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Bilbao's City Pavilion

Shanghai, China

Photo Credits: Marcus Schroll

A city’s history expressed via light


In 2010, the Spanish city of Bilbao was one of 113 cities around the world chosen as an example of best urban practice and was invited to showcase their city at the Shanghai World Expo. The formerly dilapidated industrial city has achieved one of the most successful urban revivals in Europe, transforming itself into a technological, artistic, and cultural thought leader and serving as home to some of the most groundbreaking architecture of the 20th century such as the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

For the World Expo, the city submitted Bilbao Guggenheim++, a light sculpture exhibit that tells the story of Bilbao's transformation from an environmentally run-down city into one of the most attractive destinations in Europe. Designed in a 14 x 7 m (46 x 33 ft) "closed box" room, the exhibit features a miniature interpretive sculpture version of the city and its landmarks. Color Kinetics iColor Flex SL LED nodes inside the sculpture are used to symbolically illuminate the city changing through time. A blue Philips Flexitube LED fixture marks the city's estuary.

First, the Industrial Revolution, which occurred during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century in Bilbao, is symbolized by the absence of light in much of the city. A small part of the city, portrayed in metal, is illuminated, and then more metal structures begin to appear as the city further industrializes. This is followed by the Urban Revolution, which marks the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, materialized in the volume of light that represents the urban extension of the city. These new illuminated structures are made of different-sized methacrylite coated with a thin coating of wax, conveying the organic character of a city which is continuously changing. Finally, the network of LEDs begins to slowly illuminate the city in the center, moving outwards in a brilliant red to signal the city's urban and economic transformation during the Knowledge Revolution of the 21st century.

Color Kinetics iColor Flex SL LED nodes were chosen for the project because they were reliable, flexible, and easy to install, which was a requirement due to the tight set-up time allotted by the expo. Controlled by a Pharos LPC-20 digital lighting controller, the LEDs transform the sculpture from static to dynamic, telling Bilbao's extraordinary story of metamorphosis through light.
Project credits

Client:

Bilbao City Council


Designer

Esther Pizarro

Architect:

Artemio Fochs, Carlos Lahoz, Inés Primo de Rivera


Installation:

Vitelsa

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