Lightwave is a sculptural bench sited alongside OMA’s Milstein Hall on Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, New York.
An exterior installation and public seating element with a landscape-inspired design, Lightwave aims to bring the art of spectacle into the utilitarian typology of public seating while also providing a highly accessible long-term public art installation in the heart of campus.
Nestled between gorges and a glacial lake, Cornell’s campus is defined by a landscape of rock and water. The water, in constant motion, has shaped the immovable rock into rugged shapes and steep ravines. From this sublime landscape, a new furniture emerges, a wave of water breaking through the rock.
A grid of square timbers forms an undulating wavelike surface. The surface’s crests and troughs provide a variety of seating alcoves, spaces for sitting, laying, lounging, climbing, and viewing. The vertical timbers are defined by a grid of gaps, allowing light to penetrate and soak into the seating. The seemingly disjunct members are bolted onto an interior framework which allows the seat to cantilever off the ground as the wave crests, creating the illusion of timbers floating in midair.
The interior sides of the timbers are painted a variety of bright colors, creating a range of colored light which emerges from the furniture, an effect that is augmented at night with a system of embedded lights. The furniture is made of a local black locust timber, which will mature from a clean blonde to a weathered grey patina, transforming with age as it slowly adjusts to the site.
While the top surface of the bench is continuous, it is primarily composed of 6” tall posts, leaving the interior hollow. Inside, small beams span between the perimeter posts mounted on a structural framework which distributes weight to four steel feet. To construct the form, 264 black locust posts were CNC milled, sanded, painted, and assembled into an undulating grid.
Born of Ithaca’s sublime terrain, Lightwave is both an ode and an invitation; it celebrates the landscape with mimicry and welcomes the public with luminous splendor.
On Display at Milstein Hall
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Funded in part by Cornell Council for the Arts & Bartels Co-Sponsorship
Collaborator: Katie MacDonald