From Façade Lighting to Media Façades
Media Façade as a Playground for Transforming Lighting
Digital media is a growing part of architecture. Media façades function as a transforming image of sort, where the exterior forms a picture-like surface, and one of its functions is to convey a message based on an image or a text.
Including moving images in the aesthetics of architecture is quite a challenge, since the final function is determined only by designing and producing the content. One instalment can simultaneously act as a façade lighting, a piece of art, a surface for advertising and a jumbotron. A media façade must, however, be distinguished from advertising devices, such as LED displays. A media façade is always a permanent part of the architecture and its primary function is architectural.
A media façade in the core of a city can, at its best, animate the downtown dynamics in an impressive and fabulous manner. When executed thoughtfully, it can, for a brief moment, simultaneously be a surface for advertising and a piece of art. Features resembling modern media façades have already been implemented during the last century (Times Square in New York City, Piccadilly Circus in London, Las Vegas Strip). In these, light effects, moving lights and animation were used to draw attention besides advertising. These central city spaces have thus become classics and tourist attractions worth seeing. Futuristic films from decades ago have depicted city centres as spaces, where animated images have taken over wall surfaces (Blade Runner 1982) and in places, the image is an interactive, personal advertisement, which recognises the passer-by (Minority Report 2002). The technology in these and similar future visions is very contemporary.
There are examples of excellently designed and executed media façades abroad. One of the most skilfully realised ones is the Uniqa Tower in Vienna, designed by the lighting architecture company Licht Kunst Licht (2009).
Chaos or a Controlled Entity?
Does the night-time cityscape turn into a chaos of animated images and flashing coloured lights? The question has surfaced rather often in international seminars devoted to the topic. The increased possibilities lead to an embarrassment of riches, which challenges the designers and developers to evaluate aesthetic solutions more diversely than before and as larger entities than a single site, since all buildings cannot be media façades.
Should lighting, or rather ”night-time cityscape planning”, already take place in regional and town planning, and should this process be observed all the way to executing a single feature? A beautiful, coherent, safe and clear city space with its media façades can be attained only through planning it according to the desired way, and a managed entity can be achieved through a lighting strategy. Plans at multiple scales would offer a great basis for the supervision of building to direct the planning regionally and according to each site, and thus maintain control of the night-time cityscape and the technical entity.
The lighting designer’s job, in co-operation with the architect and the electrical designer, is to be in charge of a technologically and artistically successful entity, due to which the aesthetic and technical solutions can be presented to the decision-makers already at the drawing board. Thus the image of the city will not turn into a chaos of media façades.