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Why Good Lighting Design Has Little to Do With Lux or LEDs

Is there a designer who does not dream of the perfect lighting concept, which conveys a feeling of well-being and shows the architecture at its best? Unfortunately, however, it is often the case that the brief received from the client causes difficulties. All too often discussions are peppered with such terms as LEDs and lux levels,causing an unconscious shift in thinking in the direction of norms and technology instead of placing questions about requirements and lighting quality at the centre of discussion. But what exactly is quality lighting design?

Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

Thanks to the increasing availability of giant LED screens, the Golden Age of Neon has quietly faded in Las Vegas. For decades casinos defined their visual identity with colorful neon signs and competed for the most innovative signage. But with casinos closing, being refurbished and the arrival of new lighting technology a lot of neon signs were replaced, and for many years the Young Electric Sign Company kept the old neon signs in their "boneyard" for storage and recycling. Fortunately historic preservation groups rescued these signs. With support of the arts council The Neon Museum was born to save neon treasures and to educate the public.

Read on to explore Las Vegas' luminous landmarks and The Neon Museum.

Neon Museum featuring more than 150 unrestored signs, Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org Front exterior of the Mint Hotel, Las Vegas / Nevada, circa 1957. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. Colour-changing neon sign on the façade of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1969. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. La Concha Motel lobby building, designed in 1961, was rescued from demolition and moved to its current location in 2007 to serve as the Neon Museum’s visitors’ center. Architect: Paul Williams. Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org

Choi+Shine Architects Introduces the BIT Light, a Magnetic Modular Lighting System

Developed by Choi+Shine Architects, the BIT Light is a magnetic modular lighting system that offers endless configuration possibilities which can be arranged, deconstructed and rearranged in seconds. The system's main component is the "BIT", a linear lighting element comprised of an LED light source in a translucent polycarbonate tube that provides both protection and structural support. At each end of the BIT are conductor pads which join magnetically to the small nickel connecting elements, offering infinite possibilities for arrangement either as a flat wall-mounted lighting element, a suspended configuration, or even as a self-supporting three-dimensional lighting structure.

Courtesy of Choi+Shine Architects Courtesy of Choi+Shine Architects Courtesy of Choi+Shine Architects Courtesy of Choi+Shine Architects

Christmas Wars: The Fight to Hold the World Record for the Most Christmas Lights

In the ongoing battle to hold the Guinness World Record for the Most Lights on a Residential Property (aka the house-with-the-most-Christmas lights), the Gay family in LaGrangeville, New York has once again reclaimed their title. This year the family used 601,736 lights, spanning two acres and set to more than 200 songs. RITZ Crackers, part of Mondelēz International, helped the family top the record, providing 200,000 lights. The Gay family and the Richards family in Canberra, Australia, have been fighting for the title over the past three years. But not to be outdone, the Richards family took home the Guinness World Record for the Largest Image Made of LED lights for their Christmas light installation this year. The installation in Canberra used 1,194,380 lights to make a 3D image of three Christmas gifts spanning 3,865 square meters and raised money for the charity SIDS and Kids ACT.  See more pictures and read more about the ongoing lights competition at City Lab and Guinness World Records

Five Projects Awarded Prizes at the 2014 Media Architecture Biennale

The 2014 Media Architecture Biennale has drawn to a close in Aarhus, Denmark, and with it five projects have been awarded for "outstanding accomplishments in the intersection between architecture and technology." Representing five different categories (Animated Architecture, Spatial Media Art, Money Architecture, Participatory Architecture, and Trends & Prototypes), these five projects are the ones that most represent the Media Architecture Biennale's goal to advance the understanding and capabilities of media architecture.

The winners include a power plant with a shimmering chimney tower, an installation that creates "phantoms" with light, an interactive LED facade, a crowdsourced mapping system for transit in the developing world, and a kinetic "selfie facade." See videos of all five winners after the break.

