Mindful Lights was an interactive art installation for the Offit Gallery at Teachers College Gottesman Libraries. The project focused on creating a space of mindfulness through light, material, and interactivity. The installation was on display from December 2016 until early February 2017, and encouraged library patrons to take a moment to reflect on themselves in times of stress.
Located next to the Quiet Reading Room of the library, the Offit Gallery becomes a tense and stressful space during midterm and final exams. We learned through observations that the library patrons used the gallery space to talk with others; to use the phone or take a brief break; or to go to other classrooms and restrooms. We saw an opportunity to transform the space into something that could help them unwind and feel refreshed.
As a designer at EdLab, I was heavily involved in all aspects of the project from beginning to end: space and user study, concept generation, physical computing, model building, material experiments, design and fabrication, installation and uninstallation. I collaborated with Veronica Black, Min Sung Kwak, Jackie Neon, Zoe Logan, and Gonzalo Obelleiro to complete Mindful Lights.
Motif and Approach
We found inspiration in the ocean, rhythmic waves, and waterfalls. We envisioned a calming experience where patrons would feel their stress get “washed away” by interacting with the installation. We decided early on that the interaction should be very simple, as the patrons already had a lot on their minds. Instead of requiring a patron to do something in particular, the installation would react to the patron’s presence.
Phase 1: Initial Ideas and Models
Initially, we imagined a hanging structure that would span the length of the space, creating a path that would light up as a patron walked through. We moved away from this idea as a hanging structure was considered a fire and safety hazard by the college. We started considering cocoon-like structures that would stand against the walls of the gallery.
With the cocoon concept in mind, we started making models. This process led us to the idea of using acrylic tubings to create the structure.
Phase 2: Prototypes
After exploring the formal aesthetic of the installation, we started building prototypes with scrap acrylic and paper tubes in full scale.
In terms of the physical computing component, we used:
- NeoPixel LED strips
- Fadecandy to control to LED strips
- Ultrasonic Rangefinder to sense the presence of a patron
- Arduino Uno to process data from the sensor
- Raspberry Pi to run everything
Phase 3: Material Experiments and Construction
In this phase, we experimented with the treatment of the acrylic tubings to achieve aesthetically pleasing, calming, and interesting effects. We tested spray paints and sheet materials placed over or inside the tubes. We also started building the installation.
As we put together the acrylic tubes to build the sculpture, we faced quite a bit of problems. Several joining ideas failed because of the weight of the tubes. We had made jigs to hold the tubes uprights as we added more tubes, but a lot of them were not stable enough. Eventually, we decided to design special "feet" that would fit in the tubes to hold them together and upright. They were modeled using Tinkercad and 3D printed with MakerBot.
Video by Veronica Black.
This video shows the overall journey we went through to create Mindful Lights. It was shown along with the final installation in the Offit Gallery.