Portland Winter Lights Festival | Electric Boogaloo

Portland Winter Lights Festival | Electric Boogaloo

For the second year running, Holst participated in the Portland Winter Lights Festival, an annual celebration that gathers local artists and design firms to create illuminated art installations for the public. Holst's team designed this year's installation, "Electric Boogaloo," to visually respond to the music played by the adjacent Silent Disco. Festival attendees danced with headphones and watched Electric Boogaloo's forms light up in sync with music played from the DJ booth. Holst partnered with CymaSpace, the lighting technology developer, to make the sound-based event more accessible and inclusive to the deaf and hard of hearing, adding an immersive visual dimension to the event.

Our team began design work in October 2018, allowing four months to test ideas and fabricate the structure. Inspired by crystalline forms found in nature, the concept developed with close attention to maximizing the native properties of the materials. The installation uses the fiber optic quality of fluorescent acrylic, by which light travels through each horizontal plane and glows at the edges. The Satin Ice material that creates the central structure has the opposite effect, evenly diffusing light for an overall glow. A translucent fabric sleeve provides a final surface to capture light and project color on each facet. Vertical LED strips along the spine syntehsize the music; deeper and louder sounds appear as warm reds and yellows, while higher and softer sounds are expressed as cooler blues and purples.

The success of the finished product relied on the collaborative efforts of our team, as well as strong partnerships within our community. The desire to create an interactive experience informed several design elements, including the height of the pillars and the proximity at which people could access them. In order to facilitate interactions with the piece, we needed to create durable structures. Mike Erspamer from Lightly Vital helped us optimize the fabrication of each piece for easy assembly and adequate bracing. We determined the gradient spacing of the horizontal planes using Rhino modelling software, then laid out the patterns in 2D for a CNC router to cut. Small tabs at the corner of each plane correlate with slots in the vertical structure, and each piece was numbered to fit a precise location. Once we fabricated the hard structure of the pillars, the team assembled and disassembled the installation several times to test the fabric sleeves and refine connection details at the base. The lighting technology developed by CymaSpace was the perfect complement to the installation, furthering attendee interaction by connecting our installation to the Silent Disco.

The Portland Winter Light Festival ran for three days at the beginning of February, drawing crowds despite the freezing temperatures. Favorite activities around Electric Boogaloo included dancing, selfies, and curious handling of the pillars to see what was happening inside. Our office was excited to reassemble the installation for our Design Week Portland open house, and you may spot it at a local music event this summer. Our design team is already scheming for next year's festival.

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