Water Sky Garden (2009)

Janet Echelman

Richmond Olympic Oval, 6111 River Rd.

Area: Olympic Oval Precinct
Location: In the Legacy Plaza garden on the east side of Richmond Olympic Oval.

Materials: Painted galvanized steel rings with TENARA® architectural fiber netting.

Program: Civic
Ownership: Civic
Sponsored By: City of Richmond

Description of Work

Visitors approach by a red boardwalk or intersecting bridges over a water garden. Above their heads, visitors see massive red, netted “sky lanterns” moving in the wind. Below they see “water drawing” amidst the reflections in the pond.

Artist Statement

"Water Sky Garden" transforms the plaza surrounding the Richmond Olympic Oval into a permanent art environment for the community. Echelman’s design engages the space all around the viewer – water, sky, and pedestrian pathways – to create an immersive whole using rock, wood, water, air bubble fountains, steel, netting, and light.

Red-stained cedar boardwalks lead visitors through the artwork. Water purifying aerators draw shapes with bubbles on the surface of a pond that collects runoff water from the Richmond Olympic Oval’s 5-acre roof, while suspended net-forms undulate overhead in the wind, becoming sky-lanterns during nighttime illumination.

The red boardwalk and “sky lanterns” are inspired by the city’s cultural communities. Richmond has the largest immigrant populations by proportion of any city in Canada, with the majority of those immigrants being of Asian descent. The wooden boardwalk follows a curving path similar to the choreography of the Dragon Dance, a performance frequently seen in local Chinese festivals. "Water Sky Garden" is a contemplative art environment that encourages participants to linger. The overhead netted forms provide a new visual experience, putting art in the sky; at night they glow like lanterns. Nets have a special relationship with the site, as the native Musqueam Band continue to teach their children to fish using nets at this particular bend in the Fraser River to this day, and this area has a history of the fishing/canning industry which employed many ethnic groups.

This project was achieved through Echelman’s collaboration with a team of international award-winning architects, engineers, lighting and water consultants, landscape architects, and fabricators.