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When you put a group of designers together, give them a simple list of criteria and a general direction to have fun, something incredible happens. This was the case for the 2016 Portland Winter Light Festival’s community installation, in which team members from Luma Lighting Design and Walker|Macy were asked to create an interactive lighting experience. The result was the Reflect & Project “a magical carwash” installation; an arrangement of common building materials, highly reflective Mylar strips, concealed color changing LED flood lights and some dance-inducing rhythmic beats. From day one, the team of Portland lighting designers and landscape architects were enthralled with the idea of creating an experience that begged to be touched, while catching the eye of the casual onlooker through a dramatic play of reflected colored light cast upon varying surfaces. At every step in the design process, the team made it a priority to look at the interactive installation through the eyes of their inner child. The goal was to make it appealing from various points of view.

The first point of view was the long approach; it wanted to be an eye-catching object that appeared to fill a volume much larger than itself. This was achieved by the highly reflective Mylar strips suspended within the volume of the installation. The reflected light bouncing off of the strips cast dynamic and playful beams, spreading several hundred feet beyond the installation as the wind made the strips dance. This gave the installation a “beacon” quality, as hundreds of patrons were intrigued by the light show, and quickly formed a line to investigate.

The second point of view was the short approach, just before entering the installation itself. The team wanted the user to experience the varying layers of transparency, and the ways in which the light reacted to those surfaces. Seeing the shadows of other people cast onto the translucent corrugated plastic panels gave those who were queued-up in line a feeling of anticipation and excitement to do a bit of shadow-casting as well. Hearing the music, and seeing the Mylar strips flutter in the wind gave the sense that the installation was alive!

Once inside the main cavity of the structure, the real party started. With the music pumping and the lights pulsating with vibrant colors, anyone walking through the installation felt as if they were immediately transported to a magical dancefloor, as evident by the multitude of individualized dance styles that could be observed from the exterior of the installation. Younger children were particularly enraptured by the experience as they were able to dance through the tunnel while batting the suspended Mylar strips, creating even more dramatic bursts of motion and sparkle with their very hands.

Following the success of the installation, the team is very excited and currently planning their next design for the next Portland Winter Light Festival. The hope is to make an even bigger and brighter splash on the blank canvas that is the OMSI waterfront property.

Project Team Members:
Brock Soderberg – Luma
Alex Ridley – Luma
Kayla Burke – Luma
Alysha Ahrens – Luma
Brent Medsker – LumaNathan Kappen – Walker Macy
Alyssa Machle – Walker Macy
Nanette Heimes – Walker Macy
Keriann Head – Walker Macy

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