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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Light Drift in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by howeler + yoon architecture

June 25th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: howeler + yoon architecture


LIGHT DRIFT is a temporary interactive lighting installation along the edge of the Schuylkill River that will draw viewers into a playful engagement with the artwork, the river’s edge, and each other. The project creates a field of lighting elements that are arrayed along the waterfront, with elements on land and in the water.

  • Architect: howeler + yoon architecture
  • Name of Project: Light Drift
  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Project team: J. Meejin Yoon, Eric Höweler, Ryan Murphy, Parker Lee, Jennifer Chuong, Lauren McClellan, Man Yan Lam, Yushiro Okamoto, Kris Swick, Dan Sullivan, Jeremy Jih
  • Electronics Engineer: Mark Feldmeier
  • Year: 2010

The lighting elements are shaped like orbs or buoys and are equipped with electronics that allow them to respond to a viewer and to communicate with each other. The orbs on land use sensors to detect the presence of a person and relay a radio signal to the corresponding orbs in the water, allowing visitors to transform the lighting behavior and color of the orbs in the river.  As viewers engage and occupy the orbs along the park, the grid of lights in the water becomes an index of the activities on land. Multiple viewers can create intersections of linear patterns, encouraging viewers to “play” with each other.

Light Drift

These orbs bring the community together by providing gathering spaces for watching the river turn into a flickering constellation, creating new connections on the river’s edge.   Light Drift creates an atmosphere, a field of lights that transform in color and intensity based on the public interaction with it. The resting state of the field is a constant state of green. When a visitor approaches a land orb, the orb will start an “enticement mode” by pulsing between blue and green. If a visitor sits on the orb, the pulsing will transition to a blue state.

Light Drift

The water orbs that align with the land orb, will change colors at the same time, creating a linear extension of blue lights in the water. Because the orbs are arranged on a diagonal grid, the lines of lit orbs will form a series of intersecting lines in the field. The intersection of lines of lit orbs in the water will encourage different people interacting with the orbs to also interact with each other.   The individual elements are vacuum formed translucent shells molded from PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol). PETG is a non-toxic and fully recyclable material that is milky in color, easy to mold, and acts as a diffusing element for the lighting inside.

Light Drift

The electronics consist of custom micro controllers and wireless transmitters (which use radio frequencies to transmit and receive data), allowing each orb in the field to be addressable, and specifically controlled by transmitters on the land. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting allows the orbs to glow and change colors. LED lighting is one of the most energy efficient means of lighting.

Light Drift

The installation will open on October 15-18 along the Schuylkill banks side of the river, between Market Street and Chestnut Street. The project was commissioned by the Philadelphia Mural Arts.  Additional funding was provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Special thanks to the many people that have helped make the project a reality: Judy Hellman of MAA, Joe Syrnick from the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, and Mark Focht, Executive Director of Fairmount Park.   After Light Drift is de-installed, the project may be reinstalled at a second venue in Boston, on the Charles River. When the project is finished, the PETG materials will be recycled.


Site Plan

Light Drift is a project by J. Meejin Yoon of MY Studio, and interdisciplinary art and architecture studio located in Boston Massachusetts. J. Meejin Yoon is an architect and artist, as well as an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other projects by Meejin Yoon include White Noise White Light, commissioned for the Athens 2004 Olympics, and Low Rez Hi Fi, a permanent interactive installation in Washington DC. Meejin Yoon has received numerous awards including the Rome Prize, the RISD Athena Award, and the United States Artist Award.



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