Carleton College is a small liberal arts institution located in a small Minnesota town. Their culture is one of collaboration that encourages curiosity and intellectual experiences of the highest quality. With a student body of less than 2000, it is a place where everyone knows each other, and intimate meetups are central to the academic and social experience. The enclosure of a courtyard between two science buildings created an opportunity for a light installation.
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Global Future Design Awards 2021
Campfire Light Installation
Wendy Evans Joseph
Wendy Evans Joseph, Monica Coghlan, Jose Luis Vidalon, Shuo Yang
Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Campfire is a bespoke response to both location and community. Located at the west entry of the atrium, it can be experienced from inside on all three levels of the space. Campfire is also a beacon, seen from the campus’ central lawn. Campfire is the soul of the building and the campus with its ability to inspire.
The installation consists of 80 acrylic tubes, 4 inches in diameter and 6 feet in length; each hung with a singular, powered cable from a sloping ceiling. The arrangement of the tubes is in two tiers that overlap by 18 inches. The tubes are evenly spaced in a randomized pattern within an eight-foot square perimeter. Each tube is lit by a ring of LEDs in the cap. The light drives through the tube, illuminating bands of lacquer that are organized along the 6-foot length. There are eight different patterns of 1,2, 3, and 4-inch wide strips, applied in a distributed, random pattern to achieve a flickering effect. The bottom tubes are sealed, though optically, the wall thickness of the tube reads in light.
The original intention had been to utilize only white light; once the technology became available, we shifted to a more dynamic series of “scenes” in color that offer both static and dynamic cycles. This meant programming each tube with a series of preset color displays. An active, vibrant mode changes the light tone and color subtly slowly over time.
The theater department students can take over the Ketra system programming of Campfire, providing fun shows. A setting for “party mode” transitions playfully between colors. The technology allows for both ethereal variations of white light from cool to warm in addition to the full spectrum of colors. There are special performances, celebrations, and quiet moments of reflection. Students gather beneath Campfire on comfy chairs for conversation, study groups, and informal seminars. Carleton asked for a light installation, but we made a social incubator, fostering storytelling, making, and enjoying friendships.
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