Boston Light Marsh

Reactive Lighting for Boston’s Copley Square. 2012

ADNA + Dari Parvanov, Ian Lipsky, Josh Merlis, Nilima Rabl, Liam Bradfield.

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Our project consists of 1,657 beams of light that shoot up from the ground of Copley Square. They can be bright, but they dim as you approach them. When you stand or walk over them, they go dark. They can be any color.

The beams of light are projected from high-power L.E.D. lamps installed on actuated gimbals. The gimbals point the beams depending on the stimuli from sensors also embedded within the lamps. The beams of light react to you; they know where you are; they sense your movement through the park. They can dance with you. They bob as if they were  floating,  They can open up around you.  Some shine upright but tenuously. Some stay slanted after shifting their glare away from a passing pedestrian’s eyes.

The lamps are always lit with a power inversely proportional to the glow of the sky as if running away from the sun; but because pedestrians can turn them off for a little while by just walking over them, the more the park is used the less power it will consume.


Other lamps are shining their beams on the existing monuments and statues; but these beams can also move, shift, slowly, gently illuminating the statues and obelisks, the hare and the turtle, the fountain–but never settling on one place.

Or you walk into a room of light. It’s not like a conventional room, but like a conventional room it surrounds you. And it’s more than that: this room is everywhere you walk; the room of light follows you around. Eventually you can escape the room of light; you can leave it behind waiting to surround the next passer-by.

Or you can leave a trail of darkness as you run across the park; in the middle of the night, the trail of darkness lingers for a while. For a while, you can change your mind and retrace your steps.

You can see the beams of light because a thin water mist floats and drifts all around you–the mist comes from an array of spouts embedded within the grass and the flower gardens. Weather sensors control the flow of the mist.

The lamps are all connected; they form a network. The networked connections between the lamps are the joints between concrete tiles or precision water jet cuts on the existing brick pavement. No two tiles are the same. Sealing the canals or the joints are side-emitting fiber optic cables that draw their light from the lamps they connect.


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Lamps closer to the edges of the park’s pathways and sidewalks point to mirrors arrayed on top of an electronic photo-automaton.  Like a phototropic plant, the photo-automaton’s mirrors move, shift and rotate depending on the direction the light beams are coming from; they reflect and guide the light back down, sharp as it arrived, or diffused, or perhaps refracted through prisms and crystals. The photo automatons will replace the existing park’s lamps.