Responsive Light

Light often holds a static, passive presence in our spaces. What if a space augmented awareness and helped people appreciate and actively interact with light?


Spring 2019

Collaboration: Marion Forbes, Javi Marcano, Ian O'Cain, Scott Brookes

Roles: ideation, exhibition design, research, scripting, fabrication


an environmental response in which an organism moves toward or away from light.

From unicellular algae to moths to humans, almost all life responds to light.

Illuminating behavior

Although we are affected by light, we also impact our surroundings. Applying a lens of perception and ecology, I explored the potential feedback loop between people and light and their roles as organizing forces in architectural space. What are the synergistic roles of light intensity, light consistency, and collective discovery?

Prototyping interaction

Aiming to confront users with an interaction with light, I broke down the complex system into actionable elements. I created rapid prototypes, which helped me learn how to script with a microcontroller, different sensors, and lights; test materials for visual effect; and weigh fabrication methods.

The resulting system bridges the physical and digital. As participants approach, they affect the ambient illumination and indicate their presence to their partner, entering a direct dialogue with each other and with their environment through a language of light.

Observation, experimentation, and play

People first explored how the light responded to simple movements.But as others observed, they also experimented. What followed were distinct moments of frustration, curiosity, and realization of how they could engage with their environment. People tiptoed, jumped, moonwalked, cartwheeled, and worked together to discover new patterns and insights. Ultimately, it was an opportunity for performance, hypothesis testing, and collective experimentation.

“I’m trying to understand these patterns. There’s a secret in there.”

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