Very recently, I had worked on an article which dealt with how facades are being revolutionized around the world. Gone are the days of plain-jane concrete and matching grill patterns with wall colours. “Today, architects want to make their constructions stand out like pieces of art,” says Sourav Ghosh, designer and architecture enthusiast. “They all want to create original unique artworks which scream innovation and oodles of creativity.” It is a global competition where architects, designers, and engineers are in innovation frenzy, wanting to make their constructions the talk of the town! Every day, in different parts of the world, architects are pushing the envelope – sky high.
In this hot pursuit to defy logic and (sometimes) imagination itself, designers and architects often turn to light designers and engineers to make their constructions have the most outstanding facades for all the world to see. So, while you are scratching your head on designing the perfect facade for your client, give light design a thought, to make your constructions shine on the city’s skyline!
We bring you some of the best examples of innovative light designs from around the globe that the last few decades have seen.
1. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
While the Sydney Opera House already is the definitive icon of the city and Australia at large, this innovative multimedia light design just took it notches higher as a global architectural phenomenon. Designed for the ‘Vivid Sydney Festival’, a number of selected paintings by distinguished Australian and global artists were projected (no repetition!) onto the Sydney Opera House for 21 days using video projection technologies. While this system does not require elaborate light set ups in itself, it succeeds in creating an excellent look. Mona Sawant says, “This is one of my favourite light design techniques. It allows easier personalization and creativity on a much lower maintenance scheme. Projection is a facade designer’s easiest tool to jazz up!” We agree.
2. The Water Cube – Beijing, China
Home to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this colossal structure consists of a creative light design based on the natural layout of soap bubbles, rendering an extremely elemental appearance. It is known to be one of the largest structures made of ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene), a translucent material like plastic, which allows more light penetration than traditional glass, thus helping in decreasing energy costs by 30%!
3. Greenpix – Beijing, China
Okay, this construction definitely has some of the most impressive credentials. The Greenpix has a zero energy media wall which features the largest LED colour display in the world! Also, it has the first photo-voltaic system to be integrated into a glass curtain wall which harvests solar energy by day and uses it to illuminate the screen after dark. The wall consists of over 2,000 LED lights which creates an absolutely mind blowing multimedia display. This is definitely one of the seven wonders in Architecture Land!
4. Kunsthaus Art Museum – Graz, Austria
Trust the Europeans to really be the best at the job. The Kunsthaus Art Museum in Graz, Austria has an integrated light system called BIX for the museum facade. BIX is a matrix of 930 fluorescent lamps which is integrated into the Plexiglas of the eastern facade. Also, each lamp is individually and infinitely adjustable and their individual luminosity can be controlled between 0% and 100%. And not just that. Thematic animations, graphics, and alphabets can be also displayed on the facade at a rate of 20 fps with a digital controller. Design meets magic right here.
5. Yas Hotel – Abu Dhabi
It is not a wonder that cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai can splurge. But most of the times, they splurge for the right reasons. And how! The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi is a light design facade wonder. This 36 billion dollar construction’s most important feature is the colour-changing, sweeping, curvilinear structures that sit on top of the hotel towers. The curvilinear forms consist of almost 6,000 pivoting diamond-shaped glass panels installed with LED and light projection systems.
Special mention: NIX – Frankfurt, Germany
It is always good to applaud an endeavour which might hold promise sometime in the future. The NIX in Germany was a research project on the ‘advancement of conventional light and building automation engineering’. The project was developed for a 45-story, 85,000 meters-squared office in Frankfurt but had to be suspended due to administrative difficulties. NIX is based on an interesting concept of light design where singular office light volumes are taken as base units to project three-dimensional holographic images onto the facades of office buildings! We hope someday, this project becomes a success.