Light in the City

I’ve been processing our studio’s trip to Chicago – my first experience living in a large city. From what I understand, the moments of meditation in the city come from its sublime (here meaning daunting in size and scale) features….looking UP at the skyscrapers that seem to go on forever, keeping your gaze to the vertical/spiritual axis…looking OUT at Lake Michigan that carries your gaze forever in the horizontal. When you look up, you look past the homeless asking for money, past the layered fabric (‘palimpsest’ Palermo says) of the city, towards the new and impressive. Look up and you are filled with hope, look down and you are filled with reality. When you walk down the commercial streets (Michigan Ave, State Street) there are sweet smells broken up by the occasional whiff of pure sewage. This contrast reflects the city on a larger scale -the grandeur of the skyline seems to be hiding something. I didn’t spend enough time in the ghetto parts of the city, but I saw glimpses at the train stops in Harlem and other stops before O’Hare, and in the heart of downtown, between the skyscrapers there are wonderfully aged alleyways hidden in the dark. There is so much beauty in the fabric, in the aged.

‘There is truth in brick and stone’

I was really interested in the projected light patterns seen in the city. I had this vision of these ‘light spirits’ that follow you from the lake and around the city, that illuminate the shaded sidewalks and building facades, that could somehow place value on the integrity of a  place (this will make more sense in the subsequent video). If these natural forms and figures could be an extension of a person or place, the qualities of that place could somehow be reflected – ultimately, given more of an identity. Here’s the video:

light in the city

Light hitting a changing, complex surface can be seen off the water. Then the light is coming off a bus stop (notice the parallels in sound between traffic and waves). Light oscillates in the revolving door, then stops at the subway escalator…only to reappear following the rider through the city. That’s where the idea of spirit came into play – something of an entity that accompanies you, defines you, brings light into YOUR darkness. I think it creates some beautiful imagery – could potentially influence a designed narrative or graphic short…and of course architectural pursuits.

Here are some images of the complexity and power of projected and diffused light throughout the city:

The vision is a bit romanticized – but so what?

I’m looking forward to more direct study during spring break and less spreading out efforts in various subjects…always a challenge. Thanks for reading.



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