ZUVA | Dzimbanhete

Zuva is a site-specific sculptural space merging local traditions of healing and architecture with contemporary color and light work.

Inspired by traditional African architecture, and in collaboration with local cultural experts, CTG Collective invited Luftwerk to create and realize Zuva. This permanent space and color/light installation is built using local materials and labor, as well as traditional Zimbabwean building techniques. A major accomplishment of the project is the installation of a 5KW off-grid solar system to provide power to the work, the Dzimbanhete Arts and Culture center and its surrounding community. The hybrid space/sculpture is activated by Dzimbanhete as a hybrid art, sound healing, and space for dialogue.

Zuva means sun, but the Shona language dives deep into the conceptual Zuva, which actually means day, or better said, the movement of the sun across the sky during a day. The yellow exterior represents the sun. The blue interior represents the night. The dome ceiling is airbrushed with gradient yellow to blue, illuminated via color changing LED.

Geometry of Light | German Pavilion

Geometry of Light was an art intervention by Luftwerk in collaboration with Iker Gil at the German Pavilion in Barcelona, February 10-17, 2019. Organized by The Fundació Mies van der Rohe and MAS Context, presented as part of the Fundació Mies van der Rohe’s ongoing program of artistic interventions, and corresponding with the LLUM BCN Festival and the Santa Eulàlia Festival.

Geometry of Light, was an immersive intervention that envisioned a contemporary lens for this important masterpiece, highlighting and expanding upon the architectural and material features of the structure. Using the 1929 German Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, as the foundation of the work, Geometry of Light created a new interpretive layer extending from the primary elements of the architecture, including the gridded plan, vertical planes, and materiality. In concert with the projected light, a custom-designed sound piece by Oriol Tarragó is integral to this experience.

By emphasizing the open floor plan and material selections, Geometry of Light heightened the illusion of physical and material boundaries. Focused on the gridded plan of the pavilion, a grid of light animated the architecture to accentuate the flowing space as it permeates through the interior and exterior. The animated lines of light were choreographed to trace, highlight, and alter the composition of the pavilion. 

The first of two interventions celebrating Mies van der Rohe, Geometry of Light was also presented at the iconic Farnsworth House, in Plano, Illinois, October 11-13, 2019, coinciding with the third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.


White Wanderer | NRDC booth at EXPO Chicago

White Wanderer, an intervention of sound and light

Developed from relationships with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a glaciologist at the University of Chicago, this project launched in October 2017 with two iterations: 2 Riverfront Plaza and another at Art Expo Chicago. The immersive installation at 2 Riverside Plaza was comprised of a visual representation at 1:5000 scale of the 120-mile long crack on the side of the building paired with a custom sound recording of the iceberg. Sound recordings of Larsen-C covered the plaza with a prominent frequency; at times the city and iceberg sounds correlate to one another and at other times they are in conflict. The haunting, eerie iceberg sound is animalistic with a depth that connects on a visceral level, stirring curiosity to create awareness and action. The White Wanderer exhibition at EXPO Chicago presented artistic interpretations of the Larsen-C ice shelf, including: a light sculpture mimicking ice flow, prints tracing satellite images of Arctic ice flows, and interpretations of radar readings from ice distress.


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Corner of a Square | The Arts Club of Chicago

Looking at the corner of a square, Luftwerk unpacked the Arts Club of Chicago’s iconic staircase designed by Mies van der Rohe with this installation. The 90-degree angular lines in his buildings are also the primary structure of the stair. While these forms have a strong and rigid geometry, there is a lot space within them. To explore this space, Luftwerk created an abstract stepped armature that, when viewed from the correct angle, appears as a square. Rigid lines are softened by the halo emerging from the light outlining the sculpture. This interpretation of Mies highlights the softness of space that exists within strong geometric forms.

This custom-designed structure was created for the garden of the Arts Club of Chicago, bringing the exploration of the interior, outside. From Luftwerk’s research and interaction with buildings by Mies, they see something metaphysical that transcends the materiality and rigid geometry of his architecture. Through this installation they express this quality, framing the space within the framework while diffusing the lines of the piece with the glow of light.


Turning Sky | The 606

In 2015, a disused train line running through Chicago’s west side opened as an elevated trail named the 606 to the public. The 606 was conceived as a living work of art with plans to integrate temporary and permanent installations throughout the functional trail.

Turning Sky is a lighting station, located at the Milwaukee Ave intersection on the 606 that visualizes ephemeral conditions of the city: the local weather and atmospheric conditions on the trail. Highlighting the physical infrastructure of the trail, LED light nodes trace the suspension cables on a bridge and transmit information through colored lights. This installation is both a visually compelling and informative. Adding dynamism and more light to the trail, the LED lights also transmit real time information. Over time, the information it transmits will change—the inaugural display reflected wind patterns and speed, with future plans to visualize real time air quality for nearby residents.

