Ever-changing art made from Sunlight, prisms and architecture
In the Lafayette, California Library, a skylight shaft lined with custom prisms and mirrors transforms ordinary Sunlight into radiant solar spectrum beams - bathing library spaces, staff, and patrons in the breathtaking beauty of living rainbow light. The astronomical orientation of the prisms continually mixes the six basic spectrum colors into millions of new shapes and hues. Powered by our life-giving Sun and the rotation of the Earth, this ever-changing light and space environment gradually shifts in color and shape - every hour, ever day and every season. Bringing Nature's most beautiful light into the library.
SUN PAINTING, 2009
Materials: Sunlight, Library architecture, flat, laser-cut prisms and mirrors.
Solar Light Art Installation in a Library
As the Earth spins, circling the Sun, living rainbows slowly glide through Peter Erskine’s Lafayette Library solar light art installation, gradually changing shape and color with the seasons. Always a fresh offering. In this magic realm, you can actually step inside a living rainbow beam and play. And when you do, you create glowing colored shadows of your own body.
Everybody loves a rainbow. Just as we all love the sweet taste of sugar, loving a rainbow is hard-wired into our human biology. That’s why cultures the world over – from Eskimos to Aboriginals hold the rainbow sacred as a symbol of hope, peace, and redemption.
How SUN PAINTING Works
The five foot square and ten foot high Solar Light Shaft is open to the sky, and capped with a plexiglas skylight. The “Shaft” gathers sunlight for the library rainbow art installation, from dawn to dusk. The “Shaft” is lined with flat, laser-cut prisms and mirrors that gradually mix the six primary rainbow colors into millions of new hues – and forms – as the Earth turns. In fifteen minutes the angles, tones, and slabs of color change radically, even though the Earth has only rotated four degrees on her axis.
Notice in the photos how the colors and positions of solar spectrum splashes on the walls and floor have morphed from the pictures taken only thirty minutes before. And an hour later, the carpet is blazing orange and the walls have somehow turned teal and magenta! A fuchsia wall – for ten minutes – then magically morphing to green in a half an hour…… Late in the afternoon on the same day, SUN PAINTING becomes delicate fingers of caressing color. And with clouds, haze or rain in the sky, this immersive environmental art installation shifts from radiant colors hues to blushing pastels.
The Hands-On Design Process
Erskine created his Lafayette Library solar light painting in a “one-inch-equals-one-foot”, scale model using three types of miniature laser-cut Solar prisms. He mounted the physical model on a tilting table that can simulate all the possible angles of Sunlight entering the Library during the entire year. For months, Erskine wheeled the miniature light sculpture out into the bright sunlight of his studio courtyard, tweaking and playing with the mirrors and prisms in the Solar Light Shaft until the muse whispered in his ear that it was perfect.
Solar Powered Green Art
Erskine’s library rainbow art installation began in Killefer Flammang Architects early design, as a traditional wood burning fireplace in the cozy reading room. The library building committee eventually agreed that books and fire should not mix. So, instead of a polluting fireplace for the new building, Killefer Falmmang approached Erskine to create a living rainbow art installation that would invite our star’s perpetual blaze into this tucked-away corner of their new building.
Erskine and Killefer Falmmang collaborated in designing SUN PAINTING’S five foot square Solar Light Shaft, replacing the earlier design’s “fireplace chimney”. SUN PAINTING, like all of Erskine’s site generated Light and Space installations, is solar powered. This revolutionary and sustainable artwork continually harvests a 2500 watt beam of renewable energy to weave its wonders. The art brings Nature’s most beautiful light right inside a public library.