Archive for ‘James Carpenter Design Associates’

March 14, 2011

Light Bridges |Midway Plaisance, Chicago by ames Carpenter Design Associates with BauerLatoza Studio

from contractor website:

B&A is currently providing pre-construction services for The University of Chicago’s Midway Crossings project.The project includes the construction of a series of state-of-the-art pedestrian walkways located throughout the Midway on UofC’s historic hyde park campus.Pre-construction has included budgeting and mock-ups of the 50-foot tall light masts that will illuminate the Midway for students and residents.

The University of Chicago Midway Crossings

The University of Chicago Midway Crossings


posted by Blair Kamin 08 March 2011:

Right out of ‘Star Wars,’ a new way to light a path at U. of C.; 40-foot-tall light masts inspired by Olmsted’s vision for the Midway

You’ve heard of the Bean? Meet the Light Sabers.With a nod to the glowing weapon of choice in the “Star Wars” duels between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, University of Chicago students have pinned that affectionate nickname on the new, 40-foot-tall light masts (left) that traverse the Midway Plaisance.The stainless steel masts, which emit spectacular shafts of white light, are the most visible elements of a nearly-complete, roughly $8 million streetscape upgrade that has added lighted railings and widened sidewalks, making the once-daunting act of crossing the Midway feel safer and more pedestrian-friendly.At night, the masts evoke the storied, brilliantly-illuminated “White City” at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in nearby Jackson Park, where millions of Americans were introduced to street lights. And they are a huge improvement on the still-widespread Chicago street lights that cast a weird, yellow-orange glow.To see a simulated animation of the Light Bridges at the University of Chicago, clickhere, and go down the page to “Video Animation of Midway Crossings.”

“It’s better than just lamps,” said graduate business student James Bain as he crossed the Midway last week.

“They’re definitely growing on me,” said second-year student Claire O’Grady.

Located on Woodlawn and Ellis Avenues as those streets cross the Midway, the new features (left) were principally designed by New York artist James Carpenter, who worked with Chicago architects BauerLatoza and lighting consultants Schuler Shook. The design’s singular strength is that it is neither a precious work of public art nor a nuts-and-bolts piece of infrastructure, but an enlightened combination of the two, one that takes a major step toward turning the Midway into a bridge rather than a barrier.

Indeed, University of Chicago officials refer to the project (below) as the Light Bridges, a reference to landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s long-ago vision for the Midway.

Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park, wanted the sunken mid-section of the Midway to be a canal linking the lagoons of what are now Jackson and Washington Parks. But his dream, which called for the canal to be spanned by actual bridges, was never built.

Making the Midway more welcoming to pedestrians has taken on a high priority, particularly as the university expanded its presence south of the Midway, including a dorm that opened in 2009. For years, the greensward has formed a kind of demilitarized zone between the U. of C.’s cloistered, neo-Gothic quadrangles to the Midway’s north and the hard-edged, sometimes-dangerous Woodlawn neighborhood to its south.

“It’s a large distance, hard to cover in winter,” said Carpenter. “Anything you can do that suggests continuity and breaks down the scale, it makes an individual’s movement much more pleasant.”

He’s largely accomplished that aim with the light masts, which emit light for almost their entire length, unlike a conventional light post, which only sends light from the top down.

Each mast’s exterior consists of a base of stainless steel and a weave-like wrapping (above left) of the same material above it. The base conceals a metal halide fixture that shoots light upward through an inner plastic tube. When the fixture burns out, maintenance workers will slide the base upward to replace it. The design also allows the sun’s rays to penetrate the tube and to refract light, giving the masts daylight sparkle.

Like all good architecture, this design works well at different scales and serves purposes both practical and aesthetic.

The masts have a strong presence, but not so strong that it disrupts the Midway’s openness. They also build a visual bridge between the verticality and delicacy of neo-Gothic university towers like Rockefeller Chapel, which rises north of the Midway, and such steel-and-glass campus buildings as Mies van der Rohe’s School of Social Service Administration, which sits to the Midway’s south.

As one comes closer, the Light Bridges, true to their name, take on a subtle, bridge-like configuration as they pass over the Midway’s sunken middle zone. Their newly widened, curving sidewalks cantilever beyond their underlying superstructure. And when accent lights wash the overhangs at night, the walkways seem to float, making the suggestion of Olmsted’s un-built bridges unmistakable.

