The city of South Bend, Indiana, celebrated its 150th birthday on June 22nd 2015. Over 15,000 spectators turned out along the banks of the St. Joseph river to enjoy the turning on of the River Lights; a new permanent lighting installation designed by Rob Shakespeare of Shakespeare Lighting Design LLC.
Although frequented by visitors during the day, at night the downtown section of the river was dark and unwelcoming. The River Lights are designed to make the area a more popular evening destination by artistically illuminating the river and bridge with slowly undulating patterns of light, and offering a unique interactive lighting display. The lights can also be thematically coloured to correspond with holidays and events.
The system is controlled by three Pharos LPCs; one on either side of the river and one at the bridge, wirelessly coordinated from a master program. The control system was designed and installed by Mike Brubaker from Associated Control + Design. The whole installation is environmentally sensitive, with 242 LED luminaires that consume a total of about 12kw when in show mode.The lighting design covers five areas: the Jefferson St. bridge, the Keepers of the Fire sculpture, the downstream crescent that lights up the river cascades, and two new aluminium truss sculptures that flank the river; Trio and Forest.
Essential to the interactivity of the installation are the lit Trio and Forest sculptures. Each has motion-detecting sensors built in that register the movements of people nearby and then change the colour or pattern of the River Lights as a result.
If visitors move a certain way (e.g. rushing forward), they can “throw” a wave of coloured light across the river. Visitors on the opposite bank can “catch” the light (e.g. by rushing backwards), and if they do so successfully, they are rewarded with a rainbow display. The sculptures also flash the time on the hour.
Using the LPC’s inbuilt astronomical clock, the River Lights turn on 30 minutes before sunset and stay on until sunrise. There is a five minute show at sunset, and at every half hour. The interactive features stop at midnight, taken over by more neutral lighting.