As the sun sets on your campus, opportunities emerge. During the daylight hours, your campus shines with the play of sun and shadow to call attention to the architecture, gardens, and walkways. In the night, an entirely new aesthetic palette presents itself. Choices can be made that allow us to see special places in an entirely new light.
When at the Art Institute of Chicago, we occasionally would choose to exhibit a significant art work in a non-traditional manner to provide an altogether different experience of a piece people had grown familiar with and had viewed on many previous occasions. For example, we exhibited Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/27992) by itself in a gallery painted entirely black. With the only lighting directed on the painting, the effect was extraordinary, revealing dimensions of the painting never seen before.
From early experiments, I grew to appreciate the possibilities that the combination of night skies and lighting present on the larger scale of a campus’ canvas. Two cases in point illustrate beautifully what emerges in the night that simply remains unseen in the light of day.
When Lebanon Valley College faced the challenge of connecting portions of its campus that were divided by a highway, there were only two solutions ”“ either tunnel beneath the road or construct a pedestrian bridge. Clearly, the bridge offered the best aesthetic opportunity. I had no desire to bury hundreds of thousands of dollars underground. Instead, I envisioned a bridge that would also be a work of art and a local icon. Multiple and playful colors were chosen to accompany a playful design. And at night, it would be the perfect canvas for an amazing lighting opportunity.
While more than interesting in the day time, the lighting effects create a dramatic and memorable evening experience for campus guests, an asset when prospective students are trying to remember which campuses are which after touring so many institutions.
As we all know, campus life has its own clock. Often, life is just beginning as the sun goes down. Taking advantage of locations throughout the campus with welcoming and aesthetically powerful lighting, in effect, expands the useful size of the campus for the student body versus confining activity to a smaller footprint at night.
At Birmingham-Southern College a significant portion of the campus was unattractive and unkept . Left on their own, acres had become overtaken by cattle paths, weeds, and broken asphalt walks, avoided during the day and definitely off-limits in the night – a wasted opportunity and a scar on the admissions tour.
With the creation of a new Urban Environmental Studies program, this same site was a perfect location for an on-campus environmental lab demonstrating the state-of-the-art natural filtering of campus run-off. It also created an evening venue for students and guests. With beautifully lit walkways, bridges, and fountains serving as a backdrop to a stunning amphitheatre, this environmental park utilizes the best that night lighting offers to create a truly unique and treasured place on BSC’s campus.