The extra-wide sidewalks encourage students to travel in groups, which should make them feel safe. The masts themselves (left) add to this sense of security. They create a rhythm and a series of visual focal points that used to be missing from the Midway. And they shine outward as well as downward.

“They provide greater lighting on the vertical surface of people’s faces,” said Schuler Shook partner Jim Baney. “If the light goes straight down, only to the pavement, you don’t feel as safe.”

Stainless steel railings, lit with LEDs, further break down the project to a human scale. Planter boxes separate pedestrians from car traffic, and they have a dynamic, curving geometry that relates well to the curving sidewalks, distinguishing them from Chicago’s coffin-shaped planters.

Still, there’s room for improvement. A third Light Bridge is needed at Dorchester Avenue, to the east of the present two, and rumble strips or cobblestones would do a lot to slow down the drivers who treat the Midway as a drag strip. Even so, this project stands as model for how lighting can change our perceptions of a moribund urban zone and bring it new life.



(Tribune photos by Brian Cassella)

from University website:

Construction of Midway Crossings

The Midway Crossings project is a series of streetscape improvements at the major intersections of Ellis and Woodlawn Avenues reaching from 59th to 60th Streets. The design is inspired by the original Frederick Law Olmsted concept of the Midway Plaisance as water link between Washington Park and Jackson Park with bridges traversing the Midway. Key design elements include lighting masts, railing and retaining walls providing sidewalk-level lighting, and landscape elements separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic.

Renderings courtesy of James Carpenter Design Associates

Project Manager: Desiree DiLucente
Architect: Bauer Latoza and James Carpenter Design Associates
Construction Manager: Bulley & Andrews

Project contact: Desiree DiLucente,

Past Milestones:

  • August 2010: Site mobilization
  • September 2010: Placement of barriers and delineation of temporary sidewalks and accessible routes; site demolition began

Upcoming Milestones:

  • Spring 2011: Target for project completion

Rendering – Night View Looking East

Rendering – Day View Looking East

Ellis Avenue – Construction Site and Temporary Barriers

Ellis Avenue – New Sidewalk Construction

Rendering – Midway Crossings



March 14, 2011

Light the Way: Three Exemplary Outdoor Projects

Whether night or day, lighting can transform little-used public spaces into desirable places. AN spotlights three new designs in the Midwest.
The University of Chicago's Light Bridges, during the day and at night, balance visibility with sensitivity to the existing park.


Light Bridges
Midway Plaisance, Chicago
James Carpenter Design Associates with BauerLatoza Studio and Schuler Shook

Since it was built, the Midway Plaisance has divided the cloistered campus of the University of Chicago from the adjacent Woodlawn neighborhood. In spite of their proximity, the two often feel worlds apart: the one, a bastion of Neo-Gothic academic buildings, while the other is a mixed-income residential neighborhood. Now, as the university expands into Woodlawn with new residences and academic facilities, bridging that divide has become a priority for the university in supporting quality of life for students, faculty, and staff. The effort is complicated by the fact that the Midway, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is part of the city’s treasured parks system. Changes will be scrutinized.

The university turned to New York–based studio James Carpenter Design Associates, known for their innovative use of lighting and glass, to design something that would help unite the two areas of the university without intruding too much on Olmsted’s parkland. Light became the obvious means of achieving that balance. “They’re intended to be thresholds of light, primarily visible at night, that add clarity to the crossing,” Carpenter said.

Light Bridges during the day at the University of Chicago.

Working with Chicago-based landscape architects BauerLatoza and lighting designers Schuler Shook, Carpenter’s Light Bridges, currently under construction, will traverse the Midway at Ellis and Woodlawn avenues. During the day, lighting for the pathway has a subtle presence, while at night it glows with a robust physicality, hence the name Light Bridge. The effect is achieved through a series of smart design moves. Linear LEDs wash the handrails and guardrails as well as the retaining walls in light, and a series of LED spotlights set in the sidewalk throw light upward.

