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The color of chance.

Painting buildings with light goes back at least as far as the Gothic. Now new lighting and computer technology expands the possibilities.

The new headquarters of the National Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam by Jo Coenen (AR February 1994) is at the northern end of Museum Park. The NAi's view that architecture, the visual arts and applied design can complement and reinforce one another has been put into practice with a light installation by Peter Struyken, the Dutch artist.

The building is split into four distinct parts, each housing a separate function (exhibition/museum, archive, auditorium and administration). It is entered from the south, park side by means of a bridge slung over a new pool. On the north side, there is a large glazed entrance off the street and under the great curve of the archive building. A pedestrian colonnade runs underneath and follows the curve.

At night the bays and pilotis of the colonnade are washed by coloured light, which changes slowly according to a computer program designed by Struyken, who specialises in 'painting' structures with light.

Using Osram's new coloured fluorescent light tubes fitted into the ceiling and reflectors, Struyken has designed an electronic system whereby the primary colours of light -- red, green and blue -- can be mixed in a deliberately random way. (All of the 240 strip light fittings contain lamps in the three colours, which are dimmed or made to burn more brightly at random by the program.)

The effect is quite magical. The built-in randomness means that succession and distribution of the colours are quite unpredictable. They change every 10 minutes so that a series of bays might be washed in unearthly blue, while the next one is green and the next 10 are deep blue. Or all 20 bays might turn yellow. The physical effect of walking through the colour is extraordinarily powerful, says Struyken, who has a interest in the psychological effects of colour.

Interestingly enough, although the walkway is little used at night, there has been no graffiti or vandalism. 'This is serene, virgin space,' says the NAi. 'People seem to respect this space, they see it as a piece of illuminated sculpture'.

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Title Annotation:National Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Author:McGuire, Penny
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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