Glowing turbines become public art
Airway Gateway is the result of a renovation and beautification project of the busiest intersection in El Paso, Texas, US. The renovation, commissioned by the City of El Paso, Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA), and the Texas Department of Transportation includes 16 functional wind turbines, 29 illuminated sculptures, arced planters with native plants and trees, and programmable LED lighting that reflects the seasons and holidays. The project renovated over 609.9 linear m (2,000 linear ft) of existing infrastructure creating a gateway to the El Paso International Airport and downtown. Inspired by images of flight and movement, the main attraction of the project includes an array of 15.24 m (50 ft)-tall, functional, illuminated wind turbines.
The City of El Paso and the Airway Gateway project design team wanted to create a civic gateway and welcoming sight for visitors and residents, celebrate Airway as a primary intersection, promote sustainability by incorporating green energy, and symbolize the mobility and growth in El Paso. Artist and Interdisciplinary Designer Vicki Scuri sought a lighting solution that would highlight the turbines and the sculptures, as well as be able to celebrate holidays, events, and the changing of seasons in the busy city.
Scuri worked with Lighting Engineer Randy Walker from Jacobs Engineering Group, Lighting Programmer Matt Hamilton from InitiatEnergy LLC, and Public Art Manager Patricia Dalbin from the City of El Paso Museums & Cultural Affairs. The team chose Color Kinetics luminaires for their outstanding performance, warranty, and reputation. Four ColorGraze MX Powercore luminaires were used for lighting sculptures, which are mounted in square patterns around each sculpture base. Four ColorReach Powercore gen2 luminaires were used to illuminate turbines up to 12 m (40 ft) tall, and are mounted in a square pattern around each turbine base. The color hues and sequences are inspired by El Paso's transitional seasons and by colorful, local Mexican blankets. Each luminaire, individually addressable and easily controlled, contributes to the overall effect.
The lighting show at Airway Gateway runs nightly, from dusk until dawn. The collaborative process between the artist, the design team, and the contractor was seamless. Everyone worked together to accomplish an ambitious project in a short period of time. The goal to create a sustainable gateway was embraced and realized through the collective efforts of all parties. Recently, Airway Gateway was voted a "2014 Best of the Border" site for Public Art, a people's choice award sponsored by the El Paso Times. The community has suggested renaming the installation "Airway Lights" due to the amazing lighting effects that contribute and complement Scuri's masterpiece.
"I have always wanted to do a project that features wind turbines, light sculptures, programmable lighting, native plants, and pedestrian enhancements, marking a major gateway to a city," said Scuri.