Led Frieze – Winner Animated Architecture Award 2016


Switzerland, Basel

The facade of the new building for the Kunstmuseum Basel produces its effect through the symbiosis of stone and light: a three-metre-high frieze encircles the building at a height of twelve metres. Its narrow horizontal joints create a fine relief and are cast in shadow by the incident daylight. The light frieze uses this for artistic effect. White LEDs are set into the joints so they cannot be seen from the street yet precisely illuminate the specially formed grooves. Reflection on the light-coloured bricks of the frieze creates an indirect, diffused light that can be used to display both text and graphics.

The subtle way the frieze is enlivened by light allows the facade to change its character, seeming sometimes more and sometimes less transparent, and suggests diverse interactions between the building’s interior and the surrounding urban space. During the day, the brightness of the illuminated joints corresponds to that of the ambient light outside. For the viewer, a powerfully poetic play of light and shadow emerges, which is fleeting and yet seems to be as solid as the masonry itself. As daylight fades, the frieze adapts to the new environmental conditions, becoming more radiant. It creates the illusion that the masonry is porous, as if it would enable someone outside to view into the building.

The light frieze was designed by Christ & Gantenbein in collaboration with iart to be an integral part of the architecture. It takes the stylistic element of a frieze, which has been used since antiquity to decorate and give order to buildings, and brings it into the digital age by translating it technologically and aesthetically. In this way, archaic power and urban networking come together to create a new kind of media facade.

Photo credits: Derek Li Wan Po, Stefano Graziani and Christ & Gantenbein

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