Light Matters: Creating Walls of Light

Uniform wallwashing at 171 Collins Street, Melbourne. Architects: Bates Smart Architects. design: Electrolight, www.electrolight.com.au. Image © Dean Bradley

Modernism induced a shift in lighting away from luminaires and towards invisible light sources that render spaces in a purer (forgive the pun) light. For the first time, lit walls were used to define rooms and to structure architecture. Today I’d like to explore early prototypes – including Philip Johnson’s Brick House and the Seagram Building – and discuss how their lighting techniques continue to influence architecture today. 

Light Matters: Richard Kelly, The Unsung Master Behind Modern Architecture’s Greatest Buildings

Seagram Building, New York.

Richard Kelly illuminated some of the twentieth century’s most iconic buildings: the Glass House, Seagram Building and Kimbell Art Museum, to name a few. His design strategy was surprisingly simple, but extremely successful.

for architecture has been and still often is dominated by an engineering viewpoint, resigned to determining sufficient illuminance levels for a safe and efficient working environment. With a background in stage , Kelly introduced a scenographic perspective for architectural . His point of view might look self-evident to today’s architectural community, but it was revolutionary for his time and has strongly influenced modern architecture.

Read more about Richard Kelly’s remarkable, and unsung, contribution to architecutre, after the break.

Foster + Partners’ SSE Hydro Arena Features Translucent Skin, Innovative Seating System

Courtesy of Figueras

Glasgow has just unveiled its new multipurpose structure which will end up revitalizing the Clyde Waterfront, which went into decline and neglect for many years following the closure of the town’s major shipyards. After 8 years of construction, Foster + Partners’ SSE Hydro now reveals its ETFE facade which is lit up every evening. During the day it manages to blend in with the usual changing Glasgow skyline.

The structure of the SSE Hydro Arena is covered by a 1.400 ton steel housing – one of the largest domes in Europe – and the ETFE translucent building enclosure allows one to discern what is happening inside from the outside. A 260 ton ring which supports the lighting is suspended from the dome, which will allow spectacular and customized lighting for each show.

The modern applied to this project contrasts with its interior structure that has been based on the Roman amphitheater, allowing each and every spectator at an event — which can be up to 13.000 — to have an optimal view of the stage. The viewing angle and comfort of the user is furthermore guaranteed by the special system designed by Foster + Partners along with Figueras International Seating.

VIDEO: Light Installation Transforms Cylindrical Tower

The bowels of a Gasometer may be an unlikely place to stage a light , however, URBANSCREEN, a German projection company, has done just that. 320 Licht is a spectacle of light and sound within a cylindrical volume over 300 feet high. With the help of Epson Germany, was able to sync 21 separate projectors for a 22 minute loop, documenting the process in the amazing high-definition video above. Enjoy!

Behind the Magic of Media Installations

At LAX, it was important to create “a positive experience after the stress of the departure experience,” says Melissa Weigel. Image Courtesy of

In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Melissa Weigel of Moment Factory“, Leslie Gallery-Dilworth talks with Weigel about the challenges of devising multimedia installations for public spaces, as in their recent installation for the Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

Montreal’s Moment Factory, a new media and entertainment studio, is best known for creating and producing multimedia environments that combine video, lighting, architecture, sound, and special effects. You may have seen their work at Cirque du Soleil, Madonna’s 2012 Superbowl Half Time Show, Disney’s E3 booth, or Jay Z’s Carnegie Hall debut. Perhaps you were there when they lit up the facade of the Sagrada Familia or Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles district. Or maybe you saw that they were included in Apple’s recently launched 30th anniversary timeline.

Moment Factory was the main content provider for the interior concept and media features in the newly opened Bradley International Terminal at LAX, designed by Fentress Architects. It was a large collaboration consisting of several partners, including Mike Rubin with MRA International, Marcela Sardi of Sardi Design, Smart Monkey, Digital Kitchen, and Electrosonic with installation by Daktronics and Planar.

Reaction from passengers and the airport management at LAX has been, to put it most effectively, “WOW!” So was mine. That’s why I asked them to present the project at Dynamic Digital Environments-Master Class on Feb 11, at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. I produce this annual pre-conference education workshop and roundtable with architects and designers in mind. To preview our master class, I asked Moment Factory’s Melissa Weigel, senior multimedia director on Bradley International Terminal at LAX a few questions about the project.

Light Matters: Glass Beyond Transparency with James Carpenter

7 World Trade Center. , NY 2003-2007. Image © David Sundberg

In Modernism’s attempt to dissolve spatial boundaries with transparency, the material used – glass – is all too often dematerialised. In contrast, the New York-based designer James Carpenter is interested in multiple readings of glass – beyond transparency.

As Carpenter explains: “People approach light in relationship to architecture. It is that the light is the means by which the architecture is revealed and the architecture is basically defined by the way the light enters the space. I tend to think actually from the opposite direction where the light itself is what informs the architecture. The architecture is in service of light rather than the other way around.”

More Light Matters, after the break…

Light Matters: Europe’s Leading Light Festivals

Vivid Sydney lights the Opera House. Image Courtesy of Vivid Sydney

In mid autumn, when the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, we encounter numerous light festivals. And indeed, within the last ten years, more and more light festivals have globally emerged. The reason for the success of light festivals is simple, as the German curator Bettina Pelz concludes: “It’s actually fairly easy, because whenever you do something with light in cities in the night, then people do come. If you do it good, they come twice.” 

As Pelz points out, light is an apt medium for evening events, since it easily attracts people. Communities have discovered the potential of for city marketing, and the closer they plan their date to Christmas, the more they merge their illumination with the festive blinking lights of commercial Christmas markets.

