Programming the Moon’s Cycle


Tidal Radiance
, a new large-scale interactive sculpture by light artist and designer Leni Schwendinger, created for the new Port Pavilion on the pier along San Diego’s waterfront, is designed to be seen both by boaters on the water and strollers moving along the Embarcadero promenade. At night, this installation will be hard to miss given its lighting is programmed to follow the lunar cycle, while also changing for seasonal compositions, including whale watching and cruise season.

According to Schwendinger, during the moon cycle, the full moon phase emanates pale blues, while the new and quarter moon phases are represented by deep and medium blue hues (see image above). In addition, the lighting design moves beyond the sculpture to the base of the building: “Light projections onto the ground plane create an immersive environment–a visual and experiential installation to engage the public.”


The sculpture itself is purposefully a bit staid by day: the goal is to the set the stage for a dramatic nightime transformation. Schwendinger says: “I envisioned a monumental sea creature emerging from the shed at night.” 

The project uses light to explore change, both natural and programmed: “Whether animated patterns or a calendar of seasonal light sequences, one of my continuing challenges is to utilize the property of light to brighten, fade, and disappear – and to respond to controlled voltages through highly sophisticated computer programming. This element of controlled changeability – combined with color symbolism – allows me to create public art that not only pleases the eye but communicates and displays nuanced messages about the environment we live in.”

Indeed, Schwendinger, who has done major projects for the New York Port Authority, and is working on redesigning the lighting for a new pedestrian-friendly Times Square (see earlier post), has long used “controlled changeability” to powerful effect. Her work on the Coney Island Parachute Jump, “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower,” transformed a theme-park landmark into a shifting beacon of light, reflecting seasons, holidays, and, again, the moon’s cycle.


Read an interview with Schwendinger and check out her blog, which covers her “NightSeeing Lightwalks,” or guided evening tours of lighting, in various cities.

Image credits: Leni Schwendinger Light Projects

One thought on “Programming the Moon’s Cycle

  1. Leni Schwendinger 08/31/2011 / 4:56 pm

    It is my hope that ASLA conference attendees will visit this project during the San Diego convocation!

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