Ceramic Industry Blog

Symphony in Glass and Light

August 19, 2008

Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, recently unveiled a new permanent light installation illuminating its historic glass John F. Wolfe Palm House. The work, by artist James Turrell, one of the foremost artists working in the world, was made possible through a $1 million gift from Limited Brands Foundation, the charitable arm of the Columbus, Ohio-based specialty retailer.

The John F. Wolfe Palm House installation places Franklin Park Conservatory among a rare group of architectural light projects in the United States and among an important list of international projects in France, Japan, Germany and Switzerland.

“As the first Conservatory glass house in the world to be lit by James Turrell, this world-class lighting installation will draw visitors from across Ohio and around the globe to Franklin Park,” said Bruce Harkey, executive director of the Conservatory. “This light project will not only highlight the beauty and significance of this architectural landmark from dusk to dawn, it will be a piece of public art for the community to enjoy when they visit the Conservatory.”

“We are proud to support Franklin Park Conservatory and this remarkable illumination unveiling,” said Janelle Simmons, manager of community relations at Limited Brands. “It is a breathtaking artistic display for the community to enjoy and we are happy to be a part of it.”

The John F. Wolfe Palm House is a Columbus landmark and the Conservatory’s most recognizable and treasured building. Local architect J.M. Freese designed the 1895 Victorian glass house after the famed horticulture building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The John F. Wolfe Palm House has a long history as an acclaimed horticulture facility and in recent years has been the site of some of the city’s most important events, including a major exhibition in 2003-04 of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculpture.

"The name of this piece is Light Raiment,” said James Turrell. “This project is about extending the life of the Palm House into the evenings in much the same way that we, after our day jobs, dress ourselves up and go out into the night."

With the commission of this new work by Turrell, the building is not lit in the traditional sense; rather it is filled with volumes of changing light and color. His building of astonishing spaces that allow light to be experienced both in its material and its spiritual qualities have lured millions of people to his exhibitions. Visitors of the John F. Wolfe Palm House experience light as an artistic medium through the interaction of plane, color and space.

The light composition is designed by Turrell on-site in real time over several days with the aide of a lighting technician. Under Turrell’s direction, his composition is delivered through more than 7000 low-voltage light-emitting (LED) bulbs. Turrell uses LED technology because the lights are programmable and allow the mixing of colors within space. Turrell has worked with almost every kind of artificial light, including neon, fiber optics, fluorescents and lasers.

Visit www.fpconservatory.org to learn more.
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