Spectra is a seven storey installation that lets visitors to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival journey through its spirals of colour and view the site from an entirely new perspective.

Architecture, Construction & Design Awards 2018
Third Award | Category: Pop-Ups and Temporary (Built)

Architect: NEWSUBSTANCE
Team Members: Patrick O’Mahony
Country: United Kingdom

The structure was one of six artworks commissioned for this year’s festival, exclusively built from a brief to design a brave, new and innovative large-scale piece. A site-specific response to the Colorado Desert surrounding Coachella, Spectra both connects and contrasts with the landscape and sky; it provides a deviation from the stark, flat horizon while capturing and concentrating the natural colours of the environment, distilling California’s striking sunrises and sunsets into a totemic column of coloured light.

Spectra invites visitors to explore the relationship between light and landscape as they scale the six revolutions of the tower to a viewing deck on the top. The pavilion provides a space for peaceful reflection and serenity, while situated in amongst the bustling crowds of the festival. The succession of variegated Perspex window panels reflect and refract the sunlight, embathing the structure’s interior with intense colours and offering the spectators vibrant views of the festival grounds. At night, radials of LED cove ceiling lights illuminate the panels, transforming the tower into a solid beacon of dispersive refraction that silhouettes its guests.

Each orbit of Spectra features 31 custom cast panels of individual colours, a cycle that spirals up with the ascending levels. As you rise through it the colours are offset by one pane to produce a staggered effect, echoing the natural angle of refracted light.

The use of LED cove lighting allowed the character of the piece to change as night fell. Prior to delivery on site, each one of the 690 internal Kingspan roof beams – radiating in an outward pattern above the spiral passageway – was fitted with a strip of custom RGBWW LED tape, recessed into sections of aluminium extrusion.

A series of custom-built DMX power supplies spread across a total of 8 DMX universes enable the freedom to overlay pixel-mapped effects on to the whole tower. Although the strips are capable of producing a full spectrum of colours, the team wanted to preserve the purity of the carefully selected Perspex panels. They did this by exploring the use of different colour temperatures of white light, and subtly animating it to produce gently shifting effects.

During Coachella’s daylight hours, all of the light fixtures were set to 3500k, but as the sun set and the light levels inside slowly brightened, the scheme became more dynamic – gently fluctuating between 3000k and 5000k, almost as if the tower were breathing.  Later on, slow pulses were sent up through the space, provoking a palpable response from those inside. During the festival nights, the LED strips were augmented by dynamic spotlights placed on the roof of the tower, extending Spectra’s presence up into the sky – their aerial effects proving particularly striking against the sand-enriched night sky.

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