Dexia Tower and the light fantastic

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.

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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)”

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

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

And Belgium’s national day

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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.

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Picture: Marc Vanderslagmolen. Light artist: Arto

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