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Posts tagged ‘Art’

Lessons from Architecture School – Separation of Ego and Debate

March 2, 2013


architecture crit critique school

Architecture school critique sessions, or “crits” as they’re lovingly known — love ’em or hate ’em, they were always a learning experience .  I found that there was something incredibly engaging and accessible about throwing all of your ideas and work up on a wall and having colleagues and mentors offer feedback.  It was a win/win: the presenters got got to practice their presentation skills and received fresh insights into their work, and the critics got to practice verbally articulating their constructive criticisms.  While nerve-wracking at times, I always came out of them with notebook pages full of interesting and exciting new ideas.

The challenge of crits wasn’t usually the presentation, though; it was the actual “critique” session, which, as the word implies, wasn’t meant to be a smile-and-a-pat-on-the-back affair.  No, architecture school crits are notorious for making stressed, overtired, vulnerable students bawl uncontrollably by their conclusion.  But that wasn’t the point.  Not even close to it, actually.   Read more


Cloud: An Interactive Light Art Installation – BOFFO NY

cloud boffo ny nyc "show house" showhouse light lighting interactive design art architecture "focus lighting" "new york" led hallway

Hallways are usually pretty boring, lifeless places.  Think about it: when was the last time you were in an “interesting” or “exciting” hallway? Their whole purpose is to take us from one room to another, so, unfortunately, they aren’t usually paid much attention by the people who design them or the people who walk through them.

But what would happen if a hallway were actually an interesting and exciting place to be?  What if it were inviting and beautiful? What if it could react to your presence? What if it could appear different every time you entered it? What if it were a fun place to walk through? What if the hallway were the destination rather than the path to it?

Meet “Cloud,” our interactive light art installation featured at Boffo New York’s Show House on the Lower East Side this past month, which was designed with all of these questions in mind.

cloud boffo ny nyc "show house" showhouse light lighting interactive design art architecture "focus lighting" "new york" led hallway

Photo by Ryan Fischer

Watch this video, which I both edited and starred in (how’d that happen?), to see it in action!

I had a blast working on “Cloud” because it allowed us to challenge the stereotype of a typically boring architectural space and breathe a whole new life into it using light.

This kind of stuff really fascinates me.  I’m interested in using light and architecture to create places that engage people both physically and mentally; that get people to notice and interact with their environment instead of merely passing through it.  Part of that challenge is to break people’s expectations of reality —  to surprise them, to get them to engage with and enjoy the moment, the space, and the people around them — which is getting harder and harder to do nowadays.  But, based on all the positive feedback we’ve received about “Cloud,” we must be heading in the right direction!

Now, if only I could convince my landlord to put one of these in my building …

Lighting the Statue of Liberty (Workshop Model)

"statue of liberty", statue, liberty, "federick bartholdi", model, workshop, scale, light, lighting, design, installation, "new york", "focus lighting", architecture, architectural

"statue of liberty", statue, liberty, "federick bartholdi", model, workshop, scale, light, lighting, design, installation, "new york", "focus lighting", architecture, architectural

Lady Liberty … a New York icon … now on view at 61st and Madison!

Yes, you heard right; the famous statue has found a new home on the Upper East Side.  Well, not the actual statue, of course, but a casting of the original Frederick Bartholdi workshop model that stands just over nine feet tall.  One of only a handful of castings in the world, this statue was enlarged by the sculptor sixteen times to create the statue sitting in New York Harbor today.  It’s a little piece of New York history dropped right on Madison Avenue.  The best part: you don’t have to wait in line for hours to see her!

We recently completed the lighting installation designed to make this bronze beauty shine all night long, and it was such a fun project I thought I’d share some photos for those who can’t see her in person.