Join us on a tour through some of the leading light festivals in Europe. Read more about their different backgrounds, artistic concepts and future trends after the break…

Light Matters: 3D Video Mapping, Making Architecture The Screen for Our Urban Stories

Powerful video projectors at an affordable price have opened the path for a young, impressive art form: video mapping, a means of that uses the architecture itself as the screen. Artists and researchers initiated the movement, developing a new visual language to interpret architecture. Later, marketing adopted this technique for branding, with large-scale projections on skyscrapers; political activists have also initiated dialogues, turning ephemeral light interventions into eye-catching ways to point out and address urban design issues. 

More on the ways artists and groups develop this visual language for urban storytelling, after the break…

Lamp Lighting Solutions Awards 2013: Winners Announced

Cineteca Matadero. Image Courtesy of Churtichaga+Quadra-Salcedo

The winners of the 2013 Lamp Lighting Solutions Awards have been announced. With a total of 608 projects submitted from 52 countries, €48,000 in prize money has been awarded to 5 winning teams. The Lamp Awards were given to projects that successfully met the architectural needs of an interior or exterior space, having created a positive synergy between the architecture, interior design, landscaping and . The four categories included Architectural Outdoor , Indoor , Urban and Landscape , and Students Proposals.

The 2013 Lamp Lighting Solutions Awards Winners are:

Light Matters: Recovering The Dark Sky

Stars over Salzburg, Austria, by Andreas Max Böckle, max@berk-boeckle. The first winner in Against the Lights category. TWAN 2013 Earth & Sky Photo Contest. Twanight.org/contest. Image © Andreas Max Böckle

The advent of electrical lighting has allowed us to colonise the night. Not only have kilometres of street lighting ensured higher levels of safety, but signs, advertisements, etc. continue to draw us into nocturnal landscapes. As Rem Koolhaas explored in Delirious New York, Manhattan and Coney Island were the early luminous prototypes for today’s continuously vibrant metropolises: cities that establish new rhythms, a new balance between work and life.

But what happens when lighting upsets our natural balance? When we lose the beauty of the dark sky, the stars? What happens when lighting turns into pollution?

More , after the break…

UVA Transforms Sou Fujimoto’s Serpentine Pavilion with “Electrical Storm” of LEDs

-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: Can Light “Cheat” In Simulations?

Oslo Central Station. Architecture: Space Group, www.spacegroup.no. Credit: Luxigon, www.luxigon.com.

In recent years the use of CAD and simulation programs has resulted in a new understanding of light in architecture. The drawing board and its lamp have given way to the self-illuminating monitor. The result is that concepts in architecture are now made of light from the very first mouse click.  In the visualisation process, luminous space now predominates.

However, this begs the question: has the luminous impression (part and parcel of the perfect, rendered setting) become more important than the engineering or architectural concept itself? With the improved interplay of shades, contrast, and brilliance, can lighting actually obscure the point of a realistic simulation?

More Light Matters, after the break…

Light Matters: Seeing the Light with James Turrell

James Turrell: Roden Crater, East Portal. 2010. Photograph by Florian Holzherr, www.architekturfoto.net

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

From early nocturnal studies in a lonely hotel room to transforming a volcano in the world’s biggest landscape art project to, most recently, lighting up the Guggenheim in New York, the American artist James Turrell is driven by  his fascination with light. He explores perception for visual experiences where light is not a tool to enable vision but rather something to look at itself.

More Light Matters, after the break…

Can Glowing Trees One Day Replace Electric Streetlights?

Courtesy of Wikivisual

“We don’t live in nature any more – we put boxes around it. But now we can actually engineer nature to sustain our needs. All we have to do is design the code and it will self-create. Our visions today – if we can encapsulate them in a seed – [will] grow to actually fulfill that vision.” - Andrew Hessel in a recent ArchDaily interview

“Engineering nature to sustain our needs” is exactly what the Glowing Plant Project aims to do. Synthetic biologist Omri Amirav-Drory, plant scientist Kyle Taylor and project leader Antony Evans are working together to engineer “a glow-in-the-dark plant using synthetic biology techniques that could possibly replace traditional lighting” – and perhaps even create glow-in-the-dark trees that would supplant (pun intended) the common street light.

How is this possible? Read on to find out.

Reconnecting the Subway with the Sky

Courtesy of MTA-CC/NYCT Arup

In the early years of the New York City subway system, natural light played a dominant role in the illumination of subterranean spaces. The architecture emphasized a connection to the sky, often through skylights planted in the median of city avenues above — lenses in the concrete sidewalks.

However, it proved extremely difficult to keep the skylights clean, and light eventually stopped passing through. Subway authorities moved toward an almost exclusive reliance on electric lighting. While this allowed for greater flexibility in station design, permitting construction at any location and depth, it also created a sense of disorientation and alienation for some passengers.

For the design of Lower Manhattan’s Arup, in conjunction with design architect Grimshaw sought to reconnect the century-old subway system with the world above.

Read more about this “enlightening” subway station, after the break…

Light Matters: Louis Kahn and the Power of Shadow

Louis Kahn Looking at His Tetrahedral Ceiling in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953. Gelatin silver print. Image © Lionel Freedman. Yale University Art Gallery Archives Transfer.

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“. 

Does shadow have the power to give form to architecture? The increasing number of transparent buildings and LED installations would enforce the impression that light has eliminated the relevance of shadow. But to answer that question, let’s look back to a master of light whose architecture was shaped by shadow: Louis Kahn.

More Light Matters, after the break…

Light Matters: What Media Facades Are Saying

© Patrick Bingham-Hall

, 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…