The designers of the Sonic Wall, a public art installation on the exterior of the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, USA, had a unique vision: to illustrate a sound wave through a large mural illuminated in color-changing lights and accentuated with ribbons of fiberglass.
Sonic Wall began as a partnership among the casino's ownership, architects, lighting designers, and public artists. This public art forum fused lighting, sculpture, color, and music to create a truly exceptional piece.
Artist Caryl Christian Levy, of John Levy Lighting Productions Inc., wanted to create a public art piece that could be as flexible as it is eye-catching. The objective of the design was to have the light "dance" along the wall, animating the sculpted mural with color. Designers also needed the freedom to create any number of looks, including colored mosaics, special effects, color mixes, and solid colors.
Lighting designers John Levy and Jon Langrell erected a full-size rendering of the installation in Los Angeles to gain client approval. Levy and Langrell spent much of their time considering the various views of the art piece, ensuring that it could be enjoyed both at a distance and close up.
An LED lighting solution proved to be the best option for this project because of its ability to program many shows in a wide variety of colors. The use of LED lights also minimized energy costs, without sacrificing variation or color intensity.
The bas-relief piece of art is composed on four fiberglass panels mounted behind a continuous fiberglass front. A mixture of Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlaze 48 and ColorBlaze 72 LED fixtures were installed in rows parallel to the fiberglass ribbons to create waves of color on the façade. These effects can be used on a single wall, or they can sweep the entire façade, encompassing the building in a dynamic light show. The shows are interpretations of the Levy's original music titled, "Sonic Suites," a series of six movements with both traditional and contemporary tempos. The light shows are meant to mirror these movements and dance along the façade of the building.
Designers configured the ColorBlaze 48 and ColorBlaze 72 fixtures to have individually programmable nodes every six inches to achieve a high degree of control and resolution. Using Pharos and other third-party controls, the designers created a sophisticated control solution spanning four DMX universes. Together, the ColorBlaze fixtures and control system support the ability to display intricate effects and complex color-changing light shows.
"Philips Color Kinetics is a great partner because they are very proactive and hands-on," said Jon Langrell of JLLP. "This unique project required different samples, mock-ups, and even experimentation with different materials and form factors. Philips Color Kinetics works with us closely to support us from concept to completion."
The wall has been a spectacle at the Parx
Casino since installation was completed in 2009. Designers and clients alike are pleased with the end result. "The sheer monumentality and scale of Sonic Wall as well as the very unusual quality of being a permanent exterior installation as a performative public artwork has far exceeded the client's expectations," said John Levy.