Special Citation for Community Engagement with Lighting - Lantern Field: Interactive Audio- Visual Installation

Washington, D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual tradition, marks the true arrival of spring in the city. This year, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, part of the Smithsonian, commissioned an interactive installation—“Lantern Field,” designed and run by students and faculty from the Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology—which ran over the course of three days.

The public participated in a day-long workshop where they created lanterns by folding mulberry paper, which is commonly used in Japanese shoji screens.

Participant making paper lanterns during the day-long workshop.

Section through the loggia showing the arrangement of luminaires, speakers, and sensors in relation to the paper lantern installation.

The paper lanterns were hung from bamboo poles (so as not to interfere with the structural integrity of the museum’s historic building status) in the 12-foot-wide by 70-foot-long loggia facing the museum’s courtyard.

During the day, the paper lanterns are illuminated by direct daylight and help reflect the light on the loggia's wall and ceiling surfaces.

A close up view of the lanterns during the day.

Workshop participants help to hang the paper lanterns.

The Virginia Tech team wanted to create a highly interactive and multisensory experience. To that end, they positioned a combination of linear, color-changing LED fixtures and ultrasonic sensors along the loggia’s east wall, and a series of white LED spotlights at the base of the loggia arches.

The combination of warm-white LED fixtures and RGB LED linear arrays highlight the lanterns creating a rich texture of illumination.

As the sensors detected visitors in the space, the luminaires and speakers activated, projecting reflected light onto the paper lanterns above. The more people who were present, the deeper and richer the color, hue, and tone that they experienced.

Once the installation was complete, it pulsed with a spectrum of sound and color—from cool white to deep magenta, encouraging guests to explore the space and activate the light and sound around them.

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