The Seattle area has a strong history of public art — so much that when Puget Sound Energy wanted to build a new electrical substation in Redmond, integration of art was required in order to secure a development permit.
The utility commissioned artist Ellen Sollod to bring an artful solution to this infrastructure project. She recommended transforming the 70-foot galvanized steel transmission pole into an expression of the substation’s mission to deliver electricity reliably and elegantly.
Sollod conceived the design, including the lighting scheme, that ultimately won city approval. “We drew from the industrial elements of the site and the electrical system for inspiration,” says Sollod, whose design called for painting the pole deep blue, then installing 13 stainless steel bands up to one inch off the pole, spacing them incrementally wider from each other as the pole rises. Sollod then installed 13 Plexineon fixtures from iLight Technologies atop the bands, creating rings of light.
During the day, the bands reinforce the site’s industrial character, conveying a high-tech aesthetic. At night, the “neon” look of Plexineon celebrates the power of electricity. Sollod selected Plexineon for the application because she wanted lines of light that would be more clear than diffuse, that would hold up in an outdoor application, and that offered maximum programmability.
Working collaboratively with DMX programmer Karl Treibs, she developed a variable, 20-minute program that also uses dimming. With 13 power supplies and wiring running into the pole and down to a utility cabinet 20 feet away, Sollod says the set up was “pretty complex” but worth the effort.