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From Productivism to Scenography: The Relighting of Norman Foster's Hongkong and Shanghai Bank

10:30 - 6 July, 2016

Three decades ago the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Headquarters by Norman Foster emerged onto the architectural seen as an exemplary product of industrial design. The open layout with its exposed steel structure generated a powerful corporate identity for the bank. But the restrained atmosphere of white architectural lighting and the lack of distinctive façade lighting has lost its attractiveness after sunset. Now the colorful and dynamic relighting presents a remarkable example of how an architectural icon has shifted from a productivist ideology towards a scenographic image. To the western observer the multicolored light language may give off a playful impression, but to the local culture the transformation evokes grandiosity.

Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters, Hong Kong, in 2015. Architects: Foster + Partners. Photographer: Simon McCartney. Image © illumination Physics Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters, Hong Kong, 1986. Architects: Foster + Partners. Lighting design: Claude and Danielle Engle Lighting. Photographer: Ian Lambot. Image © ERCO, www.erco.com Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters, Hong Kong, in 1986. Architects: Foster + Partners. Lighting design: Claude and Danielle Engle Lighting. Photographer: Ian Lambot. Image © ERCO, www.erco.com Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters, Hong Kong, in 2015. Architects: Foster + Partners. Photographer: Simon McCartney. Image © illumination Physics +12

What Happens When Light Starts to Create Brand Experiences?

09:30 - 29 September, 2015
What Happens When Light Starts to Create Brand Experiences?, H&M Store in Barcelona / Estudio Mariscal. Image Courtesy of Estudio Mariscal
H&M Store in Barcelona / Estudio Mariscal. Image Courtesy of Estudio Mariscal

Global companies often exploit architectural icons to transform physical form into their desired brand reputations. To help achieve this goal, after twilight, the natural qualities of buildings have often been supplemented by architectural lighting, as the facades call unmistakeably for attention with their colorful and dynamic illumination. Representation has become the leading motivation for upgrading the lighting at headquarters and retail outlets. But when the illumination evolves into spectacular gestures, the brand identity and architecture itself starts to fade. Hence, the struggle for individuality has revived the discussion about ornament – though ornament appears now as light.

Louis Vuitton Matsuya Ginza Facade Renewal / Jun Aoki & Associates. Image © Daici Ano © Diego Opazo Allianz Arena Munich by Herzog & de Meuron, Munich, Germany. Image © Allianz Arena/B. Ducke Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi by Asymptote, Abu Dhabi. Image © Viceroy Hotel Group +7

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

09:30 - 23 June, 2015
Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum, Fremont Street at night in Downtown Las Vegas in 1952. Image © Edward N. Edstrom (Public Domain via Wikimedia)
Fremont Street at night in Downtown Las Vegas in 1952. Image © Edward N. Edstrom (Public Domain via Wikimedia)

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 +7

Five Projects Awarded Prizes at the 2014 Media Architecture Biennale

00:00 - 26 November, 2014

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.

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

00:00 - 9 October, 2014
Beyond "Things That Flicker": The Next Step for Media Architecture, Reconciling 'media' and 'architecture' evokes clumsy associations with Times Square, screens, integrated LEDs, paparazzi, or more generally 'things that flicker'. Image © Flickr CC User MK Feeney
Reconciling 'media' and 'architecture' evokes clumsy associations with Times Square, screens, integrated LEDs, paparazzi, or more generally 'things that flicker'. Image © Flickr CC User MK Feeney

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 +7

UNStudio Revamps Hanwha Offices with Shimmering LED Facade

01:00 - 4 August, 2014
Exterior View- Night. Image Courtesy of UNstudio
Exterior View- Night. Image Courtesy of UNstudio

With a glittering exterior that benefits both the interior and the exterior, UNStudio’s renovation proposal for Hanwha headquarters has recently won them first place in a competition to redesign the company’s office tower. Located in Seoul, South Korea, the tower is sited in the busy Cheonggyecheon district of the city. The new design will help to visually reestablish Hanwha as a leader in environmental technology, both in Korea and internationally.

Building Transformed Into Giant Rubik's Cube

00:00 - 7 December, 2013

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 +5

Light Matters: What Media Facades Are Saying

01:00 - 19 March, 2013
© 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...