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A Bullet from a Shooting Star

Issue 87 October / November 2015

As a part of this year's London Design Festival, design consultancy SEAM has provided atmosphere to Alex Chinneck's A Bullet from a Shooting Star, illuminating its evening silhouette with Osram Traxon fittings.

Fifteen tons of steel, 35-metres tall, 120 tons of concrete: Alex Chinneck's A Bullet from a Shooting Star is an up-turned electrical pylon in the industrial landscape of Greenwich peninsula, London.The expression of this year's London Design Festival Landmark Project (sponsored by the area's developer Knight Dragon) creates a crisp silhouette against the sky, casting a sharp web of shadows on the ground. At night, against the jumbled backdrop of Canary Wharf and the Millennium Dome, London-based design consultancy SEAM created a lighting proposal that allowed the pylon to create its own contrast.

“The sculpture drew us to themes of celestial bodies, the works of Nicola Tesla, lighting and electricity, inspiring our design concepts for illumination of the sculpture.’’ said Marci Song, Director of SEAM. 

Utilising Osram Traxon fittings, light is directed upward through the lattice-like structure by seven Traxon Technologies Washer Allegro luminaires, controlled by the e:cue Butler XT2 control engine. As the interior framework catches the light, it gains volume and the external framework becomes a silhouette against its internally illuminated structural members. 

Nicki Smith, Business Development Manager, International Projects at Osram said, “We are delighted to have worked with such a renowned artist as part of the London Design Festival. A Bullet from a Shooting Star is an eye-catching project for those visiting and living in the area.”

Emory Smith, Director of SEAM explained: “Our challenge for the lighting design was clear: to enhance the sculpture's presence at night, but we also asked if there was another quality that we could bring out with lighting, one that might not be visible during the day.’’ Additionally, the dynamic DMX lighting controls provided brightness and colour, bringing subtle theatrical elements to the sculpture, complementing the artist's conceptual story. The ten minute progressive sequence reveals the lines of the sculpture's silhouette by gradually filling it with white light before it plumes with deep oranges and fades into the night sky. The colour is reminiscent of molten steel, recalling how the sculpture was forged as well as a nod to the site's industrial history.

“The colour choice and sequence came to the team quite easily when we were on site. What was challenging was getting the timing right - how long will people linger, when does animation of light become too much about itself, how can we leave space for the sculpture to just be a silhouette? In the end, the proposal was subtle and restrained. You catch glimpses of the artwork at different moments and there's a narrative, but the lighting is still second to the audacity of the piece,’’ said Smith.

A collaborative tour de force, Alex Chinneck was pleased with the relationship with SEAM, admitting to the project’s ambitious nature. “It was a complex industrial process – welding, drilling, bolting, more welding, sawing. The end result is whimsical and playful. There’s typically an illusion at play in my work, but the path to that result is one of brute industry.”


Pic: Chris Tubbs Pic: Tara Mandahar Pic: Tara Mandahar
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