A heliostat solar tracking mirror, prisms, and mirrors create giant rainbow light paintings in this Los Angeles Police Station
Visiting a police station can be intimidating for the general public. But everybody loves a living rainbow! That's why the LAPD commissioned Peter Erskine to create fifteen foot high, glowing solar spectrum beams that flow across the entrance, lobby, and even on visitors to this new Los Angeles Police Station. In this LEED Platinum, energy efficient building, Erskine created a “green,” solar powered art installation that both warms hearts - and helps cool the planet.
MAGIC CARPET, 2008
Materials: Sunlight, Police Station Architecture, heliostat solar tracking mirror on roof, solar light shaft, flat laser-cut prisms
“The Rainbow is a very deep memory for humans. It has been coded into our genetic material over millions of years. Seeing a Rainbow restores our connection to Nature- it restores our physical and psychic functions.”
Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor the first polio vaccine,
Why Solar Public Light Art in a Police Station?
People of all ages and backgrounds love rainbows and feel awe in their presence. On the other hand, visiting a Police Station can be very intimidating for members of the general public. This changed inside the new Los Angeles Police Department Valley Traffic Headquarters when Peter Erskine created fifteen foot high, glowing rainbow beams that flow across the entrance stairs, lobby and visitors in this rainbow light art installation.
The Universal Appeal of Rainbow Light Art
Dr. Salk’s quote at the top of the page explains why the rainbow is a universal symbol of peace, hope and healing for virtually every ethnic group on the Planet. Because all of Los Angeles’ 160 ethnic groups have positive rainbow myths, every Station visitor, and Police Staff member, experiences the rainbow’s comforting beauty and healing power through the familiar lens of their native culture’s rainbow myths and legends. As Dr. Salk says “Seeing a rainbow – restores our physical and psychic functions.” This genetic connection gives this rainbow light art installation its deep subliminal healing power.
Art That Can Help to Heal Mind and Body
A police commissioner on the LAPD Public Art Selection Committee said they chose Erskine’s solar public art for the new ValleyTraffic Bureau based reports of the healing power of his solar light sculpture at the Eisenhower Luci Curci Cancer Center in southern California. The Cancer Center’s Director, Alison Sachs, reported that Erskine’s rainbow light art has a calming, uplifting effect on patients. She quoted Dr. Jonas Salk’s statement about the healing power of seeing a huge living rainbow on the wall of the Cancer Center Lobby. Sachs said that the beauty of the light soothes patients, their families and staff, and distracts people from stress about cancer as they sit in the lobby waiting to see a doctor, or have chemo or radiation therapy.
The Police commissioner related that many Police Station visitors are family members of people injured in serious car accidents. These visitors are often extremely traumatized while waiting in the Police lobby to hear about the health of their loved ones. So, the LAPD selected a light artist whose site specific art might help to calm and uplift people – both visitors – and their own – often – highly stressed employees.
Sustainable “Zero Emissions” Solar Art
This solar powered art not only warms our hearts – it also helps cool the planet. Architect Kate Diamond, designed the Valley Police Headquarters as a LEED Platinum energy efficient building. To emphasize the Station’s renewable energy component, Diamond wanted Erskine’s heliostat solar tracking mirror to be prominently mounted on the roof, and visible from the street, making it clear to staff and visitors that the Sun, is the energy source, art medium, and subject matter of this rainbow light art installation.
Heliostat Mirror Reflects Sunlight into Building
Erskine leverages advanced solar technology to create his art. He designed an eight-foot-square computer controlled heliostat solar tracker mirror for the Police Station roof. The motorized mirror follows the Sun all day and reflects a continuous,1,500 watt sunbeam of free, renewable energy into a four-foot-square, mirror lined “Solar Shaft” extending from the roof, down to the Entrance Lobby (See diagram at left). Erskine’s proprietary flat, laser-cut prisms and mirrors are built into the “Solar Shaft.” The solar prisms refract the white sunlight into luminous, slowly changing spectrum beams the ceiling of the Officers Lounge, and downward, 20 feet, to the Lobby walls and floor. Once every half hour, the programmed solar tracking mirror corrects its aim, slowly moving about 7 degrees, to create entirely new rainbow light paintings on the Station’s ceiling, walls and floor.
This art is made from Light and Space and Time. The rainbows are soft and pastel in morning, and brilliant at noon. The angles of the colors painting the floor and walls are longer and more mellow in winter and more radiant in summer. The sequential patterns and hues of the rainbow painting in the space never repeat from one year to the next. It’s a MAGIC CARPET. And, because the rainbow light art is alive and always changing, it does not drop out of our awareness and become “visual wallpaper” the way so many static public art installations so often do.
Safety and Maintenance
Erskine’s LAPD solar art is made from the renewable energy of ordinary Sunlight refracted through hi-tech prisms. The Sunlight is not concentrated. The light artwork is entirely safe, natural and non-intrusive. The prisms and mirrors are made of laminated safety glass so maintenance is no more complicated than window washing. And, as of this writing, the heliostat solar tracker has been operating flawlessly, without maintenance for eight years.