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Nuit Blanche NYC 2011

October 2, 2011


I ventured out into Brooklyn last night for the annual Nuit Blanche (“White Night”) NYC festival of light.  Started last year in New York, the festival occurs on the same night as others in (mostly European) cities around the world, and brings together artists of all different flavors to light up the night in the industrial waterfront of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This year’s turnout of artists and installations, unfortunately, wasn’t as strong as last year‘s (most likely due to rain early in the night), however, the attendance was just as enthusiastic.

nuit blanche festival "bring to light" nyc 2011 light art artist installation lighting design brooklyn greenpoint

What is great about this festival is its timing.  Falling on the first day of October on the first chilly night of the season, it is the essence of Fall in New York City.  The shadowy, mysterious atmosphere at the festival also serves as a great introduction to the Halloween season — wide-eyed kids run around with glow sticks in hand, the first hints of costumes start to appear, leaves crunch underfoot, and everything around you is just a little bit off.

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Sparks of Inspiration – Design and Designers

August 6, 2011


Every once in a while in my design work I come across something that really blows me away — something that drives me to work harder, try something new, or think in a new way.  It’s like a tiny explosion goes off in my brain, and then suddenly I snap back to reality, my focus sharpens, and my creative drive kicks into turbo mode.  It’s these exciting moments of inspiration that keep me going and push me to be a better designer — and I absolutely love when they happen.

Below are some of the people and ideas that sparked my imagination this week and really got my creativity and productivity flowing.  Hopefully you’ll find something that inspires you, too!


This documentary about Seattle-based architecture firm BUILD expresses beautifully of a lot of the things I love about being a designer – from being constantly “design conscious” to conceptions of people interacting with spaces.  It reminded me why I love what I do, and really motivated me to put extra effort into my work these past few days. If you’re at all interested in architecture or design, I would highly recommend reading their blog, too.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab has stopped in New York City! I’ve recently developed a new interest in urban planning and design in the course of my lighting work, and this mobile lab that has set up shop on Houston St. downtown sounds like the perfect place to indulge in that interest. The structure of the lab is also interesting in and of itself — it’s a traveling classroom, lecture hall, and workshop for solving problems in the city.  I’m thinking about heading downtown to a few events while it’s here. Watch the video to learn more.


I was fortunate enough this past weekend to have the free time to stand in line for over two hours to get in to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met — the verdict: totally worth it.  First, the clothing was simply out of this world — I’d never seen anything like it before.  Now I know fashion and lighting don’t seem like they have a lot in common, but the theatricality of McQueen’s style was absolutely an inspiration for me.  The colors, textures, and shapes were a visual feast to behold.  Here was a designer that stretched his ideas to their wildest ends — and people admired and respected him for it.  Second, the exhibit environment was almost as dramatic as the clothing.  Each line was showcased in a unique, I’d venture to say architectural, environment ranging from the concrete austerity you see above to environments incorporating holographs, mirrors, projections, turntables, and more.  I only wish the lighting had done more to showcase the vibrant color of the clothing (most of it was lit in yellowed halogen lamps), but the impact of the environments in combination with the fashion more than made up for it.  I’m sorry to say that it closes tomorrow, so if you haven’t been — GO NOW!


Finally, I ran across the website of Steven Harris Architects this week and I had to mention them for the stunning photography of their work.  Check out their portfolio photos — the lighting is fantastic in all of them! Really a great showcase of how architecture and light can work together in harmony. Check it out!

That’s all for now — I hope to bring together more posts like this in the future.  For more day-to-day inspirations and news follow me on Twitter!

“Broken Window” and “Scattered Light” — Light Installations in Madison Square Park

October 26, 2010


Jim Campell Broken Window Light Installation Madison Square Park New York NYC

As much as I may gripe about Manhattan and New York City, there is one distinct advantage to living here — the artistic community.  There are few other places in the world where one can observe such an impressive collection of art of all kinds.  Yes, the museums are a tremendous influence on the art scene here, and are one of the reasons such an active art community exists; however, my favorite kind of art on view here can be seen by just walking down the street.  The public and outdoor art of New York City is such a treat to run across.  It infiltrates the environment, it catches you off-guard, and it makes you stop – a small feat in itself in this city – and think.

