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Aboreal Lightning, The Roundhouse, Camden, London, UK

Issue 81 October / November 2014 : Architectural: Installation

Lighting Design: ATMOS

Architect Alex Haw has created a groundbreaking interactive lighting installation housed in the Roundhouse in London for Imogen Heap’s Reverb music and technology festival.

Arboreal Lightning is a large-scale interactive lighting installation by atmos that transforms sound and gesture into an immersive, fluctuating, luminous environment - specifically designed for the Camden Roundhouse, one of the top live venues in London. Its activity is generated by both amateurs and professionals - artist performers and a wider audience - creating a performative stage beacon that activates programmed performances, and also serves as an interactive public installation outside concert times.

The project was commissioned by both the Roundhouse venue and Grammy Award-winning, singer-songwriter Imogen Heap as the centrepiece for the Camden Roundhouse’s Reverb 2014 Festival of Contemporary Classical Music. The installation has grown to be the resident centrepiece for the Roundhouse’s August 2014 Summer Sessions and is set to go with Heap on her year-long world tour, which started on the last night of the Roundhouse Festival.

The project mirrors the Roundhouse’s clock-like plan of 24 columns by bundling 24 strands of LED light into a giant heavy-rooted trunk that grows from the stage to arc over the colonnade and arches above. The strands soar upwards and weave through columns and rafters to follow the building’s dramatic structure, seeking hidden recesses and unexplored corners, before exploding outwards above both the performers and audience.

Some branches yearn upwards, towards the light of the lantern; a few strands bow down to reach and mingle with the audience, who can then trigger their own luminous ripples and join in the spatial symphony. This light canopy of visual music creates a unifying lattice that embraces the people beneath it within a giant, pulsating, Gaian network - umbilical cords connecting people to building, sound to light.

1,500 metres of LED string (iColor Flex MX gen2 by Philips Color Kinetics) have been meticulously tamed to shadow the contours of the building’s giant skeleton - yet each of the 4,800-pixel nodes glimmer individually in response to life. They coalesce to form a sinuous elastic mesh of sculptural video; a fluid, spatial cinema, worming through the building.

Architainment Lighting was called upon by atmos to supply a flexible, adaptable and lightweight solution. The strands boast flexible threads of high intensity, full colour LED nodes specifically designed for extraordinary effects and expansive installations without the constraints of fixture size, shape or space. Each iColor Flex MX gen2 strand consists of 50 individually addressable LED nodes, featuring dynamic integration of power, communication and control.  The flexible form factor accommodates two and three-dimensional configurations, while high light output affords superior long-distance viewing for video displays.

Architainment supplied a total of 96 lengths with 12” spacing and an sPDS-480ca 7.5V Philips Color Kinetics power and data supply. The sPDS-480ca 7.5V delivers 480 watts of output via sixteen 30-watt ports and automatically accommodates input voltages ranging from 100 VAC to 240 VAC.

Arboreal Lightning unleashes the hidden power of a place - and people. It explores inaccessible spaces and ineffable sensations - the physical manifestation of music, and the convergence of sensations. In an age of emancipated connectivity and collaboration, it seeks to reinvent and re-imagine the relationship between performer and audience, sound and light.


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