Light Matters: 7 Ways Lighting Can Make Architecture More Sustainable

Sustainable lighting design offers various well-being and environmental benefits in addition to economic advantages for clients and users. Although daylight provides a free lighting source,  for most spaces the amount and time of daylight is not sufficient and electrical lighting is necessary. A focus on sustainability becomes essential for minimizing energy consumption and improving the quality of life. Even though efficiency has significantly increased with LED technology, electrical lighting is still more widely used. Often the ambition for renovations or new applications goes along with a higher quantity of lighting instead of finding a better lighting quality with an adequate amount of energy.

Read on after the break for Light Matters’ 7 fundamental steps to achieve sustainable lighting.

Light Matters: Smart Flying Pixels Create a Floating Glow

Imagine luminaires that could fly and visualise new buildings or individually guide you through space. What would happen if you could even interact with these flying pixels? These concepts could be realised in the near future as the first prototypes and experiments are being introduced. Software-driven LED pixels combined with drone swarm technology provide extraordinary possibilities for inducing new forms of spatial experience. These luminous pixel clouds emerge as digital patterns, but at the same time they emanate a romantic quality with their unique star formations twinkling in the night sky. The first projects have shared a playful note, but laboratories such as MIT's SENSEable City Lab, ARES Lab and Ars Electronica Futurelab have shown an intriguing future in urban design for guidance systems or envisioning real estate developments, as advances in battery technology and wireless control have opened new perspectives for a life with smart flying pixels.

Beyond "Things That Flicker": The Next Step for Media Architecture

From November 19-22 in Aarhus, the Media Architecture Biennale 2014 held in will feature the world premier of "Mapping the Senseable City," an exhibition of the now ten-year-old MIT Senseable Cities Lab's collected works. The following essay was written by Matthew Claudel, a researcher at the Senseable Cities Lab, In response to this collection, exploring what the future holds for media architecture, and imploring it to explore ideas beyond "TV screens for living in."

The Actuated Cathedral

Media architecture is emphatically ambiguous. The phrase has been pasted wholesale onto a dizzying array of projects and products. But beyond imprecision, media architecture is vexed by an inherent tension: media are networked, immediate, dynamic communication systems that reach people broadly, while architecture is sited, singular, and persistent in time. Reconciling the two evokes clumsy associations with Times Square, screens, integrated LEDs, paparazzi, or more generally things that flicker.

Institut du Monde Arabe / Jean Nouvel. Image © Flickr b00nj / www.flickr.com/b00nj "We simply do not know how humans respond to a variety of environmental stimuli. Artists like Olafur Eliasson have an uncanny sense of it – a sense that lends their projects a visceral power." Above, Eliasson's "Your Rainbow Panorama". Image © Lars Aarö Map of the internet. Image via http://mountpeaks.wordpress.com/ Galleria Centercity / UNStudio. Image © UNStudio. Photographed by Kim Jong-Kwan

Manuelle Gautrand to Revamp Paris' Alésia Cinema with Hundreds of LED "Pixels"

Facade Closeup. Image © KDSL
Facade Closeup. Image © KDSL

Renovated numerous times during its history, Gaumont-Alésia, a Parisian cinema housed in a structure that is over 80 years old, will now be revamped by firm Manuelle Gautrand Architecture. With a design that emphasizes filmography’s presence in modern culture, the Gaumont-Alésia is set to become an inviting cultural hub for the surrounding city, showcasing cinema’s influence on both the interior and exterior.

Both street facades will be composed of glass curtain walls shaded by pleated metal panels. These panels will be perforated by hundreds of LED “pixels” which will create an image across the pleats. Both entrances to the building become animated walls, broadcasting film stills, movie trailers, and advertisements, all meant to entice passersby.  The LEDS are spaced fewer and farther apart toward the edges of the building, creating a stippling effect around the border of the images. At the entrances these animated panels will peel upwards, creating a canopy under which patrons can walk.

