Matthew Placzek’s LED-lit sculpture 'Spirit' welcomes Children's Hospital patients

March 25, 2015
A whimsical LED-lit sculpture helps brighten the outlook for Children's Hospital patients and their families, using LED striplights and drivers to illuminate the installation.

A whimsical LED-lit sculpture helps brighten the outlook for Children's Hospital patients and their families, using LED striplights and drivers to illuminate the installation.

Children’s Hospitals, spread across the US and located in Canada and Australia, do a fantastic job of helping even very sick children believe that better health is on the way. Still, entering any hospital is a daunting experience for children, leading the University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital to commission a kid-friendly, LED-lit artwork project at the hospital entrance. The aptly named “Spirit” sculpture, by artist Matthew Placzek, is intended to raise the spirit of children entering the hospital and makes unique use of solid-state lighting (SSL).

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The 140-ft-long Spirit sculpture includes twelve kites formed with stainless-steel frames and brightly-colored acrylic panels that complete the kite structure. LEDs light the kites at night, adding dynamic displays of color and a sense of movement and excitement. The LED-lit artwork also includes larger-than-life bronze sculptures of three children running with the kites.

“I wanted these pieces to come alive at night; the lighting provides a whole different look in the dark,” said Placzek. “The kites essentially float — you don’t see the tails — and because they’re all illuminated from within, they make a visually pleasing presentation.”

Indeed, the depiction of childhood happiness helps set entering patients and their families at ease. The LED-lit artwork captures the innocence of youth and is intended to engender a feeling of hopefulness.

Each of the kites is illuminated by 5000 LEDs. The implementation uses Wet Blaze LED strips from Diode LED with 40–50 ft of the strips in each kite. The strips are not meant for submerged usage, but as the name implies are rated for wet locations. Indeed, Diode LED sells specialized waterproof connectors for outdoor applications.

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Placzek concealed the LED strips by placing them into channels in the kite frames. LED drivers are hidden in the base of the sculpture. The project relies on 60W Class 2 transformers to deliver the 12V input required by the strips.

Architectural firm Miles & Associates was responsible for planning and commissioning the Spirit project that is located in Oklahoma City, OK. The firm opened the process to artists around the world through a request-for-qualifications process. Ultimately, three of nearly 200 interested artists were chosen to develop proposals for the entryway sculpture, with Placzek winning the project.

More on LED-lit artwork installations:
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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.