Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles
One of the National Register of Historic Register’s most recent additions, Descanso Gardens is a 150-acre botanical garden that is home to a wide array of flora and fauna. From November to January, the gardens host the annual Enchanted: Forest of Light, a nighttime event that showcases a wide array of light-based and interactive art installations. In 2019, Descanso Gardens premiered Carved at Descanso Gardens, a Halloween-themed, family-friendly visual art attraction in the style of Enchanted, featuring highly imaginative and impressive Jack-o-Lanterns, pumpkin sculptures, light fixtures and more.
Organizers requested a unique and immersive lighting rig for Carved that could then carry over into the setup for Enchanted later in the year. Additionally, since the event takes place at night in a forested area, the lighting had to not only be expressive and immersive, but also practical to ensure that families stayed on the trail and weather-resistant to endure the elements.
To meet these requirements, Lightswitch deployed a range of lighting solutions including the durable and versatile Martin VDO Atomic Bold fixtures.
Capable of washes, strobes, complex pixel-mapped designs and more, the Martin VDO Atomic Bold is an LED hybrid fixture created for a wide range of settings and applications. The Atomic Bold combines a pixel-controllable RGB Aura backlight with a high-output color beam in order to create bold eye-candy blends that translate effectively in any setting. Along with its creative capabilities, the Atomic Bold’s IP65 weatherproof rating and built-in power supply made it an ideal fixture for Carved, which requires all of the lights to be outdoors and powered for long periods of time.
Medvitz and the Lightswitch team installed the Atomic Bolds near a large flower bed, featuring light boxes made of reclaimed wood with monstrously carved faces. The Atomic Bolds, placed on a nearby rooftop, provided a deep, saturated wash area that heightened the impact of the light coming from the wooden boxes and brought a subtle but transformative atmosphere to the installation. Additionally, Medvitz took advantage of the Atomic Bolds’ included PAR64-sized front accessory holders to add top hats to minimize glare into audience areas.
With a maximum output of 13,000 lumens, the Atomic Bold provided plenty of power to the installation, but also the dexterity to be used in more subtle ways. Medvitz noted how he originally intended to use the Atomic Bolds just as blinders, but their ability to broadcast vivid colors even at low power made them an ideal choice of wash as well.
“During the pandemic, Descanso Gardens contacted us about doing a Halloween-themed version of Enchanted, because they saw an opportunity in the market to provide a high-production nighttime Halloween event that was also family-friendly,” said Chris Medvitz, Lighting Designer, Lightswitch. “The solution was to take the Halloween show and integrate it into what we were doing for Enchanted later in the year. Carved features of artisan-designed carved pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns placed within this big forested area, so we designed the whole experience to feel handmade and crafty like the art installations and not too high-tech or busy. Everything needed to feel organic, like somebody made it by hand.”
“With the Atomic Bolds, we created this massive wash of color across this flower bed,” added Medvitz. “It was cool because the flower bed itself has plants with all different colors of leaves and flowers, and saturated colors from the Bolds were able to alter the colors of the flowers, like when you shine a colored light on a colored object. Shifting the colors really changed the way that the flower beds appeared, and that ended up working out great.”
“We ended up dialing them down probably to 50% intensity because they’re so bright,” said Medvitz. “We certainly were just scratching the surface on the capabilities of the fixtures in our application, but they’re definitely impressive. I have a high opinion of the Atomic Bolds after using them, and I think they turned out looking really great.”