The Midtown Viaducts Public Art + Light Project Winner (Unbuilt).

Layering simple subroutines to produce a broad variety of possible responses

As proposed, Resonance would consist of an array of 24” wide LED light boxes mounted on the walls and ceiling of the Second Avenue viaduct in Detroit.

These 22 light boxes amplify the banding of light and dark in the viaduct. These units would be located between each archway, enhancing the experience of passing through the viaduct. As well as illuminating the space, the system would provide a destination for visitors and an improved experience for pedestrian flow. Resonance was designed to increase the amount of available illumination the deeper into the space one goes.

In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. At these frequencies, even small interventions can produce large amplitude oscillations, because the system stores vibrational energy. Generally, resonance is a quality that makes something personally meaningful or important to someone. Resonance would build on the existing condition to add light for safety but do so in a way that has a much greater experiential impact. On approach from either side, perspective foreshortening will give the impression of the pedestrian throughways as ‘boxes of light.’ Each unit would have a range of sensors that triggered the lighting in response to the number, speed, and direction of motion of pedestrians in the space. For example, this could give the impression of a ‘pressure wave’ of increased illumination in advance of people as they walk through that would burst and diffuse in a cascade of ripples when it meets the wave in advance of someone coming from the opposite direction.


As with many of our previous projects, the system was conceived as a layering of simple subroutines that aggregate to produce a broad variety of possible responses driven by the behavior of people interacting with the system and responding to local environmental conditions.

These responses would introduce feedback to the system in real‑time, seasonally, or as determined by specific events. Each unit of the system will be structurally the same but would have a unique appearance by including a translucent vinyl insert behind the polycarbonate screen of the lightbox. These would draw the visitor’s attention from the wall next to them on entry and up and through the space and beyond to the city on either side of the viaduct.


‘Resonance’ was one of three public Midtown Viaduct commissions chosen from a competitive international request for proposals. However, the project immediately ran into lengthy delays brought about by unforeseen site conditions. By the time these were resolved, it was not possible for us to deliver the project within the revised schedule. The project remains unbuilt.



Date: 2015
Location: Second Avenue Viaduct, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Client: Commissioned by Midtown Detroit, Inc.

Design: Summer 2013
Completed: Unbuilt

The New Economy Initiative, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Midtown Detroit Inc., the City of Detroit, Consolidated Rail Corporation, and CN Rail

Cézanne Charles (rootoftwo)
John Marshall (rootoftwo)
Karl Daubmann (DAUB)
Assisted by: Patrick Ethen

Dimensions: 780 sq. ft of lightbox

Media: Polycarbonate (with graffiti-resistant coating), steel, coated aluminum, vandal-resistant fasteners, LED lighting, custom DMX programming.

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