Baltimore has Little Italy's traditional film night (Cinema al Fresco) which started when a reel projector was placed on a bedroom window sill and used the firewall across a vacant lot as the projection screen for Italian classics. The idea has spawned similar outdoor film screenings, for example at the Visionary Art Museum.
But technology has far progressed and many cities mesmerize residents and visitors alike with elaborate presentations that are partly film, partly laser effects and light show. Architectural mapping, three- dimensional projections designed to transform a building’s facade have become an influential new lighting trend for some time.
|The Parliament building in Ottowa with a projected overlay of the pre-fire|
building in the same place
Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and put a lot of resources into telling its story. One of the most elaborate undertakings is a $4.5 million light show and narrative of the country's 150 years of history projected daily on to the large walls of the Parliament building in Ottawa. The show has also an exquisite bi-lingual sound-track and took two years to prepare. Too costly and probably not attainable for Baltimore without a large anniversary as the occasion.
This type of projection cum narrative is popular around the world for commercial and educational purposes and never fails to draw crowds. More info on how it works can be found here. A fairly straight forward film projection with light effects show presented nightly at the German Bundestag building (Reichstag) in Berlin can be found here.
|History projected in the Government Quarter across the Spree River|
at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany
However, we have Light City Baltimore and should absolutely consider a shorter and simpler audio-visual laser projection on a building such as the PowerPlant, the Aquarium, City Hall or the Federal Building on Hopkins Plaza or maybe a structure unjustly tucked away and going unnoticed.
Light festivals around the world use laser and projections on large building facades as their signature feature. (In Baltimore's inaugural Light City event the tent of the Columbus Center was used as a projection screen).
Laser and LED technology have opened new horizons for light and the ability to create entirely different night-time realities. The underpass under Orleans Street on St Paul/Light Street provides a small taste of what is possible with creative lighting. Bill Struever had a sense for those effects when he created a multi-colored illuminated mister in front of Tide Point that could be seen across the harbor (the largest mister outside Disney World Struever boasted). Kevin Plank has turned it off.
Maybe it is time for an authentic, specifically Baltimore show that is sophisticated yet neither funded by government nor commercial in content; designed by light artists and sponsored by a private donor it would be intent on making residents and visitors alike see a building in a new light and discover new things about our city and our past. Baltimore could use a little magic, even if it disappears during the day.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
This article is part of a series that promotes importing good ideas from other cities.
Celebrate city history
The sidewalk "terrace"
Celebrating new transit stations
|Guggenheim projection, New York|
|Ralph Lauren commercial projection, Madison Avenue, New York|
|Opening celebration of a new building: Toronto|
|London Powerplant projection|
|A tent magically transformed: Los Angeles art museum|
|Bridge with a waterfall illusion: Yinchuan City, China|
|Baltimore's Orleans Street underpass at St Paul/Light Street|