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48-734 Reactive Spaces and Media Architecture

Fourth Year | Fall 2018
Professor: Jakob Marsico


The Pittsburgh International Airport has released an Request for Proposals for artist teams to develop a light-based generative artwork to occupy the central atrium in the air-side terminal. The goal of the artwork should be to welcome new visitors to this vibrant, dynamic city and to define the city as a hub of technology and art. Artworks should meet the following requirements: Integrate with the existing architecture; Be dynamic in nature, always moving or changing, although not necessarily quickly; Act as a calming influence on passengers and guests.

Program: Touchdesigner

In collaboration with Shan Wang, Hanyuan Zhang, and Miranda Luong for the Reactive Spaces and Media Architecture course.

Design Requirements

  • Create a generative animation system (not interactive or sensor-based)
  • Output content using PixLite controllers and addressable LEDs
  • Design and fabricate housing for lights (no bare LEDs allowed)


Streamline is a LED light installation occupying the central atrium of the Pittsburgh International Airport. Understanding the unique hub that Pittsburgh is for technology and art, our installation bridges these elements via a light animation that welcomes visitors as they enter and leave the airport.

The installation hangs from the ceiling of the terminal and visualizes the flow and topography of Pittsburgh's three iconic rivers. The gentle, but still dynamic, nature of flowing water acts as a calming influence on passengers and guests.


When designing the housing for this prototype, we experimented with many various types of opaque and transparent materials. We also worked to determine the spacing of the lights along the edge of each individual piece. We decided to use white acrylic as the main housing material, with the interior lined with thick paper to reduce hotspots. The more transparent material the showed the ambient lighting is made from frosted acrylic and milk jug plastic.

First Prototype

Final Prototype

Bridging the Digital & Physical

The installation is comprised of two main parts: the generative light-work and its physical housing.

The light animation we've developed is suggestive of Pittsburgh's three rivers, a trait very identifiable to the city. Our color palette of deep blue, pale white, and pink promote a calming presence while also harmonizing with the terminal's existing blue, white and red interior. The pace of our animation is slow and steady with peak points of change in color and motion to build upon the rather irregularness of a river's flow.

Our installation's physical housing is located between the terminal's two main trusses. It consists of rows of thin individual housing for every strand of our addressable LEDs. While their lengths remain consistent, the change in their heights, among and throughout each house, accumulate to an abstract, representative display of the three river's topography When a visitor looks up from underneath they are reminded of one of Pittsburgh's most unique physical landmarks. The vertical alignment of these "light beams" follow the orientation of the terminal's steel decking.

Lighting at various stages

A Visitor's Experience

We realize that the airport can be a rather stressful place, so our goal is to present a dynamic but ambient light installation for travelers. Upon entering the terminal, visitors can look up and find a calming animation of light that moves as they pass through. It will act a relaxing point on their journey to their next destination. It will also act as a gentle reminder of the city they are about to enter or will be leaving.

Pittsburgh International Airport Render

Prototype Video

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