london-based product designer philippe malouin has presented an art installation at miami’s design district that  highlights and celebrates the christmas season. the idea was to create a piece that could reach all audiences and speak to everyone. the installation plays with the stillness and static of a light post by creating a journey for a spherical glowing bulb which follows a twisting rail that travels through the district’s pedestrian area. named ‘speed of light’, the installation has resulted in a mesmerizing and meditative piece to look at.


designboom met designer philippe malouin at the site of the installation where he discussed the concept behind the piece, its basic functions and what he wants to achieve with it. read our interview below.




DESIGNBOOM (DB): why is the installation called ‘speed of light’?



PHILIPPE MALOUIN (PM): it’s called the speed of light because the speed of this light is not constant. and it has been proven recently that it is actually fluctuating. I also read a paper that was discussing how in a vacuum or through certain man-made materials, the speed of light could potentially decelerate. but I don’t want to get metaphysical about this subject (laughs).




DB: how would you describe your approach to creating the ‘speed of light’?


PM: the whole process has been mainly about creating something kinetic that also has a meditative aspect to it. and most importantly, I treated the installation like a giant light fixture and it was important not to make a big design ‘statement’ out of it. in other words, I wanted to keep everything very functional for its purpose  — which is traveling and moving.




DB: could you quickly elaborate on how it works?


PM: basically, it has a motor in the buggy that’s on top, allowing it to move across. also, you see these two electric tracks that create a closed circuit? they work exactly like a toy car. and when the light bulb gets to the top of the curve, it freewheels all the way down and kind of releases itself under the effect of gravity.  that’s why it accelerates downwards.




DB: does it go all the time, or does it stop at one point ?


PM: we can actually make it stop with a remote control. 

philippe malouin speed of light design miami designboom
image © designboom



DB: what is it that you wish the audience or the public would extract from your work?


PM: the most important thing is not to focus necessarily on the installation; it’s really about the light that is projected during nighttime in the shape of a dot on the floor. when the buggy travels across the installation, that dot either gets bigger or smaller as it travels closer or farther away from the ground. so this project is really about light itself.

philippe malouin speed of light design miami designboom
image © designboom

philippe malouin at the installation site
portrait © designboom

philippe malouin speed of light design miami designboom
image © philippe malouin

philippe malouin speed of light design miami designboom
image © philippe malouin