LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Buildings Brighten Up


Buildings are brightening up, thanks to stunning architectural illumination and light installations, making the urban landscape more colorful and exciting.

From football stadiums to department stores, buildings are being decked out with electroluminescent multimedia facades. Lighting installations in city centers are all the rage, too. These illuminating projects that are brightening up the urban landscape are all happening thanks to lighting control and design companies. While some projects are dramatic and experimental, others are understated and functional. But color is always key.
"People like the idea of having a colorful experience more than having a white light," says Jens Freihöfer, marketing director of the lighting control company E:Cue (, which is known for lighting up the facades of Louis Vuitton's store in Hong Kong and the Galeria department store in Seoul.
The history of the desire to illuminate buildings dates back to the late nineteenth century. At the 1889 world exhibition in Paris, an unprecedented spectacle of artificial light was created to display the illumination of the Eiffel Tower. Before long, store windows were being illuminated, with Las Vegas and New York the forerunners in applying façade illumination and in using artificial light in advertising. Today, Asia is leading the way, with cities such as Tokyo and Shanghai being acclaimed for innovative uses of artificial light.
This trend has come about thanks to developments in LED technology. It mirrors how designers such as Paul Cocksedge, Marcus Tremonto and Johanna Grawunder are imaginatively working with light, and how artists such as James Turrell, who also designs light installations for restaurants and hotels, are using light as the main material.
Lighting installations can energize the skyline and create interactivity with passers-by. They also serve to create excitement and attribute a new reading to the respective buildings. Take how Electrabel Power Station in Brussels has been outfitted by Magic Monkey ( with a cloak of 8,032 individually controlled RGB LED pixels. It took 10 mountain climbers two months to install the lights; the subsequent images become visible from a distance. The tower's content changes 15 times per year to reflect the seasons and events.
"The aim was to demystify the tower and turn it into something beautiful," says Marc Largent, who set up Magic Monkey with his wife Daphné Delbeke. "Electrabel wanted us to create something exceptional and engaging, something people look at, enjoy and never forget."
Good lighting design can help improve a company's profile and subtly convey brand values. Indeed, lighting designers are challenged to translate a brand's DNA while making buildings more attractive and noticeable. The increase in these kinds of LED-based projects is also due to how LED lights consume less energy than other light applications and are more ecological.
Taking advantage of advanced lighting technology, projects are growing in sophistication. One such example is the Brussels Dexia Tower. Dexia commissioned LAb[au] ( to make "Who's afraid of Red, Green and Blue," which consists of 4,200 windows being individually color-enlightened, with red, green and blue combined in various ways to reproduce other colors. In 2007, a new variation on the theme was exhibited every two months, the façade becoming an immense screen-like display.
"Good lighting design must work on several key levels: functionality, sustainability and efficiency," writes Rogier van der Heide in the book "Bright: Architectural Illumination and Light Installations." As he continues, "Transforming brand data and values into sensitive lighting design is an art."

"Bright: Architectural Illumination and Light Installations" is published by Frame.

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