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Uniqa Tower, Vienna, Austria

Issue 31 Jun / Jul 2006 : Architectural : Façade

Architects: NEUMANN + PARTNER Lighting Design: LICHT KUNST LICHT

The new Uniqa Tower on Vienna’s Danube Canal has been outlined as the spectacular headquarters for the huge insurance group.

Prominently located in the 1st District, the Uniqa building stands at an impressive 20 floors and has been fitted with 45,000 Barco LED blocks covering a staggering 7,000sqm. The LED blocks, attached to profiles in between the window panes, bring the building to life and make it one of the most striking towers in Vienna...

Be it through projections or video boards, displays or light installations – more and more enterprises use their company buildings to set themselves apart and to achieve as much attention as possible in times of continuous visual overstimulation. Media façades have established themselves as eye catchers in urban environments. Not always do they meet the public’s approval, especially when ostensible and bold lighting effects dominate the perception of the urban surroundings. Aware of this development, Uniqa decided to stage its office tower – as finished in summer 2004 – with a highly sophisticated state of the art light art installation.
This was an enormous challenge for the lighting designers of Licht Kunst Licht, since it involved developing a differentiated staging concept for an existing building – a lighting design that would subtly enhance the architecture and set it in scene whilst smoothly integrating itself into the building context.
The new headquarters offers space for more than 1000 employees. “Lively, vigorous, extroverted, almost playfully the building emerges. Its floor plan is inspired by the swing of the Uniqa logo and translates it into architecture. At the same time the concept is dominated by interior and exterior openness,” is how the Vienna-based architect Heinz Neumann describes his design. In this sensitive urban context the choice of an ellipsoidal high rise building floor plan allows for a full panorama view from the individual floors onto the entire city of Vienna and offers optimum daylight conditions even on the lower levels through the slant of the opening building volume.
This ellipsoidal, omnidirectionally viewable and perceptible building shape and its double-shell, naturally ventilated curtain wall has inspired a facade integrated lighting concept, that newly stages the existing architecture as a sculpture. Compared to classic interior and exterior façade illuminations or surface applied displays the Uniqa light installation takes the development one step further and presents itself as a novelty: It interprets the entire building volume as a screen, the building architecture as a panorama. The 20-storey façade transforms into an apparently living building envelope made of moving light and image worlds.
The LED solution comprises Barco’s MIPIX and has been fixed in a special housing which is IP65 certified. There are 2,800 sections of MIPIX each of 1.3 metres long, placed end to end in pairs - making 1,400 separate sections each totalling 2.6 metres long. A matrix of 160,000 individually controllable LED video pixels has been integrated into the facade structure. It fully embraces the 7,000 sqm large building surface. Similar to television, an image pixel consists of the primary colours red, green and blue. Through their additive mixture, white and all other blended colours can be generated. The double-shell curtain wall is fitted with an accessible interspace with a width of approximately 40cm, where all video pixel modules are attached to the window profiles by means of an aluminium channel. The vertical distance between the video pixels is 8cm, the horizontal spacing follows the façade grid and is 1.4 metres.
The complete system is based on video components with 25 images per second and guarantees a staging of the tower in a digital video image signal quality. Apart from the video pixel profiles other required components, such as controller units, have been fully integrated into the existing façade elevation – to the effect that the installation cannot be seen from outside if not activated.
Barco was chosen for this project not only for its innovative product design and product quality but also for its ability to complete the installation in just five weeks. The installation posed a range of unique challenges for the Barco team to overcome. No cables were allowed to run into the building from the outside except via the roof. Coupled with the extremely short time scales for the installation, this made for an unusual scenario for the team but one that was overcome to the customer’s satisfaction. 
The content for the LED is a specially designed video file written for Uniqa by Licht Kunst Licht. It emanates light from within, interprets the architecture, interacts with it, deconstructs it and reassembles it successively. It departs from the two dimensionality of a conventional laterally confined video screen by staging the architecture omnidirectionally. It integrates itself into the structure, connects the evasiveness of the images with the durability of the architecture, palpates the building envelope – silent and subtle, without beginning or end.
“The Uniqa tower is a new landmark for the city of Vienna. Its distinctive silhouette is an architectural landmark located at the start of the famous Ringstrasse, and it creates a link from Vienna's city centre to the historically important Praterstraße. The unique LED installation supports the expressive architecture of Uniqa headquarters. The conceptive world of pictures with abstract and specific motives brings additional life to glass cladding of Uniqa tower,” says Ernst Morgenbesser, project manager Uniqa Tower.
Stephan Paridaen, President of Barco’s Media and Entertainment division stated: “This is truly a fantastic and unique installation. The Uniqa building marks the beginning of the latest evolution in LED technology, from video walls to creative architectural visual design.”

technical information

Architects: Neumann + Partner
Lighting Designer: Licht Kunst Licht
Project management: Stefan Hofmann
Project management Uniqa: Ernst Morgenbesser
LED Light Technology: Barco



2,800 sections of Barco MIPIX panels result in a matrix of 160,000 individually controllable LED video pixels that is integrated into the facade

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