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Light Year

Client: Olympia York

Team: Artists Peter Fink + Anne Bean

Development of this project which used the Canary Wharf tower as an easel supporting a huge kinetic light and laser installation seen over 40km.

The lighting installation involved the choreographing of 6km long beams of light above the tower with up to 35km long laser beams emanating horizontally. To complement the mon­umentality of the searchlights and lasers the four sides of the building were animated by a computerised digitised light display creating chang­ing patterns over a height of twenty floors.

On New Year’s Eve the public spac­es at Canary Wharf and all the way down river were jammed by hundreds of thousands of people witnessing the monumental digital countdown on the Western face of the tower. The countdown was accompanied by an awesome pyrotechnic display creating a 350m high wall of light and specially commissioned sound piece using maritime fog horns.

The writer Ian Jack picked up on this in his article in the Independent on Sunday How Fares the Human Spirit? at the end of 1992. “Several thousand of us assembled on the banks of the Thames last year for the closing minutes of 1991 - staring up at the most fabulous new building - changing patterns of lights ripped up its sides. There was something robotic and therefore nearly human about it. A building with a life of its own - see the strange walking towers in H G Wells or the little steel men in Star Wars out of Dr Who. Just before midnight the pattern changed. A massive figure 10 lit up its sides covering a dozen floors or more from top to bottom. Then a 9 followed by an 8. The crowd on either side of the river began to chant with each flashing second: 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 - the Tower said HI then flashed 92. Rockets flew and exploded in star-bursts and ship horns groaned and hooted. People cheered. It was a new public event (rare in itself) which cost the public nothing, which children loved, which gave focus to a celebration.”

Acres of newsprint coverage, with world-wide TV audience of multi-millions are tes­timony to the power of the event.


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