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Light Research @ MMU

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen: fantastic lights lasers and fireworks

We are very fond of vernacular and festive lighting on this site. Bright and colourful fairground illumination has long been a source of delight and desire, contributing to the excitable atmosphere and the themes of popular culture that often feature in the designs of fairground art. The use of illumination at contemporary spaces of carnival and festivity becomes updated but also often follows well-worn popular themes and older forms of lighting design, for such spaces are also powerful sites of nostalgia for those who have been visiting them over the course of a lifetime. tivioli Nimh 5

The second oldest amusement park and pleasure gardens in the world, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, founded in 1843, continues to draw millions of visitors each year, tourists and locals alike. Situated right in the heart of the city, it includes a heady mix of the latest cutting edge thrill rides, top class and less exclusive restaurants, a five star hotel, gardens and lakes, themed architecture, fairground stalls, several stages and concert venues and many other attractions. tivoli pagoda

This complex and fascinating realm also draws on techniques of fantastic and festive lighting at night to produce an enchanting space. Each Saturday during the summer season, a beautiful firework display, superbly synchronized with music, issues forth from the roof of the concert hall as part of a tradition initiated in the park’s first season. In addition, the whole of the gardens is garbed in customized, colourful illumination, with over 120,000 bulbs arrayed across buildings, amusements, fountains, trees, avenues and lakes producing a rich nocturnal scene. Tivoli laser 1

In addition, a cutting edge laser show, deploying dry ice and cascading fountains, plays across the lake every night, following series of moods and intensities, and transforming the usually placid watery landscape.Tivoli laser 3

April 14th, 2015 - 10:44am

Experimenting with light in Copenhagen – and the dangers of responsive lighting

Here’s a link to a fascinating piece on experimentation with smart lighting technologies in Copenhagen. Tellingly, the author also comments on the potential for such technologies to be deployed to intensifty surveillance and impose strict regimes of  law and order. This is a salient reminder that the rolling out of smart lighting promises much in improving the quality of the aesthetics and sustainability of urban illumination but the dangers need to be acknowledged as well!

October 31st, 2014 - 10:26am

Social Light Movement forces Copenhagen into TRANSITION

The neighbourhood of Sundholm, in South-eastern Copenhagen, is often depicted in popular media and planning documents as being socially deprived, economically challenged and physically run down. In 2011 the local neighbourhood-development office attempted to address and challenge this image. They invited the Social Light Movement to initiate a string of site-specific lighting projects in public space, a project labelled TRANSITION. But more than simply addressing the negative depiction of Sundholm, the project aimed to contest the stigmatised image by inviting local residents in co-creation of lighting designs that would help facilitate change. One of the projects, Home Sweet Sundholm, shows traditional street lamps, transformed into cosy coloured standard lamps. The social reality of the space is contested, allowing residents to imagine a journey away from what is present in space: Instead of feeling unsafe or depressed, the spectacle of illumination can make us think of something else.

SLM Copenhagen 2







A second project is Satellight, where satellite dishes on a building façade in Telemarksgade are bathed in different colours. Satellite dishes are singled out in Danish public media and policy as signifiers of segregated areas, or ‘ghettoes’. By illuminating the  dishes, these negative connotations are questioned and instead they are staged as glowing light art pieces aestheticising the street.

SLM Copenhagen







Both cases demonstrate how the popular order of urban space can be turned around with negative connotations of neighbourhoods being replaced by a spectacular senseations. Though such imaginative approaches can provide an aesthetic veneer that anaesthetises the public, these lighting (re)designs potentially destabilise fixed ideas, and challenge normalised conceptions of space. They not only beautify the neighbourhoods in Sundholm but also inspire a critical approach towards the  stereotypicalpopular discourses about parts of cities that stigmatise inhabitants. The projects in TRANSITION reveal how experimental forms of urban illumination might develop more critical approaches to how lighting design can enhancethe meaning and experience of cities.

Blog posted by Casper Laing Ebbensgaard

November 18th, 2013 - 12:44pm