Smith Campus Center, Pomona College

    Claremont, California, USA

    Photo Credits: Benny Chan, fotoworks

    Dynamic light sculpture becomes social hub

    How better to reinvigorate a dark and uninviting space than with dynamic color-changing light?

    Color Kinetics’ LED lighting proved just that as part of a major renovation of Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center, intended to be a social hub for students. The Los Angeles office of SmithGroup orchestrated the entire interior overhaul, including the lighting, to acclaimed results.

    The goal of boosting social interaction was key to the design, according to SmithGroup principal Mark McVay. This goal was partly achieved through a unique application of LED illumination. “We wanted to create a dynamic, changing light wall to transform a windowless basement-level room into a nighttime social space for students to dance and enjoy music,” said McVay. “We’d found a translucent polypropylene material that was attractive by itself, but we wanted to go a step further and experiment with back lighting it. The result was stunning, it’s almost biomorphic in its transformation.”

    The light wall measures 8 ft by 23 ft long. It is comprised of panels measuring approximately 9" square, with a slight radius in a quarter-turned configuration that gives the effect of a woven surface. After several mock-ups and a variety of depths, McVay and team chose Color Kinetics’ iColor Cove NXT luminaire (now specified as PureStyle Compact Powercore, IntelliHue) because of its compact size, light level and programmability. Each 12 in linear luminaire can be individually controlled to generate millions of colors without the cumbersome use of colored gels or filters. A total of 290 luminaires were installed behind the translucent wall for a smooth, diffused effect.

    “We used LEDs in this application for their programmability, color range, low power consumption and ease of installation,” said McVay.

    To bring the wall to life, the design team created five dynamic lighting sequences and one fixed color effect, while leaving two options open for students to self-program according to the desired musical effect. The dynamic programs include tiles with cross fades from the original color to red, vertically oriented tiles grouped in columns, and a program called "Drop in the bucket" where a series of concentric circles moves from the center to the edges and across the field of tiles. The effects, authored by ColorPlay software, showcase the highly controllable nature of LED lighting and its ability to completely transform and customize a space.
    Project credits

    Smith Campus Center Director

    Neil Gerard


    Board of Trustees Representative

    Rusty Doms


    Project Manager

    Tony Ichsan


    Lighting Design:

    Jeff Gerwing, Chris Coulter



    Hamilton Construction

    Dean of Students

    Anne Quinley


    Campus Architect

    James Hansen


    Architectural Design:

    Mark McVay



    Electrical Engineering:

    S&K Engineers


    Electrical Subcontractor:

    Rancho Pacific Electric

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