sofa Collaboration

Production Team

Advisors: Monica Correia, Head of 3D Design

Bryon Winn, Director of Theatre

Team Leader: Huda Al-Aithan

Lighting Design: Courtney Gaston

Team Members: James Tran, Yiran Li, Jixuan Zhu, Ninglu Zhang

Kaileigh Funaro, Lingyi Liu, Yucheng Guo


Site Specific


Fall 2019

Budget for this Design Area

Total: $1500.00

Comments by the Designer

In the Spring of 2019, I was brought on as the lighting designer for a collaborative project with the University’s 3D Art Department. We were to create an installation that encouraged connection through form and function for the Connect Student Competition in conjunction with the SOFA (Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art and Design) Expo at Chicago’s infamous Navy Pier. The 3D Art Department was responsible for the development and construction of the structure and I added electrical and lighting components to compliment that design. Our proposal was accepted for display at the Expo and our installation received first place by a jury of design professionals.

The design elements of seating, lighting, and objects or staging were to be used to create a space that expo-goers and other artists could stop and connect within. As our exhibit was seldom empty and the background for many group photos, we felt that we succeeded in that mission. Our concept focused on nature and the weaving of birds’ nests to create an immersive space. Using ropes that wove in and around a skeletal beam structure, a world was created where light could be used to project shadows and dramatic highlight with up-lighting from behind benches for viewer seating. I chose to enhance the organic nature of the space by adding a subtle pulsing of intensity and color that imperceptibly moved as viewers made their way through the installation. Using a range of color in the red-to-purple range, the ropes appeared to emanate their own light. Warm ambers from above created an inviting warmth that drew people into the space to escape the chaos of the expo for a moment.

We initially constructed the installation at the University of Iowa in an art gallery over the course of five days. It then had to be disassembled and loaded into a 16’ truck. We had two eight-hour build days before adjudication took place on the third day. An educational experience for all involved, I was able to lend my experience with fast-paced load-ins and builds to set-up the installation within the two-day period we were allotted. I also created a contained control system within one of the benches that hid all of our equipment to make the installation look clean and composed. Over the course of the expo, I was able to hear feedback from other artists and viewers as they entered and exited the installation which was very useful in understanding how art is consumed by the public. After three days of display, we disassembled the structure and brought it back to Iowa.

Student Type



Copyright 2020 Courtney Gaston