Science Storms, a permanent exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, was the dream job for a lighting designer. The museum requested the creation of a “child fantasy world” full of installations that explore the science behind powerful forces of nature, including a 40-foot-tall tornado of swirling vapor and light.
From a lighting perspective, Focus Lighting, who worked in collaboration with Evidence Design, was challenged with creating the space's surrounding illumination—a sort of amniotic fluid of light—and highlighting each display. Focus achieved this by establishing 16-foot-tall, 7-inch-deep light cavities outfitted with high-power linear blue LEDs covered with custom-perforated metal fronts, and ceiling coves equipped with T8 fluorescent lamps with blue color gels. The blue R68 color between light sources was matched to achieve a seamless look.
The institution also asked Focus Lighting to fashion four exhibits that examine the physics of light. “The idea of inspiring a 10-year-old child to be excited by physics experiments was a monumental challenge,” explains Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting.
Focus' exhibits include “Colors from Light,” a 14-foot-high backlit room that teaches visitors about wavelengths and color mixing, and “Sunlight,” in which an automated 10-foot-square heliostat reflects a shaft of sunlight into the exhibition hall where visitors use prisms to recreate Sir Isaac Newton's experiment. When the sun goes down or is covered by clouds, an 800W custom metal halide lamp takes over, replicating our star's light to an undetectable degree. It's another reminder that with the right luminaire and some creative thinking, the possibilities for lighting design are almost boundless.
Jury Comments: An exciting design. • It's a place you want to visit. • Light and a bold use of color help to define what could have been a hectic space.