St. Patrick’s Day’s Lightscape Event Illuminates the Windy City, Bringing Spring Back to Chicago

If you’ve ever explored State Street, chances are likely you’ve seen those bouquets of reed-shaped LED lights synchronized with music in dozens of planters from Lake Street to Van Buren. Those colorful installations play year-round and have embedded speakers that broadcast music along with splashes of dancing color in light displays.

Well if you happen to enjoy the little things, like musical lights, get excited because from March 10 through the 17 daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., those gardens will be revamped to play Irish musical selections and special announcements in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day for this spring’s Lightscape ceremony.

Lightscape: A Multisensory Experience on State Street, created in November of 2011 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is a collection of abstract fiberglass light fixtures mounted onto custom boxes in planters with the goal to attract attention to Chicago’s Loop. The materials used to build these lights are quite interesting. Chosen for its flexibility, the lights are made of aircraft-grade spun fiberglass, which allows them to move slightly in the wind. Traxon Technologies is the company responsible for the fixtures, andthe city controls the lighting displays using pre-programmed shows or spontaneous triggering for live edits through an Internet connection. When built, the installations were actually integrated into the already-existing street lighting system.

When the lights first sprang up, the Chicago Loop Alliance, who commissioned and led the project, sought a year-round decorative lighting solution designed to drive interest and foot traffic along State. However, the system also had to be built to adapt to Chicago’s ever-changing weather conditions without requiring heavy maintenance. The project was successful and is now thriving, giving Chicagoans a unique experience and gauging the attention of passers-by.

What’s really cool about these LED lights is that they are low emission and energy-efficient. Even though the installations stay lit all year, they actually only use 7 percent of the energy needed to keep traditional holiday lights burning for a season. Over the next five years, Lightscape will save an astounding 700,000 kilowatts of energy.

The St. Patrick’s Day light show will go on this year as a great Chicago tradition! The Chicago Loop Alliance hopes to work with key sponsors and partners in the future to develop more engaging seasonal events that incorporate the installations. One idea is to develop public access controls to specific portions of the project.

If you’re ready to go green this St. Patrick’s Day, then hop downtown and check out the new Irish light displays in this year’s Lightscape event. It’s sure to help bring spring back to Chicago!

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