Museums | Exhibits | Museum of Science and Industry |

Numbers in Nature

Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL | 2014

Lightswitch Architectural designed the lighting for the entire exhibit, including the mirror maze, entrance, theater, interactive spaces and cases.

What It Was

You don’t have to be Einstein to understand the mathematics of nature. The Museum of Science and Industry’s new all-LED exhibit, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, explores how mathematical patterns, like spirals, the “golden ratio” (ɸ) and fractal branching, appear in nature. Designed by Luci Creative, the 7,500-sf exhibit deconstructs these complex concepts for children through the use of a 1,800-sf mirror maze, interactive displays and learning stations.

What We Did

Lightswitch Architectural designed the lighting for the entire exhibit, including the mirror maze, entrance, theater, interactive spaces and cases. The exhibit uses only LED sources, a major first for the museum. Fittingly, the project presented a difficult mathematical challenge for us: how to replicate the perfect patterns seen in nature with lighting. We started by integrating RGB LEDs into the floor along the base of the mirrors. Then we illuminated the 3-D trees that line the walls with LED tape. Reflected in the mirrored surfaces, the floor and tree lights create a seemingly infinite field of geometric patterns. The maze alone features approximately 30,000 LEDs, including custom, integrated emergency exit lighting that doesn’t distract from the exhibit lighting. The lamps include wirelessly controlled, individually addressable RGB AW PAR38 lamps that were color tuned to complement the objects they illuminated. We also added projections to the entrance and worked with exhibit fabricators Ravenswood Studios to integrate LED fiber-optic lighting into the cases.

Why It Worked

As a leader in SSL technology and longtime MSI lighting designer, Lightswitch Architectural was the museum’s trusted partner to develop its first all-LED exhibit. Our energy-efficient, pattern-perfect design not only helped MSI to meet its sustainability goals, it also helped the museum to realize substantial savings on the project. Photos by JB Spector