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Sonic Runway : The audiovisual tunnel of light

Updated: Jan 14, 2020


Designed by Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant the Sonic Runway has had a developmental journey which brought it to Wembley Park at the end of 2019. Alongside many other light installations which transformed Wembley Park into ‘an immersive technicolour playground’ the Sonic Runway transformed Olympic Way into an immersive light and sound experience.


What is Sonic Runway?

Like many artworks Sonic Runway was inspired by the artists’ direct experience of the world and when Rob Jensen stood near some speakers which were playing loud music with a heavy beat he noticed a woman in the distance dancing to the rhythm. Yet her dancing seemed off-beat to Jensen and this was because of the time it took for the sound to travel to the far off lady. Jensen became aware of the speed of sound and the fact that he may be able to illustrate how sound travels through a creative outlet, this was the lightbulb moment.

The Sonic Runway which was displayed at Winterfest 2019 and has evolved from the original 2003 project, The Runway uses a combination of light and sound to create a cohesive audio visual experience. When observing the installation the viewer can ‘see’ the beat of the sound travelling along the tunnel in the form of light. This ripple effect brings together two of your senses, hearing and sight which allows you to experience the music and your surroundings in a new way.


Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant

Sonic Runway’s Development

Sonic Runway’s design was first conceived and installed for Burning Man 2003 where sixteen steel framed pyramids were arranged over 1000 feet. With the DJ booth at the start of the line of pyramids the design centered around the bass of the music, with the thump of the bass came a emanating light with rippled along the pyramids via a strobe light at the top of each one.

This was only the start of Sonic Runway’s development with the now crowd funded Runway returning to Burning Man 2016 with a new design. The original pyramid shapes evolved into circles, the runway doubled the number of gates and created a work which had a more complex visual system with greater interactivity.

Since Burning Man the work was displayed in the city of Chengdu in China along a pedestrian walkway in the centre of downtown. Thomas Thompson with Manifestory China which was a Paris-based company working with the city and they has requested the artwork with the hope of ‘demonstrating the city’s increasing impact on fashion, art, and culture.’

Finally the work has now made its European debut in Wembley Park London alongside may other light installation works during Winterfest 2019. A wonderful transformation of the Olympic Way for those cold winter nights.


My experience of Sonic Runway at Winterfest

Not only is this installation a stunning transformation of an iconic walkway in Wembley it is both immersive and accessible public artwork. When I visited most people did opt to walk through the tunnel rather than down the sides and like most light festivals the Sonic Runway was a photogenic opportunity for any passer-by. I think it is important to make art engaging and accessible to people who may not want to pay to go into a gallery and this public sphere can be transformed with carefully designed lights.

Many people who walk past this installation will not know that over a decade was spent developing the work but as technology has progressed it is wonderful to see it being shared with the public, giving them access to cultural gems such as Sonic Runway.

The rippling light waves that filled the arches enclosed you in a beautiful tunnel as you walked down the Olympic Way. Both decorative and immersive this was an audio visual experience which could be appreciated by all generations and as a cultural artwork or Instagram moment.


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