“They took this really strong concept to another level.” —Juror Chrysanthi Stockwell, HGA
Designed in collaboration with scientists, this four-story-tall mural by SmithGroup at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Mich., draws inspiration from the interdisciplinary research of building occupants, who cull through endless data to find meaning through graphic representation. For example, neuroscience researchers apply colored dyes to individual neurons, generating vibrantly colored images affectionately dubbed “brainbows.” The installation’s design team abstracted and structured this brainbow effect into a fractal pattern and united it with a hexagonal network infused with a hidden DNA strand along the entire vertical plane. A mirrored ceiling reflects and extends the effect across the floor plates.
Northern daylight displays the static color field until sunset, when 40 RGBW LED wall washers, activated via the astronomical time clock, animate the mural. Changing spectral wavelengths of light, acting as the scientists' "dye,” are applied to the static color field, which acts as the “neural network.” The additive color mixing process manipulates the perceived color of each hexagonal cell; for example, a yellow cell may shift to red, green, and then black. The association of adjacent multicolored cells amplifies the effect, allowing individual cells to fade in and out of focus. The dynamic visual spectacle emulates the beauty of the scientific process and cements the building as a campus icon.
The designers studied color combinations and their appearance under different colors of light on several small-scale mock-ups. The designers programmed the full-scale light shows, a process that took place over two nights.
Light show concepts:
- A steady color light gradient moves across the wall in alignment with the hidden DNA strand.
- Three colored light columns move in vertically opposite directions aligned with the DNA strand. The vertical juxtaposition of colored light perceptually pushes and pulls cells forward and back, inducing a subtle sense of motion.
- A steady colored light gradient moves across the wall with a Perlin noise modifier that variably shifts the hue at each light fixture, creating a randomized field of color indicative of the Brainbow images.
- An elliptical gradient of light emanates color from the center of the DNA strand, creating a ripple effect.
Project Name: Michigan State University Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building Graphic Wall “Brainbow”
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Client/Owner: Michigan State University
Lighting Designer: SmithGroup, Detroit • Patrick MacBride, Matt Alleman, Rodrigo Manriquez, Laura Walker
Architect: SmithGroup, Detroit • Paul Urbanek, FAIA, Laura Walker, AIA, Lauren Pedigo, AIA
Contributing Design Architect and Contributing Laboratory Planner: Ellenzweig, Boston
Photographer: Jason Robinson Photography • Jason Robinson
Project Size: 165,589 square feet (building)
Project Cost: $73,000,000
Lighting Cost: $59,000
Watts per Square Foot: 1.46 (for the mural wall lighting within corridor only)
Code Compliance: ASHRAE 90.1 2007
Lighting Product Manufacturer: Color Kinetics SkyRibbon Wall Washing Powercore