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Kendall lights up

View of the Welcome center showing the lighting installation as it wraps around the building.
Ty Cole

Visitors to the new MIT Welcome Center in Kendall Square can’t miss one manifestation of the Institute’s creative, hands-on culture: MIT Illuminations, a programmable lighting installation launched by MIT Admissions, MIT Open Space Programming, and SoSo, an experiential design firm founded by alums. 

The installation spans 120 linear feet, indirectly illuminating an acoustical fabric frieze. Software written by SoSo transforms scientific imagery, audio streams, and data feeds—a Doc Edgerton photo, a live lecture, an API tracking clean energy usage—into a variety of colorful lighting effects.

The project is open source: MIT staff envision a variety of partners contributing content, and all the code that controls the lights has been published to GitHub with simple instructions for how to create a similar system at home.

“The lights, like the MIT community, are colorful, evolving, and full of life,” says Chris Peterson, SM ’13, director of special projects at MIT Admissions and Student Financial Services. “We wanted to highlight the human element of MIT with an installation that felt as vivid and organic as our community in fact is, and that could serve as an educational opportunity as well.”

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