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Illumination & Displays

New building flooded by LED rivers

3 June 2008, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.2200806.0001

When artist Michael Hayden was hired by US Bank to create two sculptures for their new building in downtown Sacramento, CA, he had many conditions he needed to meet. He wanted to create something dynamic and interactive, yet needed the design to be low-maintenance and cost-efficient. He wanted to reflect the local culture and natural environment, and at the same time make the sculpture appealing to the company and its clientele. And of course he had to stay within budget. With all these points in mind, to create the two sculptures - The RAPIDS and LUMETRIC RIVER - Hayden chose LEDs as his medium.

Traditionally restricted to display applications, LED lights are becoming more diverse and more affordable. LEDs are also more manipulable and energy efficient than other traditional light sources, making them appealing for massive or long-term applications like commercial settings or public sculpture.

In this latest project, cost/performance balance was definitely a factor for Hayden. The LEDs he used have a life expectancy of 50,000 hours, assuming they are run at full brightness 24 hours a day. The sculptures will be "on" for six to eight hours a day, with the LEDs running at two-thirds power. "I would therefore expect that they will perform for between 200,000 and 300,000 hours, which translates into 23 to 34 years: what's there not to enjoy about working with LEDs?" says Hayden.

Figure 1. THE RAPIDS sculpture shows off its colors. 

To create the effect he wanted, Hayden needed LED lights specifically designed for the sculptures, and teamed up with Lighting Science Group (LSG) to design and manufacture the LED lights.

Zach Gibler, chief business development officer for LSG, laughs that it's his company's job to figure out how to make Hayden's design concepts work.

"He is an artist that has these big bold visions around how light can be used in unique ways to create these kinds of stunning visual effects," says Gibler. "Then we are the technology integration partner with him that says 'okay, how do we make that possible? How do you execute around the vision?'"

For the RAPIDS sculpture in the interior of the building, lighting engineers at LSG developed a 20-inch-square LED tile, each containing 25 surface mounted RGB LEDs. The RAPIDS sculpture uses 194 of these tiles, all wired together and programmed to visually replicate the flowing water of the nearby American and Sacramento rivers. The RAPIDS hangs from the ceiling the building's seven-story lobby and occupies an 82x50x60-foot space. During the day, each LED tile has a mirrored side that casts refracted light.

Figure 2. Artist Michael Hayden adjusts a model of his LED sculpture THE RAPIDS.

The exterior sculpture LUMETRIC RIVER uses more traditional high-power linear fixtures. It is 68 feet high, and covers the building's south-facing louvered top. Thirty-five linear projector LED illuminators project a video of flowing water at night, which can be seen from miles away.

Both sculptures debuted in late April 2008.

Gibler says the use of LED lighting is accelerating. "In the last 18 months, we're really starting to see LEDs become an alternative light source to traditional incumbent light sources for white light applications and more general illumination. That's actually the fastest-growing part of our business."

Lighting Science Group (LSG) and artist Michael Hayden have previously teamed up on other projects, including the interactive GOSSAMER GALAXIES sculpture in Radio Shack's corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, TX. The sculpture is equipped with a motion-detection system that sets off different patterns as people walk past. LSG has also collaborated on projects for Chanel, Sony, the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, and worked with several other companies and museums throughout the world.