New Media Architecture: LAb[au]’s Dexia Tower Project

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I’m a sucker for new media and architecture, so the Dexia Tower in Brussels fascinated me to no end.

Constantly changing at night, the building displayed time, date and weather information in addition to radiant strip and checker patterns. I know I’m not the only one intrigued by the Dexia, since there is a huge crop of YouTube videos that have recorded the changing surface of the edifice (like this one).

Turns out I had the good fortune of being there to witness part of the Brussel-based collective LAb[au]‘s (aka Laboratory for Architecture & Urbanism) multimedia art work entitled “Who’s afraid of Red, Green and Blue?

LAb[au] created three works for the building: Touch, Who’s afraid of Red, Green & Blue, and spectr|a|um.

“Who’s afraid…” has six variations of which I saw and photographed the third (photos above). By using the tower’s 4200 windows, the artwork is composed of a cycle of illuminated patterns displayed on the Dexia Tower. Each variation will last 2 months.

One blogger notes about LAb[au]’s earlier “Touch” project:

Instead of considering this infrastructure as a flat screen (surface) displaying pre-rendered video loops, the project is working on the architectural characteristics of the tower and its urban context. The characteristics of the building; orientation, volume, scale… are used as parameters to set up a spatial, temporal and luminous concept, which moreover allows people to directly interact with the tower.

On Place Rogier, at the bottom of the tower, a station is mounted where people can interact either individually or collectively with the tower through a multi touch screen. (source)

Manuel Abendroth of LAb[au] writes about their amazing “Touch” sculpture:

…the challenge for us was to design participation and identification; that user could get involved with a new urban sign. For this reason we have been setting up an entire communication chain running from the individual interaction with the enlightening of the tower towards sending out a new view of Brussels landscape as greeting card.

Each of these greeting cards is the actual view of a user’s interaction choosing in real-time the color of the tower and animating it with points, lines and surfaces underling the architecture and its characteristics. This abstract and constructivist language of verticals, horizontals, diagonals is for us not only our reductionist and elementary way to design but also the best manner to face the user to the main objective of the project : to create a relationship inbetween the tower, its architecture, the city and the user. (source)

During one of the works, LAb[au] uses the building to forecast the following day’s weather. Below is the key to the cleverly colorful scheme.

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Frankly, I don’t think I can do LAb[au]’s complex projects justice, so I suggest exploring their website yourself to learn more.

Here some other notable building around the world (particularly in Japan) that beautifully blend new media and architecture…I think Times Square is starting to look very old-skool right about now.

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