Sky Striker was an interactive urban experience that transformed Tampa’s iconic Rivergate Tower into a giant carnival game. The concept was selected by the City of Tampa as one of six art installations for Lights on Tampa 2015, which took place in Kiley Gardens and Curtis Hixon Park last February. The project was funded by a public/private partnership between the City of Tampa’s Art Programs Division and the Public Art Alliance, and was sponsored in part by Sykes and the City of Tampa Downtown CRA. Participants – young, old, big and small – lit up the skyline by swinging a mallet and striking a carnival high-striker that was connected to 240 LED light fixtures throughout the cylindrical skyscraper. A series of sensors and a wireless transmitter translated the analog mechanics of the old-fashioned high-striker into a high-tech display of sound and light. With each hit, the puck shot up the machine and simultaneously illuminated rings of light around the Tower, broadcasting the strength of each participant across the skyline. The project fostered a sense of place and encouraged interaction with the city’s architecture and its history. The installation tapped into collective childhood memories of carnivals and harkened back to the historic site of the Florida State Fairgrounds across the Hillsborough River. The project drew attention to an important local architectural landmark – Rivergate Tower, which was built in 1988 and designed by architect Harry Wolf. The effect highlighted unique details on the building’s curving façade such as its deeply canted apertures, evoking a beacon encircled by porthole windows.
Sky Striker was experienced at multiple scales and from multiple vantage points. Throughout the two-night event, rising rings of light punctuated by deafening cheers were felt in downtown Tampa and beyond. Whether driving on the expressway or standing outside the University of Tampa, the Sky Striker experience was shared across the city.