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Light installation on Melbourne tower interprets real-time weather

A Bruce Ramus-designed light artwork, which changes appearance as it interprets the weather, will light up the facade of Lend Lease’s 888 Collins Street tower in Docklands, Melbourne.

The light installation uses an algorithm that takes real-time data from a weather station on top of the Woods Bagot-designed building, as well as the Bureau of Meteorology’s website feed. This data then drives the lights, creating a direct connection with the weather. The artwork is made up of vertical beams of LED lights stretching 50 metres high.

The lights visually represent the data using a palette of 16 pastel colours, which change gradient every three degrees. From dusk until midnight, the building shows a five-minute forecast of the next day’s weather. The colour at the bottom of the artwork represents the low temperature, while the colour at the top represents the high temperature.

If there is going to be wind, a turbulent motion rolls across the facade; if there will be cloud, cloud formations appear at the top of the building; and if there’s going to be rain, rain falls from these clouds.

The project is the work of Bruce Ramus, a Canadian-born, Mebourne-based lighting designer who has worked on illuminating the Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live (2009) and Federation Square’s Light in Winