Crystal Tributaries

Made by hqq, jingyang liu, Alex Lin and smcallis

Crystal Tributaries is an homage to the three flowing rivers of Pittsburgh, which define this city as a terminus for industry, manufacturing, and processing - but also for art, technology, and culture. Rigid tesselations bend and break through airport corridors, illuminating as light on water's surface. Ephemeral and current, Crystal Tributaries is fundamentally Pittsburgh.

Created: October 8th, 2018

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Crystal Tributaries
Johanna McAllister - https://vimeo.com/293885857
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Introduction

Crystal Tributaries is a passive installation designed specifically for the Pittsburgh International Airport. In the context of the airport, we imagine that anyone who has traveled to or been in the city has in some way interacted with the Three Rivers. Given how deeply embedded the rivers are in the history and culture of Pittsburgh, the airport serves as the perfect introduction to put Pittsburgh's rivers on an emphatic display. 

The installation curves and undulates in various points of the airport, coursing through like the rivers. Because the airport plays host to people who are trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, Crystal Tributaries acts like stillwater, stopping guests in their tracks as they admire the ephemeral experiences that surround them.  

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Design and Development

The design of Crystal Tributaries is composed of three parts. 

  • The outermost layer is a tessellated pattern folded out of one-way mirror film. This takes the form of a refracted folded service made to mimic the reflection of water that has been illuminated with light. This form was born through rigorous folding techniques rooted in origami. This form was decided on because of its manipulability, flexibility, and its ability to contract to change the way it catches light. Furthermore, the one-way mirror generates a sense of transparency when light is shined on it, creating an illusion that the form is not there. Underneath this layer, more opaque tessellated pieces are placed throughout the installation to play with the reflective nature, giving the illusion of changing depth in the installation. 
  • The second component is the lighting scheme. This is comprised of roughly two dozen LED string lights arranged in a winding pattern. TouchDesigner serves as the conductor of a light orchestra of sorts, creating a flowing light pattern that changes color and speed to match the currents of the Three Rivers. In TouchDesigner, video feed of sparkling water was hyperfocused and edited. This is mapped using the LEDs, creating the look of sparkling water. 
  • The fourth component is a mirrored base. This served as a platform to mount the installation on, but also served to create a sense of volume and depth. In employing the mirror, Crystal Tributaries doubles itself, and viewers get a view of the installation from the outside and within at the same time. 
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Guest Experience

The installation flows throughout the airport, culminating in the atrium space as the render above depicts. People coming to the Pittsburgh International Airport have a succinct goal to get to their destination, and usually hope to do so as soon as possible. Crystal Tributaries stops these people in their tracks, allowing them to admire the unique and expressive view. The tributaries guide people to their gates, drawing awe as they dwell on their experiences in Pittsburgh, by the rivers, where light meets ground meets water. 

We also recognize that being at the airport is often a waiting game. We chose to envision this installation following a visitor throughout their journey up until their gate. This gives them a visual cue to reflect on their experiences as they wait to take off. 


With its distinctive form and reflective function, Crystal Tributaries is a summary of Pittsburgh today - still a product of its placing, but now a hub for art, technology, and their intersections. 

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Project Setup
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Progression of Tessellations and Models
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About

Crystal Tributaries is an homage to the three flowing rivers of Pittsburgh, which define this city as a terminus for industry, manufacturing, and processing - but also for art, technology, and culture. Rigid tesselations bend and break through airport corridors, illuminating as light on water's surface. Ephemeral and current, Crystal Tributaries is fundamentally Pittsburgh.