Winter Light Garden - CODAworx

Winter Light Garden

Submitted by Phipps Conservatory

Client: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Location: Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Completion date: 2015

Artwork budget: $240,000

Project Team


Jordyn Melino

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Industry Resource

Terrence Hanlon

Hanlon Electric Company

Industry Resource

Vegely Welding

Vegely Welding


Phipps Team

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens


Winter Light Garden is an exhibition that uses light to enhance and bring to life the outdoor spaces of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. LEDs illuminate two gardens through which guests stroll, which combined total over 62,000 square feet. In previous years, these spaces were closed during the cold fall and winter seasons. Through Winter Light Garden, over 70,000 garden visitors now experience an additional 1.5 acres of the campus that sparkle with luminous orbs, trees and fountains of light.


Phipps’ mission is to inspire and educate all with the beauty and importance of plants; to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental well-being through action and research; and to celebrate its historic glasshouse. These tenets drive Phipps’ operations and Winter Light Garden is a tool by which Phipps strives to achieve these goals.
Winter Light Garden is intended to use light as art to augment the beauty and wonder of the natural world and to help guests identify the innate connection we have to the living world all around us. Winter Light Garden achieves this through strategies like commissioned metal forms that reflect shapes of the gardens, such as trees and shrubs, as well as lighting actual plants, including majestic trees and sprawling groundcover.
As sustainable practices are a hallmark of Phipps, energy-efficient fixtures and bulbs awe visitors while maintaining a low energy footprint. On-site renewables, including solar panels and a wind turbine generate electricity for the campus, with all additional need offset through Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).


The challenges for Winter Light Garden stem from the nature of the physical space and climatic conditions. The project, which runs November-February, is exclusively outdoors. The elements needed to achieve the aesthetic goals and provide a meaningful guest experience while being robust enough for Pittsburgh’s harsh climate.
Designer Jordyn Melino met with an internal team several times throughout the design process. The team includes staff from every department, including graphic designers and staff trained as artists, to formulate ideas and determine internal capabilities. Melino worked with metal artists to create custom shapes and supports for LED lighting that elegantly married both of the requirements.
When Melino sketched a design concept to uplight solid acrylic rods, Phipps worked with fabricators to prototype and build shadowboxes with rod supports that connote the majesty of a blossoming flower. The Phipps team also worked with a local electrical contractor to design a robust power management plan and install many of the structures. Phipps and journeymen from the electrical contractor met on a weekly basis during installation to review designs and assess installation progress.
Only through collaborations with artists, fabricators, and electricians was the vision for Winter Light Garden actually achieved.

Additional Information

Through the Winter Light Garden, Phipps is striving to facilitate meaningful connections between visitors and the natural world. The user experience is designed to forge these connections through both large-scale, grand moments to small, intimate details. Visitors may be delighted by expansive vistas of the gardens set against a backdrop of the surrounding iconic architecture, by snaking through immersive tunnels of light, or even by noticing the beautiful form of a single gnarled root outlined in twinkling lights.