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A Trip to the Sensorio Fiber Optic Lighting Installation

The 5-acre display is an impressive use of solar-powered fiber optic lighting technology.

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Sensorio Paso Robles
From the highest vantage point you can look down and see most of the installation. Numerous pathways allow you to meander through these alluring the fields of light. Photo by Randall Whitehead

I took a trip to Paso Robles, CA to see an amazing lighting installation called Sensorio. It was a mesmerizing experience. This vast art piece was created by Bruce Munro. He took five acres of rolling fields and installed over 58,800 stemmed spheres which are lit by fiber optics. We were invited to come and experience the space for an hour before nightfall. 

It was quite impressive to see these vast fields of what look like dandelion "puff balls," spreading for what seemed like miles and miles. Then, as the sky grew darker and the sun dropped below the hills, the space really began to come alive. Walking through the meandering pathways you could see these glowing flower-like orbs in all directions. Gently, they changed colors over time, painting the dark hills with illumination. It was absolutely breathtaking. 

And even though there were other people, you could only see their silhouettes floating through the fields. People spoke in hushed tones, if at all. No flash photography was allowed, so there was nothing to interrupt the ethereal feel. There were no city lights competing with the installation, so you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps on another planet.

Sensorio Paso Robles
During the day you can see what the installation looks like without a lighting. It’s hard to imagine how long it took for all of these individual orbs to be installed. Photo by Randall Whitehead.

I kind of considered fiber optics as old technology, once light emitting diodes (LEDs) had come onto the market. Once I saw the beauty of it, I can see why the use of fiber optics was the way to go. The color transitions seemed more fluid and the intensity of light much more subtle than LEDs.

Sensorio Paso Robles
A closeup of the field shows with the port’s look like when they are illuminated. Gradually they change from color to color, creating an undulating carpet of light. Photo by Randall Whitehead.

Impressively, the whole installation is solar powered. None of the solar collectors were visible, so my guess is that they are located on the other side of a distant hill to hide them from view. During the day, you could see the locations of the illuminators. They were housed in black boxes so that you couldn’t see the originating light source. It also felt that the colors were more subtle than we see in LEDs. 

Sensorio Paso Robles
In the middle the image above you can see one of the illuminators, with the fiber optic bundles trailing off along the hillside and into the individual orbs. Photo by Randall Whitehead.

Note: After sunset, it got chilly really fast. I did not dress as warmly as I should have and bought a cup of coffee to hold onto while I strolled through the property, just to stay warm. If you go in the next two months I would recommend a well insulated jacket, a hat, gloves and a scarf. The show closes June 30, 2020. If you do get a chance to go and see it, I would really recommend it. They also have food, drinks and live music so that you can make a night of it. Take a look at their app Sensorio Paso or their website.

Randall Whitehead headshot

Randall Whitehead is an educator and author on the subject of lighting design. His work has been featured in many magazines, including Architectural Digest, Home & Garden and Esquire. He has appeared as a guest expert on HGTV, Discovery, CNN and Martha Stewart Living Radio.

His Latest book Beautiful Light outlines how to create successful and subtly beautiful LED lighting designs for homes and gardens. Available through Amazon and Rutledge Books.

You can see his entertaining 1-minute instructional videos at furniturelightingdecor.com. And you can follow him on Instagram:  @randall.whitehead


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