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Barcode Luminescence



“Why,” remarked Award-winning landscape architect Mikyoung Kim, ASLA, of Boston, “do we come to the library? To gain knowledge. We have an intention.”

Upon visiting the Library’s Washington Street property, Kim was impressed by the Library’s extensive art programs. Informed that Library officials sought a sculpture that would capture the attention of passers-by. She considered the function that a library serves and then explored ways to translate them into eye-catching art that represents it.


"She set about designing sculptures that combined light with a design symbolizing the Library’s role as a gateway of information."


“Barcode Luminescence” was unveiled in mid-2008 and while likening knowledge to light, Kim drew on Eastern traditions for the idea of lanterns that usher seekers to their destinations.

She set about designing sculptures that combined light with a design symbolizing the Library’s role as a gateway of information.

Barcodes and scanners had replaced mechanical means of library lending by the onset of the 21st Century. While the sculpture plans were still forming, the landscapers installed black and white pavers in the courtyard entry space, creating an irregular pattern that resembled a barcode.

Kim, who first considered diamond-shaped metal mesh, then envisioned standing art that continued the barcode theme.

Barcode Luminescence
Barcode Luminescence

“Ultimately, we realized [barcode] language was a nice abstraction of this information,” she said, adding that the impact of a design based on ones and zeros would be more powerful than diamond-shaped mesh.

Fabricators at Amuneal Manufacturing of Philadelphia, created laser-cut, stainless-steel sheets. Kim decided on prismatic acrylic lanterns as the core, with the metal sheets wrapping twice around them, juxtaposed to create an abstract effect that changes as one circles the sculptures. They are offset by dark, spiraling metal “ribbons,” to draw viewers toward the light at the core.


"Subtle in the daytime but dynamic at night."


Kim chose dichroic resin lanterns for their weather resistance and their iridescence. She placed them asymmetrically, rather than vertically, to give the sculpture different appearances at different angles. Always lit, Mary Carlock descripted them as “subtle in the daytime but dynamic at night” in Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The pieces are bolted to foundation plates encased in paving stones. The flowering shadbush plants in the landscape are designed to enhance the sculptures.

Mikyoung Kim Design also created the surrounding landscape. Amuneal Manufacturing transformed the design into the sculptures that line the Library’s Washington Street property. The project was funded by Percent for Art grant.