'Architainment’ is a new trend being employed in public spaces, with structures ranging from heritage sites to shopping centres trying to combine architectural lighting and entertainment. Architainment, its proponents say, is an effective way to draw crowds and highlight the beauty and features of these areas.


Lahti Light Well from VISIBLE on Vimeo.

The Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower are a few high profile examples of architainment in effect. All have been fitted with colour changing LED fixtures that change the lighting to match music, special events, or seasons.

The architainment installation of the Azadi Tower in Tehran, Iran, is one of the most eye-catching in the world. Completed by Italy’s SGM Architectural Lighting Group and Dubai-based TechnoPro, the lighting was challenging as the team was prohibited from making any alterations to the building’s exterior.

Using its own Palco series of fixtures, SGM employed 56 Genio Mobile fixtures, with an 8° lens, on the side of the main entrance path. The fixtures were installed and programmed to create an illumination similar to that of an airport landing strip. 120 Palco 5, with 8° lenses, were installed on the perimeter of the building’s four oblique legs to emphasise and enhance the architectural profile of the structure.

A completely different type of architainment installation was completed in Australia, where an inner city car park, located in the hub of Adelaide’s shopping and entertainment precincts, was transformed into an imaginative ‘cultural canvas’. A large-scale illuminated LED canvas, dubbed the Rundle Lantern, provides a regularly changing procession of display graphics, colours and morphing designs, light shows and video content.

Designer Damien Mair says the driving concept behind the project was to create a visual device that people could interact with directly. The Rundle Lantern encases 1066 m of display area (nine storeys high) around the building. As the carpark relies entirely on natural ventilation to expel exhaust fumes, the project called for purpose-built LED housings.

The installation uses satin anodised panels angled like louvre windows. Each of the 714 (1.1m x 1m) aluminium tiles is illuminated from below by a pair of custom-built Space Cannon Bisquit LED luminaires, which can be configured in a creation of 16 million colours for a total of 1428 pixels.

These are merely two examples of the hundreds of unique architainment lighting installations around the world. The best-known one, however, is in Finland.

Valokaivo, which means ‘Light Well’ in Finnish, is located in the central market square of the Finnish town Lahti. Valokaivo is comprised of an array of skyward-facing lights, illuminating when pedestrians step on different sections of the protective glass panel.

The design of the well is inspired by traditional draw wells found in excavations of the town square. It resembles a water-well immersed in a granite platform just above pavement level. When pedestrians walk onto the platform, the well responds by creating white ripples on the surface around the area stepped on.

A downward-angled camera is mounted above the well, with a media server generating interactive video content. There are also four image projectors around the market square, projecting footsteps onto the pavement that direct visitors to the Light Well installation.

Each architainment installation is unique, but many lighting designers are building on international successes to add interactive elements to lighting designs in shopping centres and office parks. As LED and other lighting technology is enhanced, we are bound to see many more architainment installations in the future.