The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 30, 2013

Janet Echelman’s Design in Motion

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Linda K. Harris, Center City District City of Philadelphia

The unique public sculpture Pulse, created by internationally recognized sculptor Janet Echelman, and commissioned by the Center City District, is currently being fabricated by Koolfog, a California company that specializes in enhancing outdoor environments with cooling, fogging, and mist-making systems.

Koolfog’s job is to put Echelman’s design in motion.  In the first stage, Koolfog fashioned a mist-making mechanism in a five-foot-section that serves as a prototype.  Now they’re adding the lighting that will create the colors of the transit lines below Dilworth Plaza, which are orange, blue and green.  The next step is to prescribe how the mist trenches are to be constructed and, finally, how the controls will work in the substation below, so that the fountain will signal the arrival and departure of the trains below.

The installation of Pulse will ensure that the $55 million transformation of Dilworth Plaza will become a memorable public space, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The $400,000 grant to the Center City District, which will enable the installation of Echelman’s sculpture, is part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, a $9 million initiative funding innovative projects that engage and enrich Philadelphia’s communities.

Echelman’s work will create both a playful and meaningful embellishment on the fountain for this gateway to a system that welcomes 300,000 passengers into Center City each day and serves as the primary transit gateway to the Sports Complex, to Temple University’s campuses, and to all of University City.  Pulse marks a new experimental phase in Echelman’s career, using atomized water rather than fabric as a medium to capture environmental forces on a grand scale.

Construction on Dilworth Plaza began in January 2012, and will be completed in mid-2014.  Linking the new entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on North Broad Street to the Avenue of the Arts, connecting the office district to the major hotels on Market East, and sitting atop the convergence of regional transportation lines, the new Dilworth Plaza will be a welcoming green space with trees, benches, a café, and the programmable fountain that will showcase Echelman’s sculpture, reflect City Hall’s façade, serve as a playground for children, or when turned off, accommodate a range of special events, concerts, outdoor markets or ice-skating.

The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions.

Artist’s rendering of the sculpture, Pulse.

Find us at, Facebook, and Twitter @ccdphila. For photos, videos, and more information about Dilworth Plaza and Janet Echelman’s artwork, please click here.

A prototype shows how the mist will be created. A prototype shows how the mist will be created.

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