Why Light Needs Darkness: MIT Fast Light Festival

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Events, Photos, The Beat, Uncategorized, Videos
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A few weeks ago I watched a TEDTalk by Rogier van der Heide where he talked about the dramatic play between darkness and light in architecture.  He explained with striking images of beautiful cathedrals and complex structures, just how and why light needs darkness.

This weekend I couldn’t help but think of that TEDTalk as I walked around the MIT campus and checked out the LED installations assembled and displayed in celebration of MIT’s 150 year anniversary.

The soft green and blue LED light domes floating in the Charles River were truly mesmerizing.  They swayed, dimmed and rippled the dark waters in a playful and quiet interaction.

Along the bridge, a stretch of multicolored lights beamed in soothing motions and patterns.  They danced across the bridge, briefly interrupting the darkness of the structure and somehow making the bridge seem more present, solid, there…

I had a chance to meet Susanne Seitinger, (LightBridge installation artist) the day after the show.  Working as a volunteer to help remove the piece from the Harvard Bridge, I saw just how much work went into the design and overall arrangement of the lights.  The whole thing was made with what looked to me like simple plastic materials and some not-so-simple circuits and networked boxes connected by long stretches of wire to a computer station huddled in a fort made of blankets on the Cambridge side of the bridge.

The MIT website gives a far more accurate description of what the installation actually entailed:

“The 10,000 pixel display is activated by sensors (proximity sensors, cameras, buttons, microphones, mobile phones) that respond to the movement and activities of viewers in the area. By combining sensors and programmable lighting, the project illustrates the potential for user-driven urban screens and new configurations of low-resolution displays that blur the boundaries between traditional city lighting and the responsive infrastructures of tomorrow.”

In between cutting wires and wire ties, we spoke about possibly having her visit the Clubhouse to share her project with our members.

Hopefully we’ll get a behind the scenes look at this awesome light installation!

We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, check out the TED Talk mentioned above and take a look at the little video recap of Sunday night.

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