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Dexia Tower and the light fantastic

Books, Music Video / Film

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 3 December 2007, 17:31    Permalink    Comments (11)

Picture: LAb[au]

In Brussels at the weekend (the family and I having decided to test out the St Pancras Eurostar experience), the chips, the chocolate and the Atomium were all good fun, but the highlight (forgive the pun) was the Dexia Tower – 38 floors and 150,000 LEDs equal one hell of a light show.

Dexia, a bank, opened its Tower, next to the Rogier Metro station at the end of one of the city's main thoroughfares, last year. Ever since, it has played host to a series of amazing light shows, mostly courtesy of Brussels-based LAb[au], specialists in interactive artworks and audiovisual performances. Playing while we were there was Who's Afraid of Red, Green and Blue? (above), one of a series of six different works, each lasting two months. The current show is on the theme of weather. As explained on LAb[au]'s site, "The project displays tomorrow's temperature, cloudiness, precipitations, and wind, by using colors and geometrical patterns to visualise these data. A color-code corresponds to tomorrow's temperature compared to the monthly average, linked to a scale of color-temperatures ranging from violet (-6° or colder), blue (-4°), cyan (-2°), green (monthly average), yellow (+2°), orange (+4°) to red (+6° or warmer)"


Previous shows have included Touch, in which visitors could control the display on the tower using a touch screen on the street opposite


Plus installations marking the 100th anniversary for the Brusssels Olympic committee
Picture: Marc Vanderslagmolen

And Belgium's national day

Picture: Thomas Vanhaute

Here's how it works:
The building has a total of 6,000 windows. Behind each of 4,200 of them, there is a lighting installation consisting on average of 12 light bulbs, each with three LEDs – a green, a red and a blue - that can be combined into a complete colour palette. A rapid change in the colour of the lamps instantaneously gives an impression of movement.

The façade can show figures, letters, geometric shapes with various effects and also graphics. To make it work, all the blinds need be closed as the leds are not strong enough to light the façade alone. The reflection on the closed blind illuminates the whole surface of the window. If the blind remains open, you only see a horizontal light line at the bottom of the window. The system is controlled by a central computer. The result is entered in a programme to be translated for the lighting system by the computer.

An image, a visual effect or letters are only visible when some windows are lit in some colours. This means that each of the 4,200 windows equipped with the system can be illuminated separately and exactly in a given colour. This produces the image or the animation you can see.

And in case you thought all this was terribly wasteful of electricity, Dexia say that "The Dexia Tower is equipped with a highly effective energy-saving LED lighting system (electroluminescent diodes). Each LED, at its maximum capacity, uses 1 watt. As a result of the various colour and movement effects, this maximum capacity is never achieved. The different creations presented so far have never exceeded one third of this total capacity. During the night, the tower is illuminated 9 hours in the winter and 5 hours in the summer. Recent tests reveal that the Dexia Tower uses about a third less electricity than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, while the energy required to light a football stadium costs no less than seven times the energy consumed by the Tower."

Fantastic, although I wouldn't necessarily want to live next door to it.

Picture: Marc Vanderslagmolen. Light artist: Arto


next time you are in bxl I will gladly invite you for a drink in the archiduc :-)
2007-12-03 18:18:29

"next time you are in bxl I will gladly invite you for a drink in the archiduc"

Thanks - what do people in Brussels think of the tower?
CR Patrick Burgoyne
2007-12-03 18:25:34

we still miss the martini building :-) Just joking. We think it is fantastic. But I had to read an english blog to have the background.
2007-12-03 19:00:26

I remember these guys doing something similar years ago. Theirs was more 'Commodore 64,' for want of a better phrase.
Marcus Taylor
2007-12-03 19:46:18

It's great! There was a electro music festival on the top floor of the parking building in front of the tower in september called Roofs Festival. It had Vive la fête and Vicarious Bliss giving there best with the tower giving a free lightshow. Amazing.
Not Another Graphic Designer
2007-12-03 23:23:27

Haa! Not another,... known poster :))

The Brussels Red Light District now lives in the shade of this tower, and that is where I lived for over 5 years. being a student it was the cheapest 'hood in town, but next to some "slummie" pimps there are a lot of cosy Marocan bars there too, so living there is not so bad.

Anyway I had a view on the tower from my bedroom-window and I basically watch the tower come alive, I was sad in the beginning, and here's my point, almost anywhere in town you can see the tip of the Dexia (= bank) tower. Why was it sad in the beginning? Well the highest fierest tower in town takin' on the sky all alone, sittin' up high there standing in the darkness...

Now it has become a beacon, a proud signal of a reviving city and society, striving for avant-garde and helping people orientate and never wait in the dark ever again..

I hated the tower at first, especially because i saw it for way too long, and it was going nowhere but up, now with the permanent light-installation is has become more an object of joy than a too big (compared to it's surroundings) tower wanting to be seen.

More on Brussels here

(fieuhww so far for luch :) )
2007-12-04 14:28:15

This is an excellent idea and the execution of the tower is very impressive. Although as a piece of design it is slightly superficial
2007-12-06 12:38:54

There is a quite interesting but tiny tiny video here -

- about Ron Haselden doing a similar thing at the Trellick Tower a few years back. Forget Commodore 64 - he gave everyone who partook (clearly and sadly he didn't get the whole block) a big lamp and some gels and then stood across the railway line with a big LED type thing showing numbers 1-30, which were cues for them to change the gels or switch their lights on or off.....

A lovely idea.

robert phillips
2007-12-07 12:01:21

I never thought somebody would name his page by the same abbreviation as my country Czech Republic. So let's have a look ... hm, yeah, that is definitely not in the Czehc Republic, we have problems with everything new, like the new blob library

Czechs are too close-minded to understand what's good, like this lighting thing... I wish communists didn't kill everyone with brains...
Elen Prague
2007-12-12 12:47:55

Here is a similar building in Vienna called Uniqa-Tower

2008-10-03 16:50:02

Looking at the buiding come to life in the evening was a complete joy... I during my few visits to the place stayed at THON Hotel, the building right next... though the hotel had really clumsy rooms but the view of the tower with patterns all over made up for the stay.
2011-02-01 04:43:37

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