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    Repainting the world’s buildings with light


    Big buildings are some of the most prominent places that feature high-profile lighting displays. From bridges to skyscrapers, giant man-made structures often provide the perfect canvas for some of the world’s most ambitious creative endeavors.



    But are these huge displays simply art? Or can the act of incorporating light into the external facades of a structure provide a functional purpose?

    Most of us who live in big cities are familiar with the night-time sight of high-intensity lights atop skyscrapers, designed to signal their presence to passing aircraft.

    The red beacons, traditionally illuminated with incandescent bulbs, tend to have a short lifespan. To counter this, incandescent bulbs have recently begun to be replaced with red LED bulbs - a change only possible because the LEDs we can produce are now of sufficient brightness.

    However, what of the offerings that seem to place more emphasis on the creative or artistic function of light? Carsten Nicolai recently presented ‘Alpha Pulse’ in Hong Kong , using the International Commerce Center as his canvas. The display was purely artistic, designed to explore the effect that pulsating light has on the mood and feelings of the observer.

    In addition, an app designed by Nicolai provided complementary audio that responded to the light display.There was also the ‘Unnumbered Sparks’ installation in Vancouver , hung between buildings rather than illuminating the buildings themselves, which was controlled by users via a smartphone app.

    Considering the recent trend towards creating interactive light art that responds to internet applications, it is no surprise that real-life skyscrapers have seen a return to the function most celebrated in Hollywood movies: displaying grandiose window messages.

    Take the A8 Music Headquarters in Shenzhen, China , which displays music most recently streamed from the service by users. Imagine a building that could be used to display messages from one person in an area to another!

    Taking interactive lighting to its limit, meanwhile, is the BCP Affinity project in Lima, Peru.


    When the Banco del Crédito de Peru (BCP) looked to create a lighting installation, one option they considered was a media façade.


    Instead, however, they opted to work with lighting designer Claudia Paz to create a 3D interactive installation. Visitors can control a variety of light and sound creations used to illuminate the building, by way of an LED podium fitted with multi-touch sensors.


    Elsewhere, minus the bells and whistles of internet APIs and smartphone apps, the Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam is designed as an illuminated spectacle; a gateway to the city from both Vietnam and the wider world.


    Complementing the already-striking design of the dragon structure itself, the lights turn the bridge into a fiery iconic landmark. The international attention drawn to the area is reflected in an up-and-coming tourist trade, providing big economic benefits to the locals.


    There’s a huge variety of uses for building-sized light installations, and not all of them need to utilize constantly flashing lights or smartphone interactivity to turn a structure into a canvas.


    Which building would you love to see turned into a canvas for light art, and how would you design it?


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