A whale tale lit by LED light show
For its 100th anniversary, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum underwent a renovation that greets patrons with an actual size fin whale skeleton suspended in mid-air. The whale, measuring 19.2 m (63 ft) and weighing in at an enormous 3,175 kg (7,000 lb), lives in the Otis Booth Pavilion, a three-story glass enclosed entrance designed to look like a large aquarium. The pavilion was named in honor of the US $13 million that the Otis Booth Foundation donated to this project. Designers used LED lighting to create a new look for the pavilion while it underwent an intense two-year restoration.
The lighting design team at KGM led by partner Dan Weinreber and designer Patrick McCollough, had used Color Kinetics LED lighting extensively throughout the museum and knew that it was the perfect solution to create a new home for the whale skeleton. The biggest challenge was creating a suitable backdrop that could match the enormity of the whale without overpowering it.
Weinreber and McCollough tightly spaced Color Kinetics iColor Flex LMX (now specified with Flex Compact gen3, RGB) strands to create a low-resolution video screen on the backdrop behind the whale. Spaced only 102 mm (4 in) apart, the strands display impressive and magical effects. "Imagine seeing this magnificent skeleton appearing to swim against a backdrop of the ocean depths and then looking up to see a whale's view of the sky from under water. The possibilities are endless," said designer Dan Weinreber.
The unforgettable image of the whale will now be visible to all passing through the Exposition Boulevard side of the museum, and the gentle glow of the pavilion's glass structure will be visible from as far away as the USC campus. The hope for this installation is that it will draw people into the museum and get them excited about nature and art.
"The Otis Booth Pavilion's fin whale will be a magnificent addition to the Natural History Museum and will surely become one of Los Angeles County's cultural treasures," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. "Think of the impact on a middle school student or an international visitor to see that tremendous fin whale diving through space. This historic gift will inspire thousands of people — of all ages — to learn more about their connection to the natural world."