Client: Western Michigan University
Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States
Completion date: 2013
graphic design assistant
Commissioned for the lobby of Sangren Hall at Western Michigan University, Prime Field is an interactive artwork consisting of a particle field of words that illuminates in response to the movement of people passing below. Light emitted through the words, sides, & bottom of each of 174 modules creates an ever changing composition of shape and color. Sensors placed in six areas of the lobby each trigger a unique sequence of lighting. The words are chosen to “prime” those experiencing the artwork with a mindset for learning and discovery, and thus promote excellence in education.
At the very center of all considerations was the desire to create an artwork that constructively contributes to the mission of the University. Conceptually, the artwork supports innovation, creativity and excellence in education by affecting the viewer constructively for that purpose, a function especially appropriate for a building that houses the School of Education & Human Development. Aesthetically, the artwork was designed to create compelling compositions that fill the space with light and color, changing as people move through the space.
This sustainable building is designed to be extremely efficient and environmentally conscious. That spirit influenced consideration of long life span, reliability, and ease of maintenance for this permanent installation intended to last for several decades. The goal in planning was for at least 30 years without failure.
Aesthetically, shapes, materials and finishes were chosen consistent with those used in the building including matching the color temperature with existing lighting. The scale of the installation was adjusted to fill the allotted space allowing for as much immersion by the viewer as possible without overcrowding or the tempting reach of student hands. The effort was to visually connect to and extend the design of the architecture.
The collaboration began with the requirements set by the selection committee and a dialogue between the artist/designer and committee to arrive at a final design. A team was assembled to provide the skills and services needed to complete the project. Local suppliers and fabrication services were used as much as possible.
The design including material selection, construction plan, and installation layout was completed by the artist, Paul Marquardt with input from the committee. Words in six languages used in the artwork were compiled through a productive collaboration with students and faculty. The microcontroller is a Ruggeduino manufactured in Wayland, Michigan. Metal cutting was done with the help of Bryan Lepley of Consort Group and acrylic fabrication by Colin Sabo of Absolute Acrylics, both in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Moore Electrical of Kalamazoo provided electrical services and Titan Equipment in Grand Rapids, Michigan supplied the scissor lift for installation. The 20,000 feet of wire used in the artwork was manufactured in North Carolina. All assembly was completed in a Kalamazoo studio. Other assistance was provided by graphic designer David Doss and assembly assistance by Daedal Derks.
As with all commissions completed by artist Paul Marquardt, collaboration with those requesting and experiencing the work is an essential and welcome component. This work, as with other artwork commissions, benefited from this process. Word choices, lighting patterns, and languages are a few examples of helpful input by people at the University. For further information about this artwork and artist Paul Marquardt see the following websites: commonthings.com commonthings.com/primefield