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Lightswitch lights drive-through sensory experience at Arizona State University with Elation

Lightswitch lights drive-through sensory experience at Arizona State University with Elation
Lightswitch lights drive-through sensory experience at Arizona State University with Elation

USA – Leading lighting design house, Lightswitch, transformed an everyday parking garage on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe into an experience for the senses and turned to Elation luminaires, including Proteus Hybrids, for much of the sensory-rich exhibit. Called “designspace,” the drive-through experience featured visual design installations from industry professionals, structural artists HYBYCOZO and ASU students enrolled in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Lightswitch, who successfully redesigned The Morton Arboretum in Illinois into a drive-through experience this past holiday season, tapped into that knowledge for the mile-long drive adventure through the Packard Parking Garage. Described as an exploration of the duality of space, both the space above us and the space between us, the experience took riders on an immersive journey from our world to outer space through a series of sculptural art pieces and sound, light and video installations.

The designspace project allowed students to display their art while working on the lighting, video and production skills they have learned through their studies, including how to set up all the gear. Lightswitch principal John Featherstone, who is quite familiar with the University through past collaboration with the design and art department’s Jake Pinholster, led the project design team.

Featherstone has also been a guest lecturer at the school and has two daughters who graduated from the University. He says his motivation behind the project was to give ASU art students short-changed by the pandemic the opportunity to experience working on a live event. “It dawned on me that there are creative arts students all around the world who are going to graduate without experiencing working on live events,” he said. With some of his best friends, he says he decided to do something about it.

The Lightswitch team spent two weeks with the students loading in, focusing, and programming the project. The white parking structure proved the perfect canvas for light with several Elation fixtures forming the core of the experience – Proteus Hybrid moving heads and Level Q7 IP LED PAR lights – along with other automated fixtures.

The Proteus Hybrid – Elation’s award-winning multi-functional IP65 spot/beam/wash moving head – is a lighting fixture the Lightswitch team is familiar with from outdoor experience projects like The Morton Arboretum and Descanso Gardens. For designspace, the units were used to light the exterior of the giant parking structure while beams on the roof punched into the night sky to define the outline of the garage. The Level Q7 IP PAR lights covered the roof deck in colour to simulate an otherworldly spaceport lift-off. Video West, located in nearby Phoenix, and Intelligent Lighting Creations out of Chicago, supplied the lighting for the project.

Lighting and video control consisted of a number of media servers and lighting control units, including an NX Wing from Obsidian Control Systems. The NX Wing is the complementary USB control surface to Obsidian Control Systems’ ONYX platform and is a lighting control system that Lightswitch designer Chris Merriman, lighting programmer on the project, knows well. “We used the Maxxyz controller almost exclusively here for years,” he remarked, “and I actually own an NX Wing myself. In fact, I recently put one into an install for a client. For designspace, we used it almost exclusively for the DYLOS pixel engine for pixel control of much of the experience. We controlled about 108 Universes of pixelmapped units such as lighting tubes and custom-made two-meter tall LED reeds. It worked out well.” The NX Wing provides a responsive hardware surface to operate ONYX on and integration of DYLOS brings an innovative toolset of media composition, effects, content and text generators, along with a large variety of parameter manipulation, right into the core of any ONYX console or PC system.

According to Featherstone, the designspace project was incredibly well received by the public and he says the design group will try to build on the success for next year. “This was an opportunity to do something positive for the students, for our business, and for the community. In that regard, I think we succeeded admirably!”

Lightswitch lights drive-through sensory experience at Arizona State University with ElationLightswitch lights drive-through sensory experience at Arizona State University with Elation

11th May 2021

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