PROJECT The Beacon
ARCHITECT PI.KL Studio:Courtney Richeson, Kuo Pao Lian
GENERAL CONTRACTOR MC Dean
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Tarantino Engineering
CIVIL ENGINEER STV, Inc
ELECTRICAL ENGINEER MC Dean
PHOTOGRAPHER/RENDERER Courtney Richeson
LOCATION Baltimore, Maryland, US
PROJECT COMPLETION DATE 5/1/2023
The Beacon, located at Last Mile Park, is an installation of light totems positioned beneath the underpass of an existing Amtrak train line and operates as an illuminated gateway that welcomes all to the Broadway East Community and Baltimore at large. Combining art and infrastructure to serve a historically marginalized community in need of both, the light installation allows pedestrians to safely traverse from one neighborhood to the other. What was once a roadblock that severed the community is now a beaming connector and point of pride.
Unable to interface with the existing abutments, the light installation evolved into a series of custom light totems as a way to celebrate the neighborhood’s identity. A total of 16 light totems are dispersed between the east and west sidewalks, framing the view to and from the city while casting bands of light onto the adjacent abutments.
Each light is constructed of an inner and outer perforated shade, creating a moiré visual effect that is compounded by the glow of blue and orange LED lights. Using off the shelf materials, the design intent was to create a custom visual experience for pedestrians that operates at two scales.
At the urban scale, the totems create an undulating rhythm of amber and blue, projecting ribbons of color that expand and contract as they are cast through the perforated shades. At the human scale each light totem becomes a light installation in itself. The overlapping of perforation patterns trick the eye into perceiving movement, an effect that is compounded with washes of color, resulting in new readings of light, hue, and geometry as one moves about the light totem.
Blue and amber lights were selected to capitalize on the colors emitted at dusk, the point of transition from day to night and the point at which the lighting installation comes to life. The colors pull from their surroundings, the city and the sky. The amber reflects the warmth of the lights of Baltimore City just beyond, whereas the blue reflects the coolness of the last remaining bits of sky just before it goes dark.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the community was engaged throughout the design process. A particular highlight of the project’s development involved the architectural, engineering and fabrication team coming together to lead a community workshop. The team provided insight on the design process and assisted the youth with making their own versions of the light totems. The community’s input was crucial to the success of the project and was a force behind the project’s economic but elegant approach.
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