Genk, Belgium, 6 December 2019 – Painting with Light, the Belgian-based visual design & light technology specialist, was invited to create a 2-kilometre walk-through lighting and visual ‘experience’ in the centre of Bruges, one of Belgium’s most beautiful and historic cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its festive ‘Wintergloed’ (Winter Glow) concept the City of Bruges wants to excite citizens and visitors by combining its rich heritage with a contemporary experience and innovative look into the future.
This first edition of Wintergloed includes the lighting of pathways, waterways, streets, buildings and monuments, trees and foliage, bridges and numerous other spaces and objects along the route, plus a special custom construction ‘The Cathedral’ at the Station Square. People will be encouraged to walk via Minnewater into the city rather than along the street directly from the station. A second path takes visitors from the Station via the Alberpark to ‘t Zand. As the new Wintergloed environment is crafted primarily for the citizens of Bruges it needed to take a thoughtful approach to impress those already familiar with the locations, to see and relate to their spaces in alternative states.
Alderman of Bruges Tourism Philip Pierins, explains: “By combining art light installations, mood lighting and projection, visitors are immersed during the cold winter months into a warm glow of light spread across the entire trail, extending the experience upon reaching the final destination as light intensity and volume increase.”
The project comprises a series of elegant, eye-catching, ephemeral and different lighting and projection- mapped installations, located across six different areas. Each installation is inspired by an aspect of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Bruges and its many visitors over the different generations. Different approaches are taken for each work – some can be observed, some can be touched and interacted with and others are fully immersive. This is achieved by playful touching, utilising synesthetic philosophies and ideas related to colour changing and mood empathy, or simply by riffing with nearby textures, materials and natural elements like water reflections.
Projection mapping is involved in two installations, the Station Square and the 19 metre high 'Poertoren' Tower, constructed in 1401 by master mason Jan Van Oudenaerde to store the city's gunpowder, which is also a remnant of the late-medieval city walls. An enormous moon is projected onto the tower, simulating the cycle of the moon over a 12-minute timeframe. The Station Square installation is extremely prominent with The Cathedral, which is built from a customisable but off-the-shelf combined wooden tented structure comprising four elegant arched ends which are 10 metres square and 11 metres high. Painting with Light chose the structure for its aesthetics and as a practical solution to house the video projection system.
Paining with light in VR World
Local citizens, children and artists have been mobilised and actively engaged in Wintergloed. Video content includes drawings and artwork collected from 294 local schoolchildren based on magical winter animals. These drawings “fall” from the sky inside the Cathedral ceiling, and selected images are highlighted each day. In the evening, content transforms into a ‘dynamic galaxy’ created by the motion captured movement of people walking inside and outside the tent, caught by a motion sensor.
A selection of local street artists was invited to express their creativity using the Cathedral as a canvas. The artists paint in the VR environment (The Cathedral) wearing goggles whilst their artwork is projected on the ceiling and walls in real-time. Each artist chooses their own topic allowing their individuality and styles, from architectural drawings with strong perspective to cartoon style quirkiness. Painting with Light created special ‘light’ brushes with different colours and textures the artists can use in this VR world, as the results are being projected ... it is literally ‘painting with light’!
Energising historic spaces
The historic infrastructure of Bruges with its many bridges, gates and parks forms the natural décor for Wintergloed, immersing the visitors in this magical environment. “The Bridge” is a light art installation using LED pixel tubes each measuring two metres, rigged in a specially fabricated roof structure supported by a trussing structure standing in a pond in Bruges’ King Albert I park. Patterns flowing through the tubes are activated by video content and can be triggered by hand movements, which are captured by sensors. “The Gate” features ten partial gates made from custom-made LED pixel profiles to play with perspective and create a tunnel effect along the narrow lane in which they are located. Visitors can fully envelop themselves in this work, move around and see different things. Another eye-catching work in this extravaganza of light is “The Source”, a spectacular geometric work comprising LED strings spanning an 18 x 23 metre gap across the Minnewater lake, which is situated between the city’s ice-skating rink and winter terrace.
Luc Peumans, CEO of Painting with Light, explains: “A major overall creative challenge for the Painting with Light team was presenting so many different works in a unified way, and finding imaginative solutions to energise a wide variety of spaces. We also needed to keep up with the pace of all the public spaces and not create extra obstacles, plus add in the numerous different layers of storytelling to capture and maintain visitor’s attention. Bruges Wintergloed has set the bar high and has proven a huge hit with the public, generating positive interaction across multiple communication channels.”
This success of the project has underlined a lot of hard work, foresight, creativity and some superlative teamwork from Painting wit Light resulting in the ambition to create more of these stimulating and heart- warming lighting and visual events in other cities around the world.
Mayor of Bruges Dirk De fauw concludes: “This new Wintergloed lighting concept is a great experience thanks to the harmonious interplay of light art installations, light stimuli and projections ... and it is also functional. Light has an all-encompassing effect enabling two walking directions which allow us to manage our end-of-year crowds much more flexibly. Light also connects and unites different points in the city, not only along the walks, but also, for example, by applying the same winter light patterns on 't Zand and on the Markt. Furthermore, it connects past and present by highlighting our historical heritage in an innovative way. My sincere thanks to the Painting with Light team for their wonderful realisation.”