Lighting designers Bailes and Light bring the stars down to earth in Oxford

Something extraordinary is happening on the streets of Oxford this month. The people of Oxford will get the chance to come together to light up constellations of stars, dotted around the city. ‘Star Light, Star Bright’ is the product of a collaboration between Bailes and Light and Hellion Trace. The installation, which won The Smart Oxford Playable City Commission, is taking place in January and February 2018.

Bailes and Light designed lighting and digital electronics for the seven ‘constellations’ that make up the installation. The constellations are part interactive lighting spectacle, part social experiment. They bring people together, encouraging them to play with light and learn more about the stars above their city.

‘Star Light, Star Bright’ launched in Oxford January 2018. Bailes and Light have worked closely with Hellion Trace to ensure Star Light stays fully functional throughout its stay. As Ben Bailes, Director of Bailes and Light says: “We’re proud to think we helped bring Hellion Trace’s interactive installation to life. It was fascinating to explore how technology can engage an audience and bring people together. And we always love custom building new products to fit a really specialised brief.”

For the project, Bailes and Light designed a system allowing people to control the ‘stars’ beneath their feet. Each constellation forms a kind of interactive game, placed in areas to reach a diverse range of people. Friends, passersby or even strangers are encouraged to come together to stand on coloured ‘star’ lights. Once a group works together to cover all the ‘stars’, they shine upwards in beams of white, revealing the constellations visible overhead.

The installation allows people to interact with both technology, and each other, to learn more about their environment. This was in response to Smart Oxford’s 2017 theme of ‘Shared City’.

Bailes and Light created some entirely new products to make the constellations shine in a way that would captivate and dazzle the public. These included custom waterproof inground ‘star’ lights with variable colour functionality. To catch the eyes of passersby, these shone a spectrum of colours until a group completed the game, when brilliant white light burst through. And to make the installations a fully responsive, interactive experience, they developed a custom microcontroller interface and framework.

The installations are technologically creative, but with a strong focus on community and collaboration. Each was equipped with a 3G dongle, feeding back data on how people were playing. This gave insight into how willing people are to come together to interact with technology.

Ben Bailes and Dan Light founded immersive lighting design company ‘Bailes and Light’ in early 2016. Working out of their Tottenham workshop, they have collaborated with designers, artists and space makers to create concept led-lighting installations. These have included immersive dining experiences, multi-sensory Virtual Reality pods and an 18m ‘giant tree’ at Glastonbury Festival.

Photo Credit: Shamil Ahmed

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