Jefferson Industrial Design students recently lit up the night at historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. Founded in 1836, this National Historic Landmark along the Schuylkill River is a cornerstone of Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood. Each year the cemetery hosts its annual Soul Crawl, a two-night event featuring flashlight tours along winding, dimly-lit paths and a focus on the cemetery’s rich history and the spirits buried within. This year, Jefferson students led by senior Charles Barilo and Professor Lyn Godley, worked closely with the cemetery to turn the tours into an immersive lighting experience.
The installation featured large-scale projection mapping on the facades of prominent cemetery structures. Simply put, projection mapping is a technique used to turn large and irregularly-shaped objects (such as buildings), into display surfaces for video projection. Using specialized software, the object is spatially mapped to mimic the real environment. The software interacts with projectors to fit the desired image onto the surface of the object. Designers can use this technique to add dimension, optical illusion, and the appearance of movement onto static objects.
Charles Barilo, Zach Samalonis , and Yuhan Zhang began by visiting the cemetery to map the facade of Laurel Hill’s historic entranceway building. Worked together, they created a striking installation in which huge video elements crept along the contours of the century-old structure. For Charles Barilo, “Designing the installation this year for Laurel Hill was a blast. In addition to lighting a number of key cemetery monuments, we were able to do projection mapping on the main facade for over 400 guests. The blood dripping down the front of the building was the highlight of the show this year.”
The event also featured monuments throughout the cemetery lit with colored lights, creating vibrant and haunting effects. Students Felix Warren, Yhang Zhang, Zane Shalchi and McKenna Burns used projectors in conjunction with the lighting to bring these beautiful pieces of architecture to life. “Using the Heavy M digital mapping program, we created clouds that appeared to move behind the columns and lightning striking across the face of the building” says Felix. “It was an interesting further exploration of digital projection.”
The project wouldn’t have been possible without the enthusiastic participation of the Laurel Hill Cemetery staff throughout the design process. The event was a huge success and the students look forward to creating an even larger installation next year. “Working on projects that allow you to watch people take photos and videos of your work is always a pretty awesome sight to see,” says Charles. We couldn’t agree more.