Q&A about Amenity Space and Loaded Dice’s new responsive lighting sculpture

by Robert Such

Post image for Q&A about Amenity Space and Loaded Dice’s new responsive lighting sculpture

Standing on a steel plinth outside Guildford’s new G Live concert hall in the UK, a new lighting installation called Cedar by Amenity Space and UK web design, programming and marketing firm Loaded Dice will change colour as passers-by send SMS messages from their mobile phones.

RS: Who commissioned the work? What was the brief?

Nicky Kirk: Guildford City Council commissioned the project. The brief was to create a contemporary sculpture that would provide a focal point for pedestrians moving from the car park to the main entrance. It was considered that this way around the building was very much the back door and required something that would provide way-finding and interest.

RS: Mathematician Alan Turing’s work informed the installation’s design. How so and why?

NK: This illuminated light sculpture resembles the Turing Machine, invented by Alan Turing, a resident in Guildford and instrumental in breaking the Enigma code during WWII.

Twenty six colour-changing LED lights are concealed behind frosted strips of polycarbonate that respond to text messages sent by the passing public. Each of the lights represents a letter of the alphabet and is triggered by strings of letters sent to the machine. Every day the sequence changes and the letter is represented by a different light. This creates a coded message that changes daily, reminiscent of the Enigma program during WWII.

The sculptural form resembles Wernicke’s area, the part of the brain that allows us to decipher words and understand speech.

RS: What software and hardware is used to control the lighting?

Jamie Kirk (Loaded Dice): Halo is a piece of software we initially developed for our commission at the Brixton Recreation Centre – Lightwave. At the time we needed a way of controlling interactivity with the installation which would involve various forms of control, for example: sound, time and mobile phones, and drive various forms of output such as lighting. We couldn’t find an off-the-shelf product that would allow us to do this so we developed our own software knowing that we would be able to use it in future installations.

Cedar is a subtle work that nestles in the foliage beside the new civic hall and we wanted the lighting to be equally subtle. We decided that the sculpture should respond to the time of year, so we designed a number of seasonal colour palettes using Halo and programmed the system to randomly pick colours from the current season’s palettes and gently animate slow-moving waves of those colours across the sculpture.

Using the more advanced aspects of Halo, we provide a way for the public to interact with the sculpture. By using text messages as event drivers in the software, the standard behaviour is overridden to flash lights using the coding system mentioned by Nicky. There is also a further code hidden within the text message system which allows the public to design their own lighting shows if they can crack the code!

The installation goes live this month.

Previous post:

Next post: