Louisville Towers Above the Rest

At the intersection of Fourth St. and Chestnut St. in Louisville, Kentucky
stands an elegant and unique illumination art piece, or four to be exact. The Fourth and Chestnut Redevelopment Project includes four color-changing towers, each wrapped in historical photographs and backlit with Martin Exterior 200 color changers.

The distinctive art piece was an internal city project designed by city architect Kristin Booker and incorporating local artists. The purpose of the
project was to give the city a visually unique entrance to a refurbished art
deco theatre district, as well as give the outgoing major a legacy to leave
behind. Located in an up and coming retail and residential quarter, the towers give the area a celebrated piece of artwork that can be replicated in Louisville’s downtown art district.

Illuminating Concepts

Illuminating Concepts of Farmington Hills, Michigan, known for their creative architectural lighting design solutions, were commissioned by the City of Louisville to create, well, an illumination concept. Studio Director and Project Manager Keith Irtenkauf, Design Director Kenneth Klemmer and Principal and Creative Director Ron Harwood, all from Illuminating Concepts, were instrumental in the project.

After extensive brainstorming and a long finalization process, it was decided to create a series of backlit graphic panels on five 25-foot towers. Black and white photographs of the intersection from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s were digitized and enlarged to sixteen feet in height.

“The photos came out amazingly clear,” comments LD Keith Irtenkauf. “They were very rich photos to begin with. We played with the dot pitch to optimize color saturation and light intensity.” The photos are wrapped around the 4 sides of each tower (two photos per tower) and backlit with Martin Exterior 200s. The graphics can be changed to correspond with a special event or holiday season.

Full mock up
Illuminating Concepts created a full mock up at their Michigan facility using Exterior 200s. The towers, essentially a custom box truss 2 ft. square x 25 ft. high, were made of wood for the test. Keith comments, “The mock up was very important for the lighting, scale and feel of the project. Basically, it took a year of design work in which we tried a lot of different light combinations.”

Exterior 200
Having experimented with several types of lighting that didn’t achieve the
desired result, Illuminating Concepts selected the Exterior 200. “The Exterior 200s were not only intense and bright they were easy to incorporate into the design,” states Keith. “The Exteriors allowed us to save on size, space and weight, as well as the savings on electricity. And because of the Exterior 200’s CDM lamp, we could offer a long 6000-9000 hour lamp life, which makes them easier to maintain. The cost savings allowed for the use of two fixtures for the price of one 1200-watt fixture.”

Only two Exterior 200s were needed per tower, one placed low and one placed near the top of each tower. As the intersection area is already fairly narrow and visually cluttered, Illuminating Concepts didn’t want the towers to look out of place, no “flash and trash” as Keith puts it. The towers are programmed to color fade, cross fade and slowly color change.

Control solution
Control is handled via wireless radio DMX communication between the towers. This had several advantages including eliminating the need to dig up the street which would have been an additional expense. One tower acts as a transmitter and the other three towers as receivers. An ELC ShowStore controller is located at the base of one tower and transmits data to the first Exterior 200, which is daisy chained to the other Exteriors. Audio and other multimedia can be added.

The City of Louisville and Illuminating Concepts are sure to get accolades for such an outstanding illumination project. And the cost? You might have expected it to be in the millions, but surprisingly the total project was kept under $250,000, a conscientious achievement in these fiscally cautious times.

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