Chiller Plant Site of One-of-a-Kind Lighting Project

November 13, 2013

Architecture and Theatre students from The Ohio State University are partnering with the university’s Facilities Operations and Development team to participate in a state-of-the-art exercise to create large-scale projected lighting displays on the north façade of the South Campus Central Chiller Plant on Cannon Drive. (Image at left is a mock-up of one of the lighting displays.)

The chiller plant projection lighting exercise is one of the university’s first projects involving architainment, a new trend in lighting that artistically converges architectural and entertainment lighting design in the form of digital lighting projection. Twelve advanced undergraduate and graduate students will work with faculty and staff members from Architecture, Engineering, Theatre, and the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) to create the projected lighting display, according to Mary Tarantino, professor, theatre, who is teaching the class Advanced Topics in Lighting Technology, which leads up to the ultimate projected lighting experiment. 

Student teams will examine the production process for digital projection in an exterior installation, including methods of pre-visualization, video mapping, and methods and approaches to content creation for high intensity digital projection. The visual content will be mapped out and animated in direct response to the unique and complex surface treatments of the chiller's façade. The content will allude to imaginative responses to the interior of the plant.

“The building façade is essentially a blank canvas, on which the student teams will respond to the architect’s intent with their digital lighting displays,” Tarantino said. “The 12 students – and their expressive images – will engage passers-by on the night the project launches.” She said that launch is scheduled for 8-10 pm on Monday, November 18, when all of the teams’ projects will be featured; the lighting displays will continue nightly through November 25. "The instructor of this particular exercise, Assistant Professor Alex Oliszewski from theatre, has woven together all content into a dynamic visual orchestration," she added.

The South Campus Central Chiller Plant was specifically chosen as the canvas for the lighting display based on its unique façade.  The university’s Facilities Operations and Development wrapped up the initial construction on the South Campus Central Chiller Plant in October 2012. The materials used to construct the outer façade are concrete precast panels with a high sheen polish finish. Large glazed openings frame views of the chiller equipment to help identify the function of the building.  Dichroic glass fins, located in the joints of the precast panels, convey a sense of motion as the colors change from the movement of light and from the varying angel of view.

Functionally, the chiller plant was built to provide the university with a long-term, sustainable solution for chilled water production and distribution. Chilled water provides cooling capacity for campus buildings.

“While we work behind the scenes every day to provide the best possible physical environment for teaching, learning and research, we have a strong commitment to participating in the academic components of the university whenever possible,” said Lynn Readey, associate vice president of Facilities Operations and Development.  “We have expert staff and unique facilities and are pleased to offer this expertise in a way that will actively contribute to our students’ academic experience at Ohio State.”

The chiller plant lighting projection exercise is made possible through a Battelle Engineering, Technology, and Human Affairs (BETHA) Endowment grant.  The BETHA Endowment supports initiatives and activities that help scientists and engineers become more knowledgeable about, and engaged in, the relationship between science and technology and broader social and cultural issues.  Each year only three to six proposals receive BETHA Endowment grants.

The digital lighting display will run November 18 to 25, from approximately 8pm to 10pm.  Students, faculty, and staff will be on-site to answer questions, and provide information, about the project at the parking lot to the north of the South Campus Central Chiller Plant where they will be projecting the digital lighting display.