The most distinctive elements of the Light Bridges are the “light masts,” vertical columns with varied illumination. A metal halide fixture shines light up and outward through a light pipe—a tube with reflective film—to a mirror at the top of the column that bounces light back down. The light pipe allows the single fixture to illuminate the entire light mast, which is wrapped in a series of metal rods surrounded by horizontal bands. These give the column their form while also acting as light diffusers. The horizontal bands are spaced variously so that light levels are diminished in the middle of the column and heightened at the top, making the Light Bridge visible from a distance.

“The Light Bridges are part of a larger plan to illuminate their buildings and streets,” Carpenter said. “They are trying to center activities, to use light to give them a special character.”

Alan G. Brake



Pappajohn Sculpture Park,
Des Moines
Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects with RDG Planning & Design

Built in an underused two-block park in downtown Des Moines, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park came into being when longtime residents John and Mary Pappajohn donated their esteemed sculpture collection to the Des Moines Art Center in 2007. The gift of 26 sculptures, including pieces by Joel Shapiro, Mark di Suvero, and Ellsworth Kelly, was appraised at $40 million. In terms of placing the city on the cultural map, however, the bequest’s value has been incalculable.

Iowa-based RDG Planning & Design collaborated with the project architect Agrest and Gandelsonas of New York to develop a lighting scheme for the 4.4-acre park that would both define a series of parabolic outdoor rooms and also illuminate the sculptures from dusk until dawn.

Lighting at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines.LIGHTING AT THE PAPPAJOHN SCULPTURE PARK IN DES MOINES.

“Lighting had to complement, not dominate, the site,” said Jonathan Martin, landscape architect with RDG. To eliminate the number of vertical poles in the park, almost every piece of art is lit from the ground. The design team worked with the Art Center to determine how each piece would be lit, making visits to the Pappajohn’s home to see the sculptures in person and test their mockups. Only one sculpture, Jaume Piensa’s Nomade, had specific directives from the artist about lighting. In all, the park contains more than 200 ceramic metal halide weatherproof lamps.

Because the park is completely open to downtown Des Moines, with official hours from sunrise to midnight, visitors are urged to observe artwork at night. “A sculpture that is very playful during the day may take on a more serious tone at night because of the way it’s lit,” said Martin. Unlit pathways eliminate the visual clutter of streetlamps, but also encourage patrons to stray from the path and see the artwork from more than one perspective. Streetlamps on sidewalks around the perimeter provide an ambient glow, just enough for security cameras to monitor park activity. In a setting where harsher lighting could have become a proxy for careful stewardship, instead each sculpture enjoys its own illuminated space within the darkness.

Jennifer K. Gorsche


The Riverwalk canopies illuminate a shadowy area under a bridge with washes of artificial light at night.

Chicago Riverwalk Canopies
Ross Barney Architects

When planning the Chicago Riverwalk, city officials realized that without protection, salt and water from bridges crossing overhead could pour down on pedestrians. So Carol Ross Barney and her team decided to make projective canopies that were also visual amenities, animating the shadowy areas under the bridges in addition to providing coverage overhead.

Made of stainless-steel tiles—the lower tiles are brushed steel, and the upper highly-polished—the canopies reflect the shimmer and movement of the river, creating dappled shadows on the Riverwalk. “It adds something contemporary and ethereal within the neoclassical language of the rest of the Riverwalk,” Ross Barney said. Currently in place under the Michigan Avenue and Wabash Avenue bridges, the canopies use natural light during daytime hours to transform the underside of the city’s beautiful, but utilitarian, infrastructure. Others, perhaps in a different form, will be added as additional phases of the Riverwalk are completed.

Riverwalk canopies reflect daylight under a bridge.

The reflective surfaces recall a contemporary Chicago icon, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. While Kapoor’s sculpture pulls the viewer into the skyline and the sky above, the canopies immerse the viewer in one of Chicago’s less appreciated natural features. “You feel like you’re in the river,” Ross Barney said. Unlike Kapoor’s perfect bean, the canopies are slightly wavy with visible seams. As Ross Barney noted, “It helps fragment the painting.”

When the sun sets, light pipes with metal-halide lamps set in the seams of the canopies wash their surfaces with light. Some of that light reflects down to the surface of the water, reversing the daytime effect. Metal-halide downlights provide additional illumination for pedestrians. “The results are very intriguing and fun,” she said.

Alan G. Brake