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Learning from Glas Vegas: Gareth Hoskins, Stallan Brand, Hawkins\Brown

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Vas Piyasena, Nick van Jonker, Harriet Redman, Luciana Martinez, Craig Gray

The Barrowland Ballroom’s facade is a joyous beacon, a lighthouse in a part of town that was forgotten about while the city was busy overlighting the streets to the west. Not here fake-tan floodlit sandstone, nor sleek, chilly, blue-hued street lights with their heads in the sky. Here is the land of glowing cigarette ends, the flash of a mobile phone, the puddle of light leaked on the pavement from a pub door that’s ajar.

There’s a special rhythm to this bit of the city: a couple of times a week there’s a gig on at the Barrowland and, as its facade turns on, it draws hordes under the various railway bridges that delimit this part of the East End, like moths to its light. A twice-weekly riot of neon, flashing and pulsing in the dark and deprivation of Calton since Christmas Eve 1934.

When there’s no gig, we say celebrate the qualities of this part of town - darker, smaller-scale, more ad hoc than the city to the west. We propose a scattering of human-sized poles of light, like fragments of the now-unlit Barrowland facade, gently recalling its neon magic. These are grouped in a seemingly accidental fashion but, in fact, highlight moments of intensity triggered by the ad hoc streetscape - framing a small gap site, marking a quiet lane, modifying the expansive emptiness of the disused car park. And they would adjust their brightness based on the proximity of pedestrians, engaging with the grounded human realm and responding to patterns of use unfolding through the night.

On a gig night, it’s all change. The power of the lit visage is predicated on the darkness around - and so the grounded tubes are off. But at the urban scale, we leverage the presence of the railway viaduct as a city-wide signal that something special is unfolding to the east. More of these strange tubes, this time at double scale, light up along the edges of the railway line, connecting the dots of the bridges and offering a premonitory threshold to the party beyond.

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