Portland Winter Lights Festival | Technicolor Dreamboat

Portland Winter Lights Festival | Technicolor Dreamboat

For the third consecutive year, Holst participated in the Portland Winter Lights Festival, which brings a colorful display to the downtown Portland waterfront each winter. This year’s community event gathered local artists, design firms, and thousands of spectators to view more than sixty illuminated art pieces. Holst, in collaboration with The Good Mod, designed a twelve-foot, multi-colored wave and suspended it beneath the Hawthorne Bridge. “Technicolor Dreamboat,” – a combination of textiles, wood, and digital projections – put on a compelling show across its cool-toned angular surface, which was visible from both sides of the Willamette River.

Our team began early concept development in the fall of 2019. Drawing on the expressive nature of fabric, we conducted material tests to understand the qualities of tactility and movement and how to capture those qualities in a durable form. Burlap fabric and a non-toxic textile hardener proved to be the best combination to achieve the desired qualities in a lightweight product that held its shape. Realizing that scale was a significant factor in workability with the materials, a modular design became an important parameter in arriving at the final form. Discoveries made during testing led us to develop a one-foot-by-three-foot faceted shape that was inspired by paper folding and refined through iterative physical models. The resulting fabric modules were cast and dyed as flat sheets of burlap and then folded into the completed shape. The color scheme is inspired by the colors that illuminate the Tilikum bridge each night, fading from green and teal into blue, purple, and pink.

The dynamic composition of the final installation relied on the design of the supporting plywood structure. A two-way system of ribs was modeled after the construction of boats to create a rigid yet light-weight framework for the fabric. Working with The Good Mod, we cut the structure with a computer numerical control (CNC) machine, then glued and finished with a clear sealer donated by Timber Pro. Though each section of the structure was identical, the design of the assembly allowed the piece to curve in two directions along the length of the piece. Color-changing LED lights at the base brought out the folded fabric forms bending with the ribs and cast shadows onto the underside of the bridge through the woven burlap. The lighting for the installation was further enhanced by our partnership with The Good Mod, who brought an exciting interactive dimension to the installation. MadMapper projection software overlaid a grid of specific control points onto the fabric screen. Then projected patterns and images were custom fit to the installation; programmed projections responded to movement and sound to engage viewers.

To create “Technicolor Dreamboat,” we used forty-five yards of burlap, ten gallons of textile hardener, 150 ounces of dye, ten sheets of plywood, and countless hours of donated time from our team members. We were thrilled to see the enthusiasm of spectators, the numerous selfies posted to social media, and the fascination of people of all ages as they interacted with our installation. The chance to engage with our community around the enjoyment of art is a major reason why we participate, and we are already looking forward to next year.

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