The newest additions to this scene, and to the twilight landscape of the city, are courtesy of Jim Campell, a highly-awarded new-media artist from San Francisco.  His first work, “Broken Window” sits near the South entrance of Madison Square Park.  It is a low-resolution video wall, only about 7 feet high, faced with frosted glass bricks, displaying video of what appears to be one of the adjacent streets during the day, with pedestrians, cars, taxis, and trucks intermittently crossing the field of view.  Although the scene is immediately familiar, the the juxtaposition of the daylit scene against the nighttime landscape immediately pulls the viewer in, and the slight blur makes it seem almost dream-like.  I stood watching the scene for a good few minutes, just waiting to see what crossed into the frame next.

Scattered Light

Continuing on deeper into the park, floating delicately above the Oval Lawn, “Scattered Light” is not nearly as bright or compact as “Broken Window,” but it has just as magnetic a pull.  The nearly 2,000 LED bulbs suspended in space quietly twinkle against the darkness while the city roars on just beyond the treeline, creating a peaceful nighttime spectacle to enjoy on a cool fall night.  Approaching from the North or South, or at any angle to the installation, the points of light appear to float in a random order in space, twinkling like the stars in the sky.  Move around the sculpture to the East or West, however, and order suddenly emerges from the chaos — the twinkling patterns are formed by the shadows of people crossing through the sculpture as if it weren’t there at all!  The random patterns of light and dark become defined by the random patterns of Manhattan foot traffic, reflecting the surrounding landscape and echoing the sentiments of “Broken Window” at the entrance to the park.

These are complex effects to describe or try to capture in a photograph, so I have included a short video of both installations for those who can’t see them in person.  If you live in New York City, though, I highly encourage you to visit, even if Madison Square Park is a bit out of your way.  It energizes and inspires me to see a lighting installation in such a prominent public setting — I hope the trend continues!  Enjoy!

Light Art in NYC: Nuit Blanche Festival 2010

October 4, 2010


Here’s a quick video tour from the first-ever NYC Nuit Blanche festival, set on the industrial waterfront of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  “Nuit Blanche,” literally meaning “white night” in French, is an annual all-night arts festival that has its roots in cities such at Paris, St. Petersburg, and Berlin, typically involving light as one of the main artistic mediums.

New York’s first festival, entitled “Bring to Light,” was well attended, turning the small neighborhood of Greenpoint into one large, open-air nighttime gallery.  Neighboring craft and artist workshops opened their doors to the festival as well, providing venues for some of the larger light installations as well as a unique look into the local arts community.  Most displays could be found outdoors, however, lining the closed-off streets (and engulfing a local playground).

The main attraction this year seemed to be projections, with over half of the displays involving a laptop computer and one to four projectors.  Given the availability (and portability) of the technology, it wasn’t really a surprise to see, I just wished that there had been more exhibits utilizing other light sources, to give the festival some variety.  In my opinion, one of the installations (shown in the video above) really transcended the technology and light source behind it to create a visually interesting, thought provoking display.  I’ll let you guess which one it was!

I certainly hope the festival is revived again next year, but on an even larger scale.  New York City has such a large artist (and lighting) community that an event like this could be ten times bigger if planned and advertised well in advance.  After having had a chance to see the installations this year I might even consider displaying something next year!  I could have brought my first studio project to display; it would have fit right in!

A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Met with IESNY

October 3, 2010


You’d think that as a student of lighting design that I live and work in the best possible lighting conditions every day, and that I don’t mind working for long periods of time because of my perfectly illuminated surroundings.  That’s what I thought would happen too.  Moving to New York, I thought to myself: no longer will I have to spend hours upon hours in a dark theatre for weeks at a time!  I will finally be able to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air!  Well, you can see where this is going.

I will say that I have made every effort to light my home environment as well as I possibly can, and I’m actually quite happy with it.  The design studio I work in is also, for the most part, well lit.  A problem arises, though, when those are the only two environments I see during the week, and I see no more daylight than the stagehands working on Broadway.

