Adjoining the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, the engineering café Ground serves as an oasis and meeting spot for students and faculty from across campus, uniting many different disciplines within an engineering space. The café was designed to have a high-tech theme and function, with a signature 356-square-foot piece of programmable art that nearly covers one wall and wraps across the ceiling. The screen includes over 23,000 LED lights, with each light individually programmable, and displays custom images and video. This feature offers a blank “art canvas” to showcase the artistic side of engineering in both education and research, as well as for use as an interpretive creation surface.
The popular concept of LED art is led by industry pioneer and Yale alum Leo Villareal. The Yale-affiliated aspect of the project extends well beyond Villareal and helps make this installation “Uniquely Yale,” with the team of contributors including Philips/Color Kinetics CEO Jeff Cassis (Yale Environmental Engineering MS alum), architects Rich and Rob Charney (Yale School of Architecture alums), and installation guide Ted Pearlman (known as the “NYC King of LED”), who is the parent of a Yale undergrad. This Yale-associated team collaborated over a period of eight months to design and place the Yale SEAS installation – a creation that is unlike any other around the world.
Students have direct access to the LED canvas, allowing anyone from across Yale – not just engineering, but art and design majors, as well as those in the sciences (from both graduate and undergraduate programs) – the chance to produce content for the encapsulating surface. As with the café itself, this interactive feature wall serves as a magnet to draw in a wide spectrum of students and faculty, thereby enabling Yale community members who might not otherwise interact to do so in a space designed to promote creativity and the exchange of information. In that light, the wall is a natural extension of the adjoining Center for Engineering Innovation & Design – a site that is both a physical center and an intellectual hub for creativity.