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Place: Light First – Invisible Skylines by vPPR Architects

The fifth of the AJ/iGuzzini Place: Light First proposals imagines a radical answer to the current concerns about the impact tall buildings are having on London’s skyline

As well as making things visible, light can make objects disappear - even skyscrapers. In our proposal, which we call ‘Invisible Skylines’, we incorporate recent developments in camera and LEDscreen technology into new kinds of architectural facades for high-rise towers, effectively creating an ‘invisibility cloak’ for tall buildings in London.

The principle of the technology is that a camera located on one side of an object is linked via a live feed to an LED screen on the other side, relaying a real-time image of the view beyond and so rendering the mass in between transparent. By rigorously applying this cladding system, comprising a dense screen of lenticular LEDs and 360° cameras powered by solar panels to all new high-rise developments, we can imagine a future world where housing needs are met in the centre of the capital without affecting the distinctive London skyline or obstructing the views towards St Paul’s vouchsafed under the London View Management Framework.

Vast volumes of spacious vertical housing now dissolve into the sky, accommodating everyone with a designated view or protected vista. From the interior of the buildings, continuous window screens are also constructed of live LED footage. The mediated view is practically indistinguishable from the original. Certain meteorological and atmospheric phenomena, such as shimmering shooting stars or iridescent cloud dust become more pronounced when masked skyscrapers overlap in sight-lines, enhancing the views.

The sky-screen has three modes: on, off, or edit. It is thereby possible to sculpt the skyline, spectacularly highlighting specific sites or rendering legible new interpretations

Twitterview takes place at 1pm on 30 July #PlaceLightFirst #LightFirst


Lighting designer’s notes by Jeff Shaw, associate director, Arup

‘Invisible Skylines’ is an ambitious proposal to solve London’s housing shortage while maintaining and enhancing London’s distinctive skyline.

The scheme allows for new high-rise residential development in the centre of London by using LED ‘sky screens’ to cloak the buildings so they disappear from view. The sky screens also allow us to edit the skyline by tailoring the content of projected images, for example, to ‘improve’ the weather, enhance the visibility of the Milky Way at night or add shooting stars.

The proposal was developed into a realisable concept: the sky screen is a grid comprising non-reflective, colour-changing LED domes that ensure the cloaking illusion is achieved from any angle (the non-reflective surface avoids distracting reflections of the sun).

Fish-eye lens cameras around each building record visual information from all directions; real-time processing of this data generates the cloak for the sky screens. The system is powered by photovoltaic panels on each building.

For safety, aeroplanes, helicopters and dirigibles would be equipped with interactive in-flight displays to ensure the structures are visible to them. Integrated sensors would detect proximity of passing birds to activate a localised reappearance of the facade to avoid impact.

Some challenges remain. For example, the LEDs must not only be visible in sunny conditions, but at times will need to simulate the sun itself. Intrinsic to the design is the form of the buildings. Since the external facades are opaque, generous internal courtyards with redirected sunlight would allow for comfortable levels of daylight to enter the residences.

iGuzzini case study: Rident Dental Clinic, Poreč, Croatia

iGuzzini case study: Rident Dental Clinic, Porec, Croatia

The eye-catching lighting for Rident Dental Clinic in Poreč, Croatia, was designed by Croatian lighting designer Dean Skira. Using a selection of iGuzzini products, including Laser Blade and Underscore, Skira and his team cleverly integrated the lighting into the architectural details of the clinic. In doing so, they managed to avoid using the typical forms of lighting one would expect to find in many other medical institutions.

Each organic sculpture in the ceiling operates via its own circuit, allowing each one to be modified on its own.

Working closely with the dental clinic project architects Studio Ante Morales from inception, Skira was able to focus on the lit effect by using products designed to be discreet.
The end result is a lighting scheme that offers all the practical functions expected of light, with the added bonus of evoking emotion through a dynamic, colour-changing scheme.

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