Luminous London

After three years of gradually creeping above London’s existing skyline, The Shard’s controversial pinnacle was finally reached last week. Renzo Piano’s bold tower, snugly adjacent to London Bridge station, has caused a polarity of opinions since its construction began in March 2009.

At over 308 metres high, The Shard now stands as the tallest completed building in Europe – a statistic still childishly perceived as an accolade it seems. Perceived by some as a positive vision of the modern, globalised city, to many it is a tasteless monument to bankers and oligarchs, dominating the skyline and dwarfing other buildings such as St Paul’s. It has been described as ‘magnificent’ and ‘boring’, ‘increasing architectural variety’ and ‘a dreadful symbol of Dead Britain’.

But now the apex has been reached, the anti-climactic laser show has been and gone and the onset of the Olympic Games lurks ominously around the corner. The Shard’s moment in the limelight has already passed and attention is being turned to other luminary architectural displays. While the inaugural light show at The Shard seemed little more than a publicity stunt to try to convert those fence-sitters into fans, architect and designer Jason Bruges will be putting on a genuinely interesting light art spectacle this week at London’s South Bank.

Bruges, who has previously worked on countless large and small-scale design projects including Becks’ Green Box Project and the re-branding of More4 (worth a watch), has been commissioned by high-end lighting firm Havells Sylvania to create an interactive movement and light sculpture under the Hungerford Bridge.

The ‘21st Century Light Space Modulator’, as it has been optimistically named, will blend Eastern and Western influences and pays homage to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s ‘Light Space Modulator’ of 1930, a pioneering piece of kinetic light art. A spokesperson for the collaborative project states: “It’s an interactive installation and Jason and team will be evolving it over the next few months, but the basic concept is to take a really under-loved area of the Southbank and turn it into something which people enjoy, experiencing using light and movement.”

The project will initially go live under the bridge on Thursday, but will continue to develop until its final unveiling in the autumn of 2012. So there will be light at the end of the Olympic tunnel, after all.

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