The Facade at Night. Image © KDSL Exterior Facade. Image © KDSL Seating Outside the Movie Theater Proper. Image © KDSL Upper Floors of the Atrium. Image © KDSL

Constell.ation / LIKEarchitects

  • Architects: LIKEarchitects
  • Location: Lisboa, Portugal
  • Architecture: LIKEarchitects
  • Project Team: Diogo Aguiar, João Jesus, Teresa Otto e Álvaro Villa, Tania Costa Coll
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

© Fernando Guerra | FG+SG © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Lucid Stead: A "Disappearing" Cabin of Mirrors

In Joshua Tree, California, artist Phillip K Smith III has completed Lucid Stead: an optical illusion/installation that modifies an abandoned 70-year-old homestead with mirrors in order to make it appear transparent. The cabin was also fitted with LED lighting to “extract the distilled experience of how light changes over time — how a mountain can be blue, red, brown, white, purple, and black all in one day.” As Smith stated, the project is about light, shadow, and tapping into the quiet of the desert. Check out more images and a video of the cabin after the break!

© Steven King © Steven King © Steven King © Steven King

Building Transformed Into Giant Rubik's Cube

For his thesis project, Javier Lloret turned a building into a giant, solvable Rubik's Cube. Making use of the media facade of the Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, he projected the world's most famous handheld puzzle onto a huge scale - inviting passers-by to solve the puzzle. In the process, Lloret transformed the nearby area, showing that (when used correctly) technology can make the urban environment more fun.

Read on to find out how Lloret did it...

© Javier Lloret & Michaela Lakova © Javier Lloret & Michaela Lakova © Javier Lloret & Michaela Lakova © Javier Lloret & Michaela Lakova

Invisible Skyscraper Unveiled for Seoul

California-based GDS Architects' new proposal, dubbed Infinity Tower, is designed to disappear from its Korean skyline. How? Cameras will be mounted at six strategic points; thousands of LED screens on the facade will then broadcast the real-time photos captured and logged by the cameras. Though no estimated completion date has been announced, the developers have received construction permits to break ground. More about this incredible vanishing act and how it's done at Fast Co-Design

UVA Transforms Sou Fujimoto's Serpentine Pavilion with "Electrical Storm" of LEDs

London-based United Visual Artists (UVA) has brought Sou Fujimoto’s “cloud-like” Serpentine Pavilion to life with an “electrical storm” of LEDs. With the intention of making the architecture “breathe” from within, UVA seamlessly integrated a network of LED lights into the latticed, 20mm steel pole structure that mimics the natural forms of an electric storm. In addition, carefully conducted auditory effects further enhance the experience, transforming Fujimoto’s “radical pavilion” into an electrified geometric cloud. 

Light Matters: What Media Facades Are Saying

© Patrick Bingham-Hall
© Patrick Bingham-Hall

Light matters, a monthly column on light and space, is written by Thomas Schielke. Based in Germany, he is fascinated by architectural lighting, has published numerous articles and co-authored the book „Light Perspectives“. 

Today we have permanent media façade installations worldwide that call for attention. With size, tempo, colour and brightness they stand up as individuals within the urban nightscape. Many of them send out their luminous messages in a broadcast mode. For this reason, neighbours, on occasion, demand an intense dialogue with regard to content and form of the media façade, especially as it’s often unclear whether light installations are architecture or advertisement.

However, in the same way a good book requires a storyteller, media facades demand curators to arrange exciting stories that fit into the site and suit the client. The following four examples show how media facades reflect the story of the buildings themselves - see them all, after the break...

Origin / United Visual Artists

James Medcraft © United Visual Artists 2011
James Medcraft © United Visual Artists 2011

Designer: United Visual Artists Score: Scanner Client: The Creators Project Location: New York City (2011) and San Francisco (2012) Additional Audio Programming: Henrik Ekeus and Dave Meckin Producer: Keri Elmsly Photographer: James Medcraft

Reconstruction of Kremlin Concert Hall / OTASH studio

Architects: OTASH studio Location: Kremlin, Moscow, Russia Authors: Dejan Otasevic, Ivo Otasevic, Uros Otasevic (designer) Project architectural team: Slobodan Damjanovic, Pavle Bogdanovic Associates: Nenad Peranovic, Marija Simsic, Dragana Mijatovic Design Year: 2007 Project Year: 2008-2009 Photographs: OTASH studio

Reconstruction of Kremlin Concert Hall / OTASH studio Reconstruction of Kremlin Concert Hall / OTASH studio Reconstruction of Kremlin Concert Hall / OTASH studio Reconstruction of Kremlin Concert Hall / OTASH studio