Needless to say, whenever I get a chance to get out of the design studio and explore the city, I jump at the chance!

On Friday night I got that chance, when the Illuminating Engineering Society of New York (IESNY) offered Parsons lighting students the chance to attend a tour of the American wing of the Met given by the lighting designer, Eileen Pierce of Renfro Design Group, in exchange for a bit of volunteer work checking people in at the event.  Meet new people in the lighting industry and visit one of the top museums in the city? Yes, please!

I was put in charge of holding up the IES sign in the foyer to indicate to members where our group was meeting for the tour.

Of course I did an excellent job doing so, although a few of my classmates and I thought that our sign needed to attract a bit more attention, so we quickly provided it with additional illumination.  Next time we’re making a better sign, and you’d better believe it’ll light up like an airport runway!

Anyway, after I was relieved of my signpost duties the group of about forty of us divided into two, with half going to the bar first while the other half took the tour with Eileen.  As luck would have it, I ended up at the bar first.

After a few laughs and some good conversation with some new (and some familiar) faces, and with everyone loosened up a bit, we finished our drinks and met with Eileen in the American Wing Courtyard.

For those that have never been, the American Wing Courtyard is an enormous six-story tall open indoor gallery space housing some of the larger sculptures, a few stained glass windows, and the complete facade of a Neo-Classical bank building.  It’s an impressive space to say the least, and it was fascinating to hear Eileen speak about the challenges of lighting it.

One of the features she spoke of was how she accomplished lighting the new cafe space on the ground floor, which was created by the addition of an intermediary level of the gallery between the ground floor and the second (now third) level.  Apparently, during the construction phase of that new level, workers hung a white sheet above the cafe to simulate the height of the new space for museum staffers.  One day, while Eileen was visiting the site, the setting sun hit the sheet in such a way that it brilliantly lit up the cafe space below, and the idea stuck (or struck)!  Now the ceiling of the cafe is illuminated with color-changing LEDs that match the colors of the sunlight throughout the day until sunset.  Amazing how that works, isn’t it?

Another design challenge Eileen spoke of was how to light the many statues situated in the middle of the courtyard, with only five stories of air between them and the glazed ceiling.  The solution for this challenge was actually quite interesting, as it involved a combination of architectural and theatrical gear.  The fixtures most up to the task of the long throw turned out to be Very Narrow Spot (VNSP, for those in the theatre lingo) PAR64 fixtures, which aren’t all that uncommon in architectural settings.  The real challenge was figuring out a place to hang them that was elevated enough to provide the appropriate lighting angles, but still accessible enough for the Met staff to relamp and refocus them.  The solution came in the form of a truss system that can be lowered to the ground on electric winches so the staff can change lamps.  How do they refocus the lights once they have returned to their lofty perch?  Well, each fixture is mounted on an Apollo Right Arm, a DMX-controlled yoke (and common theatrical lighting accessory) that essentially turns each lamp into a moving light, controlled by an ETC theatrical lighting console.  It was a simple solution for a very complex problem using primarily theatrical gear.  I guess it’s not so bad to know something about theatre in this business after all!  I’ll have to drop off my business card at the Met the next time I visit …

After the tour was over we had a chance to explore the galleries on our own, to see more of Eileen’s design firsthand.  Personally, I could spend days there just wandering through everything, which I hope to do at some point in the future.  Unfortunately we had to move quickly before the museum closed for the night.  Here’s one fun room that I managed to discover a few minutes before closing: the open storage rooms!

If I had to pick one thing, I would say the most exciting part about the night was just getting to meet new people with similar interests and goals, sharing some drinks, fine art, architecture, and lighting.  It was fascinating to listen and participate in the discussion that unfolded during the tour as well, because I could tell, from the form of their questions, that every other person in the room, regardless of their experience level or place of work, was just as passionate about lighting as I am — and that’s a very good sign.  I’m very much looking forward to more events like this in the future; more chances to explore the city, to meet new people, and to learn what about lighting inspires them.  I can reassure you, that’s never a boring conversation.