Poetry in Motion

Kinetic light installations are not generally known for their subtlety, but London’s Jason Bruges Stu­dio does things differently: its best work eschews spectacle in favor of mundane settings and everyday stimuli. Take the 12-person studio’s project for a glum stretch of road in Leicester, completed last September. Cameras mounted on lampposts track the hues of passing traffic, and curvaceous displays scroll with corresponding bands of color—not for the benefit of motorists, but for pedestrians on their way to school or the post office. It’s lighting as simple beautification rather than frenetic distraction.

A chandelier installed this month for the new London offices of law firm Allen & Overy, designed by Foster + Partners, performs a similar trick: a rooftop camera transmits the color of the sky onto 700 LED-lit Plexiglas globes suspended in the building’s 10-story atrium. “What we’re doing is filming in real time the texture and color of the skyscape over the building,” Bruges says. “And then we’re playing that back through the chandelier.” The result is a history of the sky slowly descending down the atrium.

A couple of the studio’s upcoming projects show a related fascination with bits and pieces of ­buildings—not surprising given that Bruges studied architecture in college and worked at Foster + Partners before founding the studio in 2001. (Most of his colleagues come from nonlighting backgrounds as well; in fact, Bruges says, the studio just hired its first “bona fide” lighting designer last year.) One installation, for a new office building on London’s Baker Street, will project colored lights onto a geometric glass facade, based on patterns of activity inside. Another will record the motions of elevators in glass shafts visible from the street, then mimic that movement after hours. Ghostly elevators gliding up and down a shuttered office building at night: Who knew kinetic lighting could be so eerie?

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