Lighting Up the Olympics; Wolfson Grad's Exhibit a Hit around Athens

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

Kyle Steinfeld went to Athens to make his mark in the Olympics, but not as an athlete. He "medaled" with a field of fiber-optic cables.

The 28-year-old Wolfson High School graduate, whose parents live in San Jose, participated in an international competition to create an art project reflecting the sights and sounds of the Greek capital.

The "Catch the Light" competition was sponsored by the Athens 2004 Olympic Committee, which invited J. Meejin Yoon, Steinfeld's mentor and architectural professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to compete. Yoon asked Steinfeld and student Marlene Kuhn to design the project, one of nine selected in various categories.

Their project, called "White Noise/White Light," is a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds that gives visitors and residents a new way to experience Athens.

Steinfeld, Yoon, Kuhn and four others went to Greece to put it together. They also hired two University of Athens architectural students to assist. The wood decking was designed and built in Phoenix and shipped to Athens, along with electrical components.

The project was installed at the entry to the ancient theater of Dionysus at the base of the Acropolis. The decking has about 200 openings containing fiber-optic cables, said Steinfeld's father, David Steinfeld.

When touched, the fiber-optic strands brighten and activate concealed speakers that emit sounds of the city at various frequencies. Collectively, they create a field of so-called white noise -- a sound containing every frequency within the range of human hearing in equal amounts.

Recorded conversations, for instance, are mixed with readings from Greek literature, according to Yoon.

"I'm told it's very soothing," David Steinfeld said of the fiber-optic field.

He and his wife, Michele Zavon Steinfeld, and their other two sons went to Athens in late July hoping to see the finished product. But it wasn't completed until early August.

However, NBC filmed the project to use as background footage for its Olympics coverage. Because they didn't know when or how many times it would be shown, the Steinfelds have been taping the entire proceedings, and it's been spotted at least once. …