Lightweave

Submitted by FUTUREFORMS

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Client: NOMA Parks Foundation

Location: Washington, DC, United States

Completion date: 2019

Project Team

Design & Fabrication

FUTUREFORMS

Structural Engineer

endrestudio

Electrical Contractor

MCDean

Overview

Lightweave is a serpentine chandelier that brings light, interactivity and playfulness to an otherwise inhospitable and dark rail underpass. Lightweave is a permanent public artwork located in Washington DC’s NOMA district. It translates ambient sounds from the city into dynamic auroras of patterned LED light. Slowly changing effects are activated by the noise and vibration of passing trains, cars and other sounds from the neighborhood. Lightweave animates the underpass and creates a meditative and interactive urban experience.

Goals

Our cities are riddled with left-over and abandoned spaces; slots of land between highways and abandoned lots; spaces that lack jurisdictional clarity and are therefore left neglected. These spaces chop-up the city fabric and break-up our neighborhoods. What if we could take these spaces over and transform them into beautiful, active and dynamic spaces? What if we could use them to stitch the urban fabric together again? Could they become catalysts for urban change? This is what Lightweave tries to do. Lightweave uses light to weave two neighborhoods together again that had been previously severed by infrastructure.

Process

The process for creating Lightweave involved a number of community groups and local stakeholders, as well as state and federal agencies for approvals and permitting, including Amtrak. The artwork had to also receive approval by the Federal Commission of Fine Arts. The fabrication process led to the creation of six 65’ long curvaceous sections (390’ total) of suspended stainless steel and LED lattices. Each section contains 26 computer-controlled LED modules. The artwork is mounted ~11’ above the sidewalk on a steel column and beam structure that does not touch the underpass above. Sensors embedded at various locations in each section feed information to a computer which triggers variable and overlapping responses from the LEDs. All the decorative steel and LED elements were fabricated and assembled in our shop in San Francisco and shipped to Washington, while our local contractor took the lead on preparing the site and installing all the structural steel.