Luminous Veil Challenges Well Worth Westbury’s Effort

Westbury National wins the 2016 Integration Award in the government category for its Luminous Veil lighting project.

Photos & Slideshow
View the slideshow View the slideshow

The Prince Edward Viaduct or Bloor Street Viaduct, as its more commonly known, is a 1,620-foot bridge built in 1918 to span Toronto’s Don River and Don River Valley. With five traffic lanes, two bicycle lanes and two subway tracks, it is a major east/west midtown thoroughfare towering 131 feet above what is now Toronto’s busiest north/south freeway.

The sad reality is, for all its beauty, it’s also the second-most fatal free-standing structure in North America (after the Golden Gate Bridge), averaging, at its peak, a suicide every 22 days.

In 2003, the Toronto City Council installed a unique “suicide barrier” designed by architect Dereck Revington called the Luminous Veil on the viaduct, consisting of more than 9,000 half-inch steel rods, each 15 feet high and tensioned to cantilevered steel girders.

More than a decade later, with Toronto set to host the PanAm Games in 2015, budget was finally allocated to light the Luminous Veil. It was officially unveiled to the public July 4, 2015, as part of the Games’ Torch Relay.

And in 2016, the project became the third CI Integration Award in as many categories for Westbury National, joining its honors in the large venue category in 2014 for work at the Buffalo Sabres’ First Niagara Center and the 2015 kudos in the museum category for its work at the Aga Khan Museum.

The Luminous Veil lighting system was designed by Paul Boken, VP of Mulvey and Banani Lighting, in conjunction with Revington. Westbury National had previously worked with Boken on lighting the award-winning Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y., and was invited to participate in the technical, infrastructure and control design.

Revington imagined the Luminous Veil to be a “harp played by the wind” and “a painting of time and light on a 500-meter canvas.” As conceived, all changes in the lighting colors, patterns and tempo are determined by temperature, wind velocity, wind direction and season. This required complex digital integration between a weather station, the artist’s “wave tank” video graphics design and, ultimately, more than 600 color-changing LED fixtures.

Integrator Takeaways:
1. The toughest jobs can become the most rewarding, and high-profile work can often lead to more opportunities
2. Although it took years for this project to get funding, but patience helped as it’s now among the most-discussed aspects of Toronto
3. Don’t limit yourself to one market if you see opportunities in others; Westbury’s awards demonstrate excellence in three verticals

End User Takeaways:
1. Cool projects bring about community pride
2. Technology can be used to solve major life-and-death concerns
3. There are unique solutions to any problem

Equipment Highlights:
MOXA industrial Ethernet switch, Westbury National LED mounting brackets, Green Hippo media server, Crestron remote automation and monitoring processor

Boken designed and specified the lighting system, including the precise positioning of the fixtures to maximize impact on and illumination of the Luminous Veil’s steel rods. Westbury National was asked to assist in the design of the weather-to-graphics-to-lighting control system, network communications and remote health-monitoring system as well as the custom brackets needed to mount the LED fixtures to the bridge.

The mounts were particularly challenging because structural engineers did not permit any drilling into the nearly 100-year-old steel structure. The control system was also challenging as it would need to accommodate not only the Luminous Veil’s fixtures but also the much larger number of lights needed to illuminate the entire underside and support columns of the five-span truss-arch structure.

Westbury integrated the output of a Gill MaxiMet weather station with a Datataker DT82e data logger and the artist’s custom Studio F Minus weather-to-video simulation software installed on a Stealth SR2500P industrial rack mount server/PC. The formatted weather data was then used to trigger a proprietary video interface that became the color, motion and pattern content source for what is effectively a 10-pixel high by 1600-pixel wide display screen.

The video source was formatted using a Green Hippo ‘Hippotizer v4 Amba media server and distributed over fiber using Pathway eDIN DMX/RDM gateways to the two Hammond cabinets at either end of the bridge housing the power supplies and data controllers for the +600 LED fixtures.

A Crestron RMC3 processor is used to provide remote network status and system-health monitoring, remote power-cycling capability as well as other operating diagnostics and email fault reporting. Two Panasonic WVSW396 exterior IP cameras are used for remote visual inspections and observations.

All system components are networked together with a system of MOXA EDS P510A industrial POE switches and power is maintained with a Middle Atlantic UPS 2200R.

Although finished on time and reportedly under budget, the Prince Edward Viaduct’s Luminous Veil lighting project was among the most challenging in Westbury National’s history. Because the Viaduct is a major east/west traffic corridor for both vehicular traffic and mass transit, the hours available for Guild Electric, the prime contractor, to mount, cable and power the LED fixtures were severely limited.

The City of Toronto closed the Prince Edward Viaduct to traffic the evening of July 4, 2015 and held a massive public street party to reveal the Luminous Veil lighting system. In recognition of the PanAm Games Torch Relay and the upcoming opening ceremonies one of the first lighting programs highlighted the colors of the flags of all 41 countries participating.

The lighting, which comes to life 25 minutes after sunset every day and turns off at sunrise, is now a permanent part of Toronto’s skyline and is a welcome beacon for the tens of thousands of commuters each day on the north and southbound Don Valley Parkway.

Check out the video below to see the Luminous Veil lighting system in action. (Source: Torontopia)

Click here to meet all of the 2016 Integration Award winners.