Some 50 third-year architecture students spent an intense week studying the complexity of lighting design and creating prototypes as part of a novel workshop headed by two visiting Finnish experts.
The PhilaU students were challenged to design a pop-up flash mob space utilizing both natural and artificial light with a custom designed luminaire, which would be located on a bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
“The bridges that cross the Schuylkill River are underutilized by pedestrians,” said Donald Dunham, assistant professor of architecture. “The idea was to draw people onto the bridges and then onto the Schuylkill River Trail.” Dunham co-led the workshop with PhilaU architecture colleagues James Doerfler, program director, and Matt Gindlesparger, visiting assistant professor.
The Light & Space Academy workshop, which took place Sept. 22 to 26, was led by Julle Oksanen, principal of Julle Oksanen Lighting Design Ltd., and Hannu Tikka, architecture program director at Tampere University of Technology.
Oksanen and Tikka, cofounders of the workshop, have traveled to various universities with their program for the past 12 years. This was their first visit to PhilaU. “This university has been the best experience yet,” Oksanen said. “The students are very brilliant.”
After a week of lectures, research, design labs and critiques, students presented their final drawings and prototypes Sept. 26.
The three winners selected by Oksanen and Tikka were recognized at an award ceremony in the Architecture & Design Center. “We love simple, powerful architecture,” Tikka said of the winning designs that he said attracted him and Oksanen with their elegance.
First place went to Shelby Miller for her design using flowing concrete ribbons lined with LED lights to create a barrier between pedestrians and traffic on the Market Street Bridge, as well as views of the Schuylkill River Trail below.
Miller said the workshop taught her the importance of light in design. “Lighting plays a crucial role in architecture—not just daylight, but also artificial light,” she said.
Haley Peluso earned second place for her arched sculptural structure extending from the water’s surface to above the Market Street Bridge. Her design reflects the light patterns cast on the river by city buildings at night and shadows onto the road during the day.
Jennifer McElroy’s third-place design included a sculptural addition to the JFK Boulevard Bridge featuring a wall of stacked strips of transparent and opaque materials to filter varying levels of light.
“I was amazed to see the quality of the work,” Barbara Klinkhammer, executive dean of the College or Architecture and the Built Environment, told students at the award ceremony. “From now on, you will always see light as a major space defining element.”