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Aug 27 2014

NYIT Architecture Professor Helps Illuminate Burning Man Festival

(August 27, 2014) -- One hundred fifteen miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, hard against the backdrop of the vast Black Rock Desert, a three-sided luminous acrylic pyramid rises two stories from the dusty earth, beckoning thousands of pilgrims inside to experience a nightly kaleidoscope of light.

Luz 2.0 at Burning Man FestivalThree London architects from the firm Red Deer created the piece, known as Luz 2.0, for the Burning Man festival, and NYIT School of Architecture and Design Associate Professor Charles Matz helped bring it to life with logistics management and a visionary combination of lighting and computer programming.

Matz and his team spent months designing the special system that provides a spectacular experience akin to a colorful atmospheric light display.  An interactive sensor reacts to sound and video input as visitors walk around and enter the pyramid. The sounds and visuals trigger an electronic relay that runs a lighting system. Based on the signals, the information is translated into a pattern of light specific to each visitor.

“Essentially what you get is a kind of glowing pyramid which has what I call the Northern Lights projected on it – a moving, streaming light show,” said Matz. “As people walk in and make sounds, it changes into something that’s much more vivacious and alive.”

Tens of thousands of people trek to the annual Burning Man event which is dedicated to fostering a spirit of self-reliance, art, and community. This year’s festival was to begin on Monday but was delayed by heavy rain. The festival opened Tuesday and will run through Sept. 1.

Matz said Luz 2.0 has the feeling of “a sacred object sitting on the plateau” as it rises above the desert floor. The piece, funded by a grant from Burning Man, is powered by a bank of generators. In daylight, it reflects the wide open landscape and desert sky.

Matz, whose expertise in the large-scale construction management of installations has been on display at The Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, was happy to work with the London colleagues who collaborated in last year’s NYIT-Oxford Brookes School of Architecture and Design exchange.

“It’s a group effort. The idea was to give people a sense of the thing being alive – and to determine what the best method was to do that with a transparent object. Our role was to execute that.”

Matz said he was assisted by Matt Cornelius, a media lab specialist at NYIT College of Arts and Sciences, who helped vet ideas for the system’s interactive components.

BurningMan FestivalAfter the pyramid was designed by the Red Deer architects, it was shipped in pieces to the United States and assembled and programmed with lights and electrical components. It was then disassembled, packed in a dozen crates and flown to Nevada. A 5-mile-per hour speed limit across the desert meant it took about three hours to bring it to the remote installation site.

“That brought it home to everyone,” said Matz, “about how interesting the landscape of the United States is, and how varied and exotic some parts of it are.”

Other project participants include: Joseph Pastor Curatorial Outcomes; BML Blackbird Theatrical Services, StructureMode, Weber Industries, Mogees, Les Mechants, and Amazzle.

(Upper photo by Red Deer; lower photo by Luz 2.0 Team.)

About NYIT

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has more than 12,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team.
Led by President Edward Guiliano, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, nearly 100,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit

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