Using data from The Array of Things, an urban sensing project in Chicago, Turning Sky is able to visualize and communicate conditions of the city. The partnership between the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and the City of Chicago has placed data collection nodes throughout the city and was developed to better understand, serve, and improve the city through this data. While the collected data is free and open to the public, this project creates a user-friendly and accessible visualization of these data. This is the first project by Luftwerk that pulls from a live data stream.



bLUMEN | Homan Square

(blume : German for ‘flower.’ | lumen : Latin for ‘light.’)

bLUMEN is a site-specific sculptural pavilion combining art, architecture, and technology to create a flourishing plant-growth environment that engages and connects with the Homan Square community. With bLUMEN, we envision how design can transform and activate sites into fertile ground for creativity, innovation, and social interaction.

Modular in form, the temporary pavilion is formed by six 10-foot tall hexagonal steel structures connected to one another, forming an urban canopy. The canopy acts as the physical framework for fifteen interconnected horticulture LED grow lights that help grow a small selection of plants and vegetables. With access to healthy and fresh food being an issue in the Homan Square and North Lawndale communities, bLUMEN focuses on food as a core issue to gather the community and help the effort of other local initiatives working on nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

The asymmetric steel structure organizes and activates the currently underutilized site, creating a new public space for Homan Square residents and visitors. With its pink glow generated by the grow lights, bLUMEN extends the daily use of the space, allowing for temporary and seasonal interventions to take place day and night. Whether to host established and existing programs or new and spontaneous interventions, we hope bLUMEN becomes a new and exciting gathering place for the Homan Square community and all Chicago residents.

The bLUMEN pavilion was designed and built as part of the bLUMEN summer course taught by Luftwerk and MAS Studio and organized by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects and the Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration in August of 2016.

Mauerschau | Bayerische Staatsoper

Mauerschau is Hauke Berheide’s operatic interpretation of Penthesilea—Heinrich von Kleist’s 1808 tragedy about the mythological Amazon queen. The opera imagines a tumultuous, raging war in an emotional drama highlighting the complicated, abstract reality embedded in these conflicts.

Luftwerk’s design for the stage and video content for this opera reflected the confusion inherent in war. They set the tone of the opera with Roger Fenton’s iconic 1855 image of war—one in which a staged propaganda photo frames a distorted reality. Stemming from this, patterns derived from Morse code and Dazzle camouflage further highlight the abstract realm of war. Using forced perspective the set gives the illusion of a greater depth, altering the viewer’s perception and abstracting reality.

Using a mix of historic and contemporary visual materials, the set connected the historic story of war into the present in an atmospheric design. Together, the design elements set the mood of the opera while looking at how abstraction can exist in the reality of photography and the similarities of wars throughout time. Abstract details of message, approach, and history reside within and are reflected through this design for Mauerschau.


Die Deutsche Bühne

Süddeutsche Zeitung

transLIT | The 606

transLIT was developed for the opening celebration of Chicago’s newest public park with an elevated pathway, the 606. The event was located Humboldt Boulevard viaduct and temporarily closed off for the public to experience and celebrate the 606. Imagery of flora and fauna filled this site-specific video installation, which was projected onto the surfaces of the newly repurposed urban infrastructure. Highlighting the birth and growth of this new public space for Chicago, this project gave light—literally and symbolically—to the future of this important public park.







INTO AND OUT OF | The Franklin

This site-specific installation was developed as a pair of extended and compressed mirrored portals. INTO and OUT of fragmented and reflected the interior of THE FRANKLIN gallery space and the surrounding exterior environment. This experimental installation used the reflective surfaces, depth of field, and site conditions to manipulate the perspective and experience of the space. Luftwerk developed this using all the material from each panel with no waste—some forms were designed to create an open space to go into, while others were created out of the negative space from the design. The mirrored, front-facing side of the installation was contrasted with the back black and created an unexpected void to highlight the negative and positive space within the work.

MAS Context X Luftwerk X Marina City

Luftwerk created this animated display in celebration of architect Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Marina City. This site-specific installation incorporated the basic elements of the building as it was projected around the central core on the rooftop of Marina City. Goldberg was largely known for his disinterest in creating straight, formal buildings like his predecessor Mies van der Rohe; Luftwerk used this difference as an inspiration in this piece. Half circles and petal shaped imagery interplayed with geometric and curved lines to explore the innate characteristics of Goldberg’s architecture. Located in the center of downtown Chicago, the installation incorporated views the surrounding architecture of the city.