Light as Material

The play and interaction of light has been a key component in buildings since the beginning of architecture.  Light can make the same space cozy and comfortable or harsh and uninviting.  It can help in movement, wayfinding and orientation, and can delineate or separate one space from another.  But unlike texture, color, structure, and most other materials, light has the ability to change and reshape space rather quickly.  New technologies such as projected light can make any surface into a screen and what is being projected becomes part of the building.

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the Northern Sparks festival in Minneapolis, MN.  This event included various artistic light installations throughout the city that transformed buildings into theaters and video games.  Some installations created facades that appeared to be moving and breathing while others created spaces in the middle of empty roads.  One specific projection highlighted the façade of the old Pillsbury A mill, giving the dark and boarded windows the appearance of opening and closing with lights flashing on and off.

Other artistic installations around the world have used the idea of projected light in conjunction with buildings to create magnificent spectacles of architecture from the most mundane of materials.  On of these projects was the 555 Kubik display in Hamburg, Germany.  In this installation the artist envisioned what it would be like if a building was dreaming.  The rather boring blank façade of the “Kunsthalle” appeared to come to life with various color and texture as it was manipulated by a set of large, projected hands.

Another installation of this type called Yekpare was projected on the Haydarpasa Train Station in Istanbul.  The display told the 8,500-year history of the city with fast-moving and colorful images projected on a rather old and traditional looking façade.

As technology advances, images and videos like these will become more affordable and will be utilized more often, giving architects a new tool to use in building and space creation.  The actual physical material of a structure may become less important as what the building or façade may become.






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