© photo by Ema Peters, Courtesy Studio Echelman

Janet Echelman

USA Barr Fellow

  • Architecture & Design
  • 2016

    Brookline, MA


    Janet Echelman is an artist who defies categorization. She creates billowing sculpture at the scale of buildings, choreographed by wind and light. The art shifts from being an object you look at, to a living environment you can get lost in. Using unlikely materials from netting to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with cutting-edge engineering and material science to create focal points for urban life on five continents.  

    Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” Her TED talk, “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 34 languages and viewed by millions. Echelman’s art ranked #1 on Oprah’s “List of 50 Things That Make You Say Wow!” and received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award. 

    Echelman’s path has been nonlinear. After graduating from Harvard, she applied to seven art schools, and was rejected by all of them. So, she decided to create a life as an artist herself. For five years, she painted in a Balinese village while studying craft traditions. But she didn’t find her full voice as an artist until her paints went missing on a Fulbright in India - which forced her to embrace an unorthodox new art material.