Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

LRC Graduate Students Design Lighting for Olympic Torch
By Keith Toomey
LRC design team

Recently, seven LRC graduate students presented their design concept to illuminate the Olympic Torch at Lake Placid, New York. The torch was the center of attention during the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, but over the years has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The torch was temporarily repaired and relit in 1990 for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the 1980 Games. Since then, it has burned on only a few occasions. The Lake Placid Olympic Torch Restoration Committee was formed in 2004 to begin restoration of the torch structure. The chair of that committee, Dennis Ryan, says this is a multi-year project, and the illumination system will be an important part of the restoration. “I had heard about the LRC designing the lighting for the Bennington Battle Monument in Vermont, so I contacted them about our project,” said Ryan. (Read about the Monument project.)

Students in the Lighting Design Studio class responded to Ryan’s request, and Sungho Cho, Tianming Dong, Fei Hu, Donald Peifer, Nicholas Skinner, Huiyng Wu, and Zongjie Yuan visited the torch site in November 2005. They then set about creating a lighting design that would provide the splendor of the torch during the Games, as well as its significance as a landmark to Lake Placid residents. While providing lighting for visitors, including people with special needs and older adults, the lighting would conserve energy and minimize light pollution.

Lake Placid Olympic Torch Tower

Jean Paul Freyssinier, research assistant professor and a lighting design specialist at the LRC, mentored the students during this project. Freyssinier said the students’ design was inspired by a photo of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony. “The athletes stood proudly on the parade grounds, and thousands of people watched as the torch was raised,” he said. This was framed against the backdrop of the mountains. “The students felt that this image was how this place was meant to be: dignified and with a sense of purpose.”

Their design includes illuminating the legs of the torch with white light and the cauldron with lights to simulate fire. A band of lights around the rim of the cauldron would be removed when the torch is lit for special events. The design also includes backdrop landscaping and torches set along the pathway used by the torch bearers in 1980.

Dennis Ryan said the students’ presentation for illuminating the Olympic Torch exceeded the restoration committee’s expectations. “The presentation and the design were very impressive,” said Ryan. “We have accepted their recommendations and are thrilled to have their help.” The next step in the project is to restore the exterior skin of the torch structure, as well as the observation deck for visitors. “The crowning touch,” said Ryan, “will be installing the lighting.” He then added that, upon completion of the project, a special ceremony will be held to light the torch (that is, to ignite the actual flame), which has only been done five times since the 1980 Olympic Games.

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment.


Rennselear Polytechnic Institute