The Wabash lights are a crowdfunded, site-specific light installation, proposed for underneath the iconic elevated train lines of Chicago. Wabash Avenue is known for the robust steel structures of the L-tracks which are part of Chicago’s fascinating architectural heritage. Although a distinctive part of Chicago’s character on street level, the space is underused and uninviting for pedestrians especially at night. Designers Seth Unger and Jack Newell self-initiated the proposal for this interactive light installation and hope it will act as a place making strategy to give visitors a new experience of this space and improve the safety of the area.
Through a kickstarter campaign, The Wabash lights have raised $60,000 for the ‘beta test’ which will test the durability and safety of the project in context. If successful, this prototype will be used to attract future investors (most likely private sponsors) to raise the $5 million needed to complete the project. They predict the installation to be completed by summer of 2016 and be in place for five years.
Civic funded projects are growing in popularity with websites such as Spacehive and Kickstarter which open up the scope for young designers and communities to initiate new projects. The popularity of citizen involvement in public projects is having a positive effect on new developments, however it has been criticized that the actual community involvement generally stops at funding, which can be done from anywhere in the world and not guaranteed to have local involvement.
Details of the lighting system
The Wabash light encourages participation in the interactive elements of the installation. Through a website the project will allow participants to alter the light colours and patterns of the installation from anywhere in the world. Each programmable LED light has endless possibilities of colours and patterns which will also be accessible through a smart phone app encouraging involvement from passers-by.
All images from Kickstarter
Agile City has previously looked at the theme of crowdfunded urbanism with the – ‘Lunchtsingle’bridge in Rotterdam by Zus Architects which you can read about here.
For further reading, Alexandra Lange explores the subject of crowdfunding in this Dezeen article –‘making something big happen on an urban scale is more than a popularity contest.’