Illumination at The Morton Arboretum - CODAworx

Illumination at The Morton Arboretum

Submitted by Lightswitch

Client: The Morton Arboretum

Location: Lisle, IL, United States

Completion date: 2016

Project Team


John Featherstone



Austin Shapley



Susan L. Wagner

The Morton Arboretum


A festive extravaganza of light and sound, the award-winning Illuminationreturned to The Morton Arboretum for the 2016 winter season. Illuminationtransformed the grounds of the Arboretum into a winter wonderland with brilliant light-and-music shows and entertaining, interactive experiences that celebrate nature & beauty. Now in its fourth year, the show has become a beloved holiday tradition and has garnered national recognition for its innovative re-imagination of traditional holiday lighting.


Our original goal for Illumination was simple: Let guests see trees in a different light. Over the years, we've stayed true to that objective, while striving to create bigger, better and more immersive experiences. Based on visitor feedback from previous shows, we unveiled several new experiences designed to surprise and delight guests in 2016.

Treemagination uses projection mapping to make a grove of hemlock trees come to life; one effect makes them appear to breathe, while another saturates them in richly coloured hues. We also re-envisioned the closing experience. In the all-new Fantasy Forest, light dances across polished abstract trees to the tune of a specially composed piece contemporary music, leaving guests with magical memories to take with them.


Illumination was a truly collaborative project that began several years ago as a dialogue between Morton's arborists and the creative team. Before we crafted our design concept for the first season in 2013, we wanted to understand the mission behind this project. We held a series of conversations with the Arboretum staff to learn what they wanted guests to discover about the winter landscape. Using that information, we crafted our initial design concept, which focused on showing the beauty and vitality of winter trees through light. From there, we further developed the concepts for the various vignettes and then conducted on-site mock-ups to give the Arboretum staff a first-hand look at the experience before it opened to the public.

Additional Information

More than 350,000 visitors enjoyed Illumination in its first three seasons, substantially increasing winter attendance at the Arboretum and drawing new guests from around the world.