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Rhône Archives, Lyon, France

Issue 81 October / November 2014 : Architectural : Installation


The Rhône archives in Lyon is a building with almost brutalist credentials. Les Éclaireurs developed a lighting projection for its golden sides inspired by Greek myth.

The new building holding the municiple archives of Rhône, an area of Lyon, can be found in the very centre of the French city’s business district. Built along the railway lines in a former industrial section of the town, the library is formed from three golden volumes, three large beautiful boxes, which express the great value of the documents, history and knowledge held within the building’s walls.

Created as part of a program encouraging the creation of artworks on public buildings, the Rhône project was designed by Les Éclaireurs, a youthful and busy French design agency, which has worked on buildings across France.

Les Éclaireurs light projection artwork acts to highlight the golden surface of the building’s façades, while creating a counterpoint by washing the top two floors of the building in a cold white light.

The large golden façades offer the perfect setting for dynamic video projections and the design team created a series of projections based on the theme of Narcissus, the Greek hunter who died staring at his own reflection in a pool.

The two video projections perform a dialogue with each other, face to face. The façades have been mapped to ensure that, innovatively, the video projections are used to create lighting effects and not images.

During the four sequences of ten minutes each, golden skins are superimposed on the façades, while subtle movements of brightness pass from one façade to the other, geometrical forms mirroring and switching from one side to the other, creating a brilliant effect that prompts the surface to vibrate as if the façades were the surface of a golden sea.

The sequences are made of real footage mixed with virtual images, which flit across the golden walls, creating symbols and patterns that can be interpreted and considered as the viewer so wishes.

To fit this to the urban scale and temporality of the business district, the sequences are randomly projected during the first part of the night. To use video projection in the urban realm, as a permanent installation, it is necessary to find ways to extend the artwork’s lifetime. Therefore, in between the two sequences, the façades are bathed in simple lighting.

When the city begins to settle down for the night, the projection slows down further and the videos are replaced by façade lighting created by LED lamps. With this strategy, the maintenance of the video projectors is required every two years, prompting the cost of the display to remain acceptable.

The video projectors have been placed on the roof of the central void and locked in waterproof and controlled climate containers. The containers have been covered with the golden material of the façades in order to match with the structure and not distract from its strictly linear features.

On the railway side of the building, the golden façade is constructed of vertically fitted sun shading panels and is lit using a matrix of LEDs, including Philips and Nicolaudie fixtures, which have been skillfully hidden behind the frontage.

When considered as one, the programming creates waves of light that give the impression to the viewer that light is passing through the building, creating a stunning effect on an already visually arresting structure.


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