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ArtsUnion Beacon

A beacon for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts’s, historic firehouse aims to give identity to Union Square and the city beyond. A replacement for the building’s cupola, long-since demolished, our design is composed of eight curved, extruded shells that suggest the arched openings of the original, making solid form of the historical voids.

Surfaced in brushed stainless steel, these shells glow from within when they receive illumination from below, as if someone left a light on in the tower, shining out. With the remaining cupola structure rendered invisible the beacon is a kind of ethereal remnant of the tower’s past. The effect is both soft and striking: a rounded, gentle, but bright light emerges from within the shells, stopping sharply at their edges. The dark, vertical voids formed in between reference the columns that once held up the cupola’s roof.

The form of the shells directs the light outward and down, eliminating almost all light pollution while engaging the passerby. Outfitted with an energy-efficient LED lighting system that can produce almost any desired color, the lights will be programmed to change color in coordination with events in Somerville’s Union Square. By day the shells are naturally lit from all sides, expressing their true three-dimensional forms and reflecting ambient colors from the city and sky.