It was a night of firsts at the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) with the recent opening of Visual Echo, an interactive light installation created by Jason Bruges Studio that “echoes” the colors around it and displays them via colored LED tiles. Visual Echo is the first AIA exhibit of 2007 and also the first lighting installation featured at the Institute.

Bruges is a trained architect whose studio specializes in work that is interaction-based and offers a special blend of light and architecture to viewers. “It is all very site-specific,” he said at the opening. “The work responds to its environment, and content is generated based on the people around it.” He also worked with lighting designer Willie Williams on George Michael's current 25 Live tour (Live Design, January 2007, p. 20).

So how does this “smart” installation work? An Apple iSight camera is situated at the base of the U-shaped installation (which has both horizontal and vertical aspects), accompanied by a compact fluorescent bulb similar to ones used in photography to enhance colors. The camera sends live images directly to Isadora software, a Mac-based interactive program that manipulates real-time digital video. Isadora then zones in on an area of the video to create a color source while also allowing for adjustment of the saturation and speed of output to Color Kinetics iColor FX tiles fixed to a wooden frame. Each tile can be addressed and altered independently.

The edges of the tiles have laser-cut acrylic waveforms with white gauze stretched over the top. The gauze blurs the LEDs and creates a starburst effect, helping the light travel in and around the surface. Visual Echo is open until March 10 and first appeared at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It was organized by the AIANY, the Illuminating Engineering Society New York Section (IESNY), the International Committee AIA New York Chapter, and the Royal Society of the Arts and underwritten by Color Kinetics and Skyy 90 Vodka.