A dynamic light visualization of Pittsburgh’s three iconic rivers proposed to be installed at the Pittsburgh International Airport

My team and I were to design and prototype a generative animated piece for the PIT central atrium using PixLite controllers and addressable LEDs. The animation was not to be interactive or sensor-based.

Fall 2018, 2 weeks

Spatial Design
Computational Design
‍3D Prototyping

Selena Zhen,
Shan Wang,
Hanyuan Zhang

Final render of installation in central atrium of Pittsburgh International Airport


The installation hangs from the ceiling of the atrium, integrating with the room’s existing architecture, and visualizes the flow and topography of Pittsburgh's three iconic rivers. Upon entering the space, visitors will look up and find a calming light animation that moves with them as they pass through. The gentle, but still dynamic, nature of flowing water acts as a calming influence on passengers and guests. For visitors to Pittsburgh, it will act as an introduction to the city’s nature or a beautiful reminder when leaving.


01/ Animation

TouchDesigner animation (left) and final visualization across our 50 addressable LEDs (right)

Color and pacing were two main aspects we focused on when building our animation.

We chose colors that were gentle to the eyes and harmonized with the atrium’s existing blue, white and red interior.

To mimic the irregularity of a river’s flow, we added moments of color change and motion to the animation’s slow and steady pace.

02/ Physical Housing

Because our LEDs were addressable only via their positions on their relative strands, we designed rows of thin individual housing for every strand. While the distance they span remains consistent across the ceiling, the changes in their individual curvatures accumulate to an abstract, representation of the three rivers' typography.

We found that the best location for our installation would be on the ceiling of the atrium between its two main trusses. The vertical alignment of our installation follows the orientation of the atrium’s steel decking.