The Lighting Research Center‘s collaborative installation project “Breathing Lights“ proposes to illuminate nearly 350 vacant homes in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy nightly over two months in fall 2016 to regenerate interest in once-vibrant neighborhoods that currently have high vacancy rates. It is one of four projects nationwide to receive a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg Public Art Challenge.

Researchers and students at RPI’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) assisted artist Adam Frelin, Assistant Professor of Art at SUNY Albany, and Barbara Nelson, an architect at RPI’s Campus Planning and Facilities Design Department, in the development of this installation. The project will culminate in a regional summit on vacant homes and neighborhood revitalization that will engage local residents, prospective buyers and investors, and policy makers.

Frelin and Nelson sought to enliven 350 abandoned buildings in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady by making them “breathe” using interior lights of shifting, dynamic brightness. They approached the Lighting Research Center to solve the technical challenges of making their concept a reality. Professor and Associate LRC Director Russ Leslie assigned this task to the students of his Lighting Workshop. School of Architecture students Zachary Pearson, Charles Jarboe, Kassandra Gonzales, Dinusha Thotagamuwa, and Elise Benedict collaborated in the development of Arduino light controllers, tested diffusing light materials, experimented with different color temperatures of light, evaluated and proposed power sources, procured materials, and worked on a full-scale mock-up within a campus building.

The windows of the mock-up building were framed with LEDs that were linked back to a single controller so that all of the windows would breathe in unison. Once the tri-city installation occurs, each controller will be adjusted to a speed and intensity that is proportional to the building in which it is located. When installed in multiple houses in a neighborhood, large houses will breathe slowly and small houses will breathe rapidly.

“Breathing Lights” was selected as one of four winners from 237 applications. Each winning team will receive up to $1,000,000 to finalize and install their projects. The LRC design will be reproduced and installed in 350 buildings in the Capital District in the fall of 2016. The lights are expected to run for several hours each evening for two to three months. WMHT recently aired a 10 minute PBS documentary on the project and several press events were held to announce the winning collaboration of the artists, students and local governments.

See the full article on the RPI SoA webpage HERE.