Morton Arboretum
Benjamin Roy

Lightswitch Explores New Designs for Illumination at Morton Arboretum

Leading design group adds Elation Proteus Hybrid™ to popular wintertime son et lumiere

Design group Lightswitch has worked with The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, the past six years to direct and design Illumination: Tree Lights, the public garden’s popular wintertime walk in the woods with its dramatic lighting and color-changing illumination. This year, Lightswitch designers explored new layouts and designs in order to keep the one-of-a-kind encounter with nature evolving and deliver an even more immersive and engaging experience.


Elation Professional luminaires continued to form the foundation of the lighting scheme with nearly 600 fixtures used on this year’s project including IP65 Proteus Beam™ and Proteus Hybrid™ moving head effects, Arena Q7 Zoom™ PAR wash lights and large numbers of weatherproof Level Q7 IP™ RGBW PAR lights.

Serving as both creative directors and visual designers, the Lightswitch team created an all-new route through new experiences for this year’s Illumination, which ran November 3 to January 9. The long running, cold weather project proves an ideal environment for the multi-environmental Proteus series, which featured on several designs including the new Crown of Light by renowned artist collective HYBYCOZO, as well as Fantasy Forest, Symphony Woods and others. Having used the Proteus Beam on Illumination the last two years, this year the Proteus Hybrid with its gobo package and zoom capability joined the stable.

“We’ve been enjoying the weather resilience and brightness of the Proteus Beam for the last couple of years,” Lightswitch Principal John Featherstone commented. “Certainly when you’re lighting the arbor trees the ability to shape the beam to fit the size of the object you are lighting is important and the gobo capability of the Proteus Hybrids opened up all sorts of new creative potential as well. It enabled us to move away from clusters of traditional indoor entertainment based fixtures in domes, which have a number of challenges for us. The domes themselves soak up a certain amount of light; they tend to get scuffed up as they get moved around so they take some of the thrust and diffuse the beam a bit.” Featherstone adds that the eye also tends to get drawn to the surface of the domes, distracting slightly from the visual experience.  

“There are multiple levels of strategic win for us by moving away from traditional fixtures in domes into the Proteus range. Not only do they have a ton of punch, we love the way the color mechanisms work, and the zoom capability and beam control of the Hybrid. And the fixtures themselves are much less intrusive.”


Lightswitch works closely with Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC) on the Illumination project and again this year the Illinois-based design and rental house supplied the lighting fixtures. “Thanks to the ongoing commitment and support we get from both Elation and ILC, who made a significant investment in the Proteus Hybrids, we were able to carry out the new designs,” said Featherstone, who mentions that ILC are also in the process of upgrading their Level Q7s to zoom fixtures. “We’ve always had a great deal of success using the fixed optic Q7s,” the designer continues. “To have zoom fixtures not only gives us the ability to control the beam but add another level of kinetic movement to the display. One thing we try to underscore with Illumination is that the trees are certainly not dead in the winter but are dormant and sleeping. By introducing a soft, kinetic kind of breathing pulse with the zoom it adds a new dimension to the lighting programming and another tool in our toolbox.”

This year’s Illumination: Tree Lights was extremely well attended and with six years of success behind it has solidly moved from curious novelty to wintertime tradition.

Crown of Light: 
25 x Level Q7 IP
5 x Proteus Beam

Fantasy Forest:
50 x Level Q7 IP
18 x Proteus Beam
4 x Proteus Hybrid

Symphony Woods:
43 x Level Q7 IP
18 x Proteus Hybrid

57 x Level Q7 IP
6 x Proteus Beam

Hero Tree:
12 x Arena Q7 Zoom
6 x Proteus Beam

Meadow Lake Magic:
3 x Proteus Hybrid

Crystal Promenade:
19 x Level Q7 IP

Enchanted Forest:
38 x Arena Q7 Zoom
46 x Level Q7 IP

Exit Hill:
19 x Level Q7 IP

Tree Harmony:
12 x Level Q7 IP

Hug Me Not:
12 x Level Q7 IP

Hug a Tree:
20 x Level Q7 IP

6 x Level Q7 IP

Ornament Hill:
29 x Level Q7 IP

2 x Level Q7 IP

Tanyosho Pines:
33 x Level Q7 IP

12 x Level Q7 IP

Tinsel Colonnade:
11 x Level Q7 IP

Transition Area:
10 x Level Q7 IP

2 x Level Q7 IP

Visitor Center:
24 x Level Q7 IP

Meadow Lake Walk:
35 x Level Q7 IP

Color Walnuts:
19 x Level Q7 IP