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Star Place, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Issue 48 Apr / May 2009 : Architectural : Façade

Lighting Design: ARUP LIGHTING / UNSTUDIO Architecture: UNSTUDIO


Thanks to its sparkling façade, Kaohsiung’s Star Place has become one of the most outstanding landmarks in southern Taiwan. Jimmie Wing reports.

Based on a long history of successful collaboration, Arup Lighting were brought into the project by UNStudio, lead by its principal architect and founder Ben van Berkel. HCF Architects and Dynasty Design Corp had already made a design for the location. “UNStudio is an architecture office with great appreciation of light present in all of their work,” averred Rogier van der Heide, lead lighting designer and global leader of Arup Lighting. “We’ve worked together on amazing international projects. In all these, UNStudio had the vision to get us involved promptly and moreover, contributing significantly to the lighting design.”

The unique 51.3m high concave façade was designed by UNStudio. The lighting design however was conceived in a joint design process between the architects, ArupLighting and Alliance Optotek (AOP), the local lighting manufacturer, using workshops and brainstorm sessions.  The team wanted to develop a textured façade skin responding to the environment by reflecting daylight and showing its 3D nature at night with integrated lighting. Van der Heide explained: “The architects at UNStudio explored options like curved cylindrical shapes cut diagonally, louvre based and other linear façade elements, deciding on horizontal aluminium ‘lamelles’ combined with vertical glass ‘fins’.”

Astrid Piber, architect at UNStudio and partner of the firm, comments that “the common aspiration between the initial three concepts developed for our client was the idea that we wanted to generate an ever-changing façade. During daytime this is achieved with the façade pattern created by the geometry of the main façade. During the nighttime we wanted to integrate lighting in the glass fins to make them glow. The lighting challenge was defined as preserving the glass transparency during the daytime to glow at night without visible light fittings or equipment. The architects’ details of the glass fixtures would incorporate the lighting fixtures and minimise the appearance, the varying measurements of the façade elements and glass and lighting fixtures were controlled by UNStudio’s parametric model of the façade geometry. Through this method design changes and variations on the pattern could be instantly outputted from the design models for manufacturing. The façade wraps around the entire building providing the closed rear with the same identity in a more simplified design.”
UNStudio involved van der Heide throughout conceptualisation of the lighting design. Van der Heide is very proud of the collaboration: “During the concept stage we met the client to understand their needs. Later, we made sure lighting equipment was completely integrated by designing an edge-light fitting, seamlessly merging with the other façade elements. We delivered digital files that the manufacturer put straight into their machines to fabricate the fittings. Regarding the control system, we designed and delivered drawings illustrating the setup and cable routing.”

Energy efficiency was one obvious prerequisite. The team explored several options and LED light sources. Based on testing and several mockups in their Amsterdam office, they decided on a combined optic of two lenses, one just above the LED and a second one to distribute the light evenly across the entire length of the glass panel, resulting in 10 watts of power consumption for each LED colour per sqm of glass: a bright, integrated and sustainable solution.

Van der Heide and Arup’s product designer travelled to Kaohsiung to meet with the client and AOP during every stage of the project; scheduling their trips together with the architect’s visits, making the most of everyone’s efforts.

As in most complex lighting projects based on tailor-made solutions, the manufacturer played a crucial role in the project. Several were considered, but AOP, turned out to be the most flexible, interested, and accomodating party, determined to create an integrated solution and offering all their expertise and experts, including Electronics Development Division Director, Acer Lin and System Control Manager, Eric Huang.

Arup Lighting visited AOP frequently evaluating test setups and prototypes. Much information was exchanged and all Arup’s product design drawings were evaluated by AOP. Many of their comments led to a better design and were included in the drawings. As with UNStudio, by collaborating with AOP, they were able to deliver the best results. The jointly designed product, manufactured by AOP, compares to nothing currently available on the market. It’s a true edge-lighting product sending all its light into the glass at specific angles creating a uniform glow. Added van der Heide “The bespoke light fitting works closely together with the glass fritted pattern especially designed for this purpose and for the dimensions of the glass panel in combination with flux and distribution of the light fitting.”

In a strong vote of confidence to this new kid on the LED block, van der Heide declared, “AOP’s standard products form a wide range of LED applications for specific purposes as well as some generic products. It’s all of a quality comparable to other large manufacturers of architectural LED lighting products.”

Highly accomplished e:cue programmers, Lightlife did the control system programming. UNStudio developed the storyboard for different lighting scenes, starting from the ‘Rising Star’ to special imagery for festivities on Valentines Day, Chinese New Year and others. Using animation software a broad series of images was generated and tested over some weeks on the façade. The architects in Amsterdam were able to see the lighting tests through a camera connection on their computers and, together with AOP and Lightlife, the finetuning of the lighting sequences could take place in real time

The project was completed after two years of cooperative planning which van der Heide considers typical for a project of this scale and complexity. 2,500 LED light modules are used, and the total of high power RGB tricoloured LEDs reaches as high as 12,000. At night, coloured lighting replaces the optical effects produced by the depth embedded in the façade motif with a fluid layer of changing hues and tones. In Taiwan, a country with a tradition of late-night shopping and markets, the night time appearance of Star Place is highly relevant.


Star Place
<p>Pic: Christian Richters</p>
Star Place
Pic: Christian Richters
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