A programmable led's sculpture

Light Design and Generative algorithms for an ad hoc lighting installation at ABanca Madrid’s headquarter.

in collaboration with:

Architect and light designer Ignacio Valero received in 2016 the assignment for the light design of Abanca Madrid’s headquarter in Paseo de Recoletos 4, just a few steps away from plaza de Cibeles.

Abanca is a Spanish bank based in Galicia created in 2011 following the "bankisation" of Novacaixagalicia savings bank and it’s owned since 2013 by Banco Etcheverría, part of Venezuelan financial institution Banesco.

Abanca madrid's headquarter
Abanca Madrid's headquarter - © Alberto Chinchon
Beyond the led matrix

In order to balance the sober and formal illumination of the two façades, the project includes an “unconventional” element at the chamfer above the main entrance.

Placed behind the balconies all along the four floors of the building, this lighting sculpture – produced by Aneva – is made by more than 900 small cylinders, hanged in rows with slightly different orientations and variable density in three close planes.

The aims of the hardware design was to produce some abstract and minimal artefact, far away from conventional informative led matrix, and therefor to create a convivial element in the relation between the bank’s headquarter and its surroundings – a kind of a public sculpture embedded in the façade – following the tradition of public clocks, automata, carillon and so on.

plans and sketches
the design team with an early prototype
A synesthetic approach to generative algorithms

My main role in this project was to design and code the visual effects for this ad hoc light sculpture.

As first step I created a “simulator” in order to explore the aesthetic of this unusual artifacts. I mapped the irregular and discontinuous distribution of light elements on the screen plane and I started playing with generative algorithms looking for some suitable distributions of grey values.

getting familiar with the device

In order to do so, I created a single flat projection of the three planes containing the lighting elements and I started drawing geometric white shapes on it. The brightness values of the pixels in this canvas fed the light intensity of the elements in the simulator and allowed me to have a sneak peek of the light sculpture behaviour.

I soon realised that I would have needed some kind of signal in order to produce interesting patterns in the variations of light intensity over time. The easy answer was to use music, even in a silent device. A simple algorithm for sound wave’s analysis is hence used to linearly define light intensity and to generates dynamic geometric elements according to predefined thresholds.

The installation performs an eclectic playlist that includes military marches, contemporary classical music, a Tom Waits song in New Orleans Brass band’s style and a crowdfunded creative common licensed version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations recorded by Kimiko Ishizaka in 2012 – as in the video below.

As it is

The final application runs in Processing on a Mac Mini computer. Andrés Duarte engineered four Teensy boards in order to send the signals to the lighting hardware. The device is remotely controlled by a simple timer application and light show is performed daily from right after sunset to around midnight.

Further developments, as enabling user interaction or an open API platform for developers, have been proposed to Abanca that have, so far, declined to push the project any forward.


ABanca

Abanca is a Spanish bank based in Galicia created in 2011 following the "bankisation" of Novacaixagalicia savings bank.

Since 2013 it’s owned by Banco Etcheverría, part of Venezuelan financial institution Banesco.