LED rings floating above DC Wharf plaza invite visitors to merchants

June 30, 2020
Gilmore Lighting Design used iLight Plexineon SSL technology in an outdoor project at the District Wharf development in Washington, DC, suspending LED rings to invite visitors into the space.

In Washington, DC within an easy walk of the National Mall, iLight has supplied an outdoor solid-state lighting (SSL) project at the 24-acre development called District Wharf (sometimes locally referred to as The Wharf) inviting residents and visitors into the entry plaza. Gilmore Lighting Designed conceived and executed the concept where LED-lit rings are suspended above the plaza, seeming to float in mid-air and invite pedestrians to visit the restaurants and retailers on the ground floor of the development.

District Wharf is home to residences and a variety of hospitality-oriented businesses including hotels and restaurants and the historic Oyster Shed that has been restored as part of the Washington Fish Market. The public plaza boasts scenic views of the Potomac River, waterfront activity, and the new buildings in the development. Increasingly, such projects both indoors and out are using SSL to invite people into a space and even invoke a story. For example, we covered a new hotel in San Diego that used suspended LED objects in the lobby and through a glass roof to play animations.

In The Wharf project, LAB was the landscape architect and brought Gilmore Lighting Design into the project for special lighting of the main plaza. The challenge was functional egress lighting that used minimal energy. And Debra Gilmore, president of Gilmore Lighting Design, wanted to create a unique treatment, saying, “Our philosophy and attitude about solving egress lighting is to also create a beautiful night environment.”

The project design is based on an angled catenary system of virtually invisible cables that suspend LED rings of various sizes in a seemingly random yet inviting pattern. Gilmore had worked often with iLight Plexineon SSL technology that is supplied on curved surfaces. The Wharf would require customized fixtures, and iLight examined Gilmore’s drawings and confirmed that the company could fabricate the rings.

Ultimately, the rings alone would be a nice element of The Wharf public plaza. But the sum of the parts is far greater as the rings reflect onto the buildings and other structures. “During design, building tenants adjacent to the entry were unknown. A Tiki bar added a lot of colored lights that reflect on the rings in a unique way,” Gilmore says. “The way the Plexineon Rings interact with blue lighting along a nearby overpass is another happy surprise. The reflections are really fun. The serendipitous quality of light never ceases to amaze me.”

SSL technology from iLight has been utilized in a number of notable projects. A few years back, we covered a new hotel project in Portland, ME where Plexineon technology was applied on the façade of the hotel, creating a statement in the primarily low-rise Old Port District. The company has also supplied entertainment venues such as a TopGolf facility.

At The Wharf, the iLight-supplied project is just a part of revitalizing what had been an underutilized asset in the US Capitol. The development has become a gathering sport for water enthusiasts and a go-to entertainment location for visitors and residents.

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.