JANESVILLE, Wis.—To transform the pedestrian bridges over the Rock River area of Janesville, Wisconsin into a vibrant and welcoming public space, Bluechip Labs deployed a range of dynamic and durable HARMAN Professional audio and lighting solutions.
Centered around Resilience, a sculpture designed by artist Deedee Morrison at the center of the new Heritage Pedestrian Bridge, the installation consists of dynamic lighting and sound for three bridges and two new parks that give Janesville a much-needed recreational area and outdoor city center.
Private revitalization group ARISEnow commissioned the installation as part of an urban revitalization campaign to showcase Janesville’s history and natural beauty, reinvigorate the community and engage with visitors. Due to the Rock River’s fluctuating water levels and Wisconsin’s intense seasons, the city wanted a lighting and audio system for the bridges that could withstand harsh outdoor conditions while also being budget-friendly and visually stunning. To meet these requirements, AV integrator Bluechip Labs utilized cutting-edge solutions by Martin, JBL Professional, Crown and BSS.
“I was approached because ARISEnow was looking to install lighting for the city, but were faced with many technical challenges within a fixed budget,” said Stephen Phillips, Founder and Lead Engineer, Bluechip Labs. “I looked at the top companies that could provide the best lighting at the right price, and the choice was Martin. Also, Janesville gets 90 to 100 degrees in the summer and then heavy snow and high winds in the winter, and the bridge is on a fast-moving river that tends to flood. So I knew I had to put up some really tough fixtures that could survive the weather and possibly debris coming down the river.”
The lighting system includes more than 200 Martin Pixline 20 linear LED fixtures, which feature full-spectrum color programming and wide-coverage diffusion for strong and eye-catching visuals. Rather than use the fixtures to cast striking beams of light outward from the structure, Phillips instead turned the fixtures around and aimed them towards each bridge face using custom-made mounts. The result is a striking wash that covers the entire structure with no hot spots or gaps, transforming the bridges into iconic vistas in Janesville.
“The goal was to make the bridges look like they were illuminated from the inside or like it was painted, and I couldn’t figure out any way to do it with a normal round light,” explained Phillips, “But with the Martin Pixlines, I was able to find the right placement and amount of light density to hit the bridge just right. They gave me the flexibility I needed to paint the bridge in a way that didn't look like it was externally illuminated.”
Additionally, Martin Exterior Wash 200 fixtures illuminate the areas underneath the bridges to match the Pixline fixtures’ saturated color and even coverage. While other designs aimed to place six to eight wash lights per pier on the bridges, Phillips found that just one Exterior Wash 200 with a diffuser lens produced a 50-foot wide beam that provided more than sufficient coverage for the bridges’ inner walls. Crucially, the Exterior Wash 200 also features an IP66-rated enclosure, making it well-equipped to withstand weather conditions and the Rock River’s fast-moving waters.
For the art sculpture above the Heritage pedestrian bridge, with metal arches meant to resemble branches and nine-foot leaves made of glass, 24 Martin HP Exterior Dots with clear lenses add additional color and shading to the structure at night. Capable of a variety of colors and effects, the IP66-rated fixtures allow city staff to easily switch between clear lights, color blends and even a strobe effect that mimics rustling leaves in the wind. Finally, the Martin P3-050 system controller offers simple and responsive programming for the entire system, and several Martin Powerport 1000 power supplies deliver signals to fixtures in harder-to-reach areas.
“I was initially just going to do white lights for the sculpture,” said Phillips. “But then I thought with the Dots, you can get white light and, if the city decides to add color to the sculpture two or three years from now, that feature will be ready to go.”
For the audio component, Phillips installed JBL AWC62 weatherproof compact speakers powered by Crown CDi 4|600 amplifiers and a BSS BLU-100 processor on the pedestrian bridge and surrounding area for discreet background music. He is currently working on software that will allow for both the audio and light systems to be controlled from one source, which will enable city staff to easily program the lights and sound on the bridge for special events.
City officials have praised the new system for making the bridges welcoming communal spaces, which have already begun to attract locals and visitors alike. Phillips added that he looks forward to seeing how the bridges transform Janesville for the better.
“I was always the last one on-site while working out there, and I had many people come up to me and tell me how this was giving Janesville a new town center––something it has never really had before,” said Phillips. “As I continued working, more and more people were out there. Now, you’ve got hundreds of people strolling around on the weekends. There’s a fire pit, two pavilions, plenty of seating and a weekend farmer’s market. It’s completely changed the feel of the area. It was pretty powerful to see.”