county on numerous occasions to bring art to the public, tells New Times that his art director is considering the proposed installation.

Echelman tells New Times she believes Museum Park is the "perfect location" for her work to be displayed. She is excited at the prospect of creating a site-specific work for Miamians to enjoy.

"As a native Floridian, I would be honored and delighted to have my soft aerial sculpture billow over this important public space in Miami," she says. "My art transforms with wind and light and casts ever-changing shadow drawings below. It is experiential: It shifts from being an object you look at to something you can get lost in."

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Jonathan Kendall is a former editor at Big Think. He studied journalism at Harvard and is a contributing writer for Miami New Times as well as for Vogue, Cultured, Los Angeles Review of Books, Smithsonian, and Atlas Obscura.
Contact: Jonathan Kendall