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Posts tagged ‘Installations’

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 a Modern Lingerie Pop-Up Shop – BOFFO NY

Boffo nyc fashion "the lake and stars" fashion lingerie softlab architecture design lighting "focus lighting" retail "pop-up" "pop-up shop"

Boffo nyc fashion "the lake and stars" fashion lingerie softlab architecture design lighting "focus lighting" retail "pop-up" "pop-up shop"

Who says lingerie shopping has to involve pink polka-dotted wallpaper or flashing pink neon signs?

In this modern lingerie pop-up shop that opened yesterday in Soho, the architects at Softlab found a creative way to engage shoppers by slowly revealing the product in a sort of “architectural striptease,” using viewing tunnels to reveal small details of each piece of lingerie – a patch of fabric here, a strap there – before seeing the completed garments and ensembles.

Is it getting warm in here, or is it just me?

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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!

Forced Perspective: A Lighting Design and Installation

October 20, 2010


Voila — my lighting installation for the second lighting studio project of the year!

Welcome to the Parsons Gallery, a multi-function space in the Parsons building that serves as a gallery, lobby for the School of Constructed Environments, and, after hours, a reception area for lectures and events.  Our mission for this project was to design at human-scale, given that our last project was on a much smaller, theoretical scale, by reimagining the lighting design for a small area or corner of the Parsons building.  My partner, Kyle, and I chose this space for the challenge of addressing all three situations, focusing on the situation of the after-hours events during which the space relies completely on electric lighting.

We noted that the existing lighting for the space, as demonstrated in the photo below, was not well-maintained or appropriately planned for evening illumination.  The existing track fixtures, for example, each had a different type and wattage lamp installed — completely inappropriate for a display space.  In addition, the fixtures were cross-focused to the opposite wall, creating glare for anyone viewing the projects from the center of the room.

Also, the kitchen area at the end of the room had been especially neglected by the existing lighting scheme, leaving it in almost complete darkness compared to the rest of the space.  Due to the fact that this kitchen is not only a primary gathering spot during receptions but an art piece in its own right (designed and built by an alum, it folds up and rolls away during the day), this deficiency had to be remedied.

In devising a solution for these problems, we also wanted to address a few others along the way.   Usually, during after-hours events, a lecture is held in the adjacent classroom (directly behind where the photo is taken from), and afterwards everyone adjourns to the this space for food and drinks.   Aside from the food waiting in the kitchen, we wanted to provide another motive for people to move down the long, narrow room as well, to increase circulation through the space and to ease traffic flow at the kitchen — all using light.  Our intervention would have to be subtle enough not to detract from the projects in the gallery but still have enough impact to move people through the space, all while enhancing the social atmosphere of the space — hey, it’s a party space, people should look good while they’re in it.

Our design concept was twofold: 1) to evenly illuminate the display walls and eliminate their glare factor (by unifying their lamps and spinning them 180 towards the appropriate walls), and 2) to install a low intensity, graphic line of light down the center of the space to draw people down the length of the room and direct some focus towards the kitchen area.  The catch was that this line of light was going to descend in elevation towards the windows, forcing an increased illusion of perspective and depth, pulling people into the space while making it seem more intimate by lowering the perceived ceiling plane.  This effect would work double duty, too, as this would draw people down the hallway during the day as well, towards the main SCE offices at the end of the room on the right, or, inversely, propel them towards the entrance studios when entering from the elevator at the end of the room to the left, directly across from the main office.  This “division” of the space, I theorized, would also force approaching visitors entering the space to look either left or right towards the projects, the line of light forcing the brain to make a decision.  It would be essential, however, to keep the intensity of this graphic as low as possible so not to provide excess illumination in the center of the room where it would pull focus from the walls.

After finalizing our intentions, we began to flesh out our ideas in sketches and preliminary renderings.  This is an early rendering of our concept I created in Photoshop using the “before” photo, conveying a general sense of our concept and the sense of focus we wanted to bring to the space:

We then spent a great amount of time taking fixtures and equipment into the actual space, trying out different ideas and observing what worked and what didn’t.  Of course, we wouldn’t always have this luxury when working on a real design project, but it was helpful in this case to observe how certain luminaires would behave in our space.

Eventually once we progressed further in our designs, we took our ideas into the 3D realm using the lighting rendering software AGI32, building a 3D model of the space and inserting our ideas into it using actual fixtures.  Once we generated a few renders with the software I then took them into Photoshop for a bit more cleaning up:

Finally, then, as it came down to crunch time and our ideas began to be finalized, we began to start constructing our fixtures for the actual installation.  We ended up deciding that we would need to build custom fixtures for our design in order to achieve the specific look that we wanted, so I dove in head first, cranking out a total of ten fixtures in two days.

We set a bit of an expedited schedule for ourselves, aiming to have everything installed for one of the evening events the Thursday before the Monday that the project was due.  Why?  That Thursday’s evening guest lecturer was going to be none other than Jonathan Speirs of the highly-decorated UK lighting firm Speirs and Major (whose visit I wrote about last week) — we really had no choice, we had to get it done by then.

It was a close race, but this was the final product as it appeared a mere half hour before Mr. Speirs’ scheduled lecture:

I learned a lot from the process, especially because it was technically my first “architectural” design — I learned more about how the design and review process works, I learned a bit of software (and its limitations), I experimented with some gear (pardon the theatre term), I implemented some things I learned from my Luminaire Design class, and I learned how to think about designing for a space that wasn’t a theatre!  Ironically my partner, Kyle, also had a theatre background, so we had to fight some of those urges, but I will definitely take what I’ve learned here on to our next, and final, project of the semester, which will be on an even larger scale!

As a special treat for all of you who have made it to the end of this lengthy post, here is a brief video tour of the project.  Enjoy!