A festival blooms with interactive light
The creators of Lantern Field, a temporary installation at The Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, intertwined paper, sound, and light to form an interactive, evocative showpiece in honor of April's National Cherry Blossom Festival. A group of Virginia Tech students and faculty, led by Professor Aki Ishida, created the ephemeral display, which was inspired by cherry blossoms and the fleeting, magical lantern festivals Ishida experienced while growing up in Japan. To capture the vibrancy of these influences, Ishida's team, made up of members from the school's architecture and engineering departments, turned to an LED lighting solution from Color Kinetics.
The use of LED luminaires was instrumental in achieving Ishida's vision. Ishida's primary goal was to implement a lighting system that would enliven her creative design and allow visitors to engage with their environment in a meaningful way. But she also had to take more practical matters into account. The Color Kinetics luminaires Ishida decided to specify would not only provide rich light, but possessed much cooler beams of light than conventional fixtures, ensuring the safety of visitors who might wander near the ground-level luminaires. In addition, the LED luminaires would consume significantly less power than conventional lighting fixtures.
The resulting installation featured mulberry paper to augment the light — a tradition in Japanese architecture. Freer Gallery visitors decorated the paper during a day-long workshop held by the Virginia Tech students. The paper was then folded into floral, light-capturing "lanterns" and fastened to bamboo poles hung from the gallery's loggia. Ishida's engineering team mounted Color Kinetics iW Burst Compact Powercore and 2 ft ColorGraze Powercore luminaires in rows of plywood boxes along the ground, aiming them upwards to bring out the texture of the lanterns and reflect light off of the vaulted stucco ceiling. The ColorGraze Powercore luminaires were positioned along the gallery wall, while the iW Burst Compact Powercore luminaires lined the base of the archways.
By integrating the versatile Color Kinetics luminaires with a third-party control and motion sensor, lighting programmer Brennon Bortz configured the lights to change color in response to visitors' presence and movements.
For example, as the sensors detected people in the space, the ColorGraze Powercore luminaires produced a sweep of rose-tinted light along the lanterns that oscillated in tandem with the rhythms of electronic bamboo chime sounds, achieving the team's envisioned multi-sensory experience — and earning the installation a design award from Architectural Lighting magazine.
"Lantern Field used light and sound to create a space that engages the community at multiple levels," Ishida said. "To experience the light and sound shifts in response to our movement, and to watch the excitement of adults and children, was very rewarding."