We were positioned someplace between artisans and mechanics in the battle for this project. It was a most coveted prize for 2 reasons: It was Shanghai’s most unusual façade and one in which the lighting systems would be integrated into the structure as if they were an organic part of it and not merely an afterthought, as is often the case in façade lighting.
Lighting the fins was logical but there were practical problems, which we overcame. The concept design proposed to use a string of pixels; LED nodes on a string of cable with an RGB driver at the head. This seems like the logical solution as the flexible cable enables one to cope with differing fin lengths. However, without a diffused layer between the viewer and the LED all one would see would be a row of dots. Thus, a layer of partially opaque acrylic was proposed for the front of the fins so as to even out the ‘dots’.
This structure was highly problematic because of the need to account for wind loads and the unstable nature of what is basically a flexible strata of plastic which would somehow need to be bonded to the aluminum. Access to the LED for maintenance was also a problem with this approach, as was ingress of water and grime. The fins could never be rated at IP65.
We kept the essence of this visual concept but decided to stick with our normal technical approach requiring that the light fixtures be self-contained components that fitted into the metal fins and butted end-to-end to form a continuous display with no visible joints. Each and every fixture would be completely sealed against the elements and easily removable for maintenance if the need arose. Illumination Physics have illuminated many façades in the last decade.
Recent work for large façade engineering companies trying to integrate façade lighting into their scope has also provided an excellent construction industry perspective on what are acceptable costs. L’Avenue is a high quality building. The detail is wonderful. However the cost for the lighting must achieve value for money and it is folly to allow a technical lighting design to run up a bill that will be unacceptable as a percentage of the overall build cost.
We attacked the problems one by one and ensured that we prioritized the most pressing issues. Illumination Physics' Peter Kemp and Simon McCartney worked alongside Janine Dettki, a façade engineering designer from Josef Gartner in Germany. We collaborated around a virtual drawing board to create the L’Avenue façade design.
Another problem arose as it was discovered that every fin length on the L’Avenue building is different. As the task of creating a thousand different custom lengths was impractical, we explained to the builder that we had set a pixel size of 100mm so the length changes can be 500, 600 etc. An acceptable tolerance was arranged as we could not make endlessly varying lengths of a modular lighting system. Fortunately, custom fixture design is typical for Illumination Physics and so the complex bill of quantities could be accommodated within a factory designed to develop prototypes and develop technical products.
L’Avenue is equipped with an Illumination Physics control system which includes all of the software and hardware. Our scope also included programming and the creation of a number of animated and non-animated sparkling displays.