» In preparing to host the 2004 Summer Games, Athens extended its imaging campaign beyond athletics to include culture and architecture with a program called 'Catch the Light: Routes through Athens.' Designed to introduce visitors to parts of the city other than just the Olympic venues, 'Catch the Light' celebrated Athens, past and present. Nine international artists/design teams were invited to create temporary interactive art installations along five prescribed walking routes through the historic city center. White Noise | White Light, conceived by architect and Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty member J. Meejin Yoon, with the help of a team of young design and engineering professionals, interpreted the spirit of the city through light and sound.

Located at the plaza entryway to the Ancient Theater of Dionysus, adjacent to the public walkway leading up to the Acropolis, the project-a field of 4-foot-tall fiber optic 'light stalks' embedded in a 6-inch-high wooden platform-occupied only 50 square feet. The pliant fiber carried the light (supplied by three white LEDs) through the stalk to a silicone endcap. The stalks responded to pedestrian movement, swaying as visitors brushed by. 'We wanted the installation to be a piece of artificial nature in the city, and we were interested in the relationship of the stalks to one's body,' says Yoon. The stalks initially illuminated at 40 percent, and as people moved through the field and touched the fiber wands, they brightened to 100 percent output. Simultaneously, concealed speakers under a raised platform activated to emit electronic sound samples, collectively creating a field of 'white noise.' Through the experience, visitors interacted with the city-as both a generators and manipulators of light, sound, and space.

The entire installation was implemented as a design-build project. That meant extensive pre-planning, and pre-assembly of all the major components, from the circuit boards to the custom housings to the fiber optic 'light stalks,' so that everything could be shipped from Boston to Athens for on-site construction and installation.

Although temporary, the project made an impact. 'We wanted to achieve something that was poetic, quiet, and powerful all at the same time,' says Yoon. Visited by close to 10,000 people a day in Athens, the project was installed for a second time in May 2005 in Cambridge on the MIT's Kresge Oval. A|L

This is a seminal work that will influence future projects because it broadens the definition of lighting. ••• Reinforces the need for and importance of artistic explorations. ••• Uses limited resources creatively.

Project Locations Athens and Cambridge, MA
Architect MY Studio, Boston
Project Team J. Meejin Yoon, Eric Howeler, Matthew Reynolds (engineer), Marlene Kuhn, Kyle Steinfeld, Lisa Smith, Naomi Munro
Photographer J. Meejin Yoon
Project Size 1,625 square feet
Watts per Square Foot .066 (450 lighting units x .24W produced by 3 LEDs per unit)
Costs $60,000 (lighting, sound, and interactive components fabricated and installed); $34,000 (LEDs and fiber optics)
Manufacturers Liteon (LEDs); lighting modules custom designed and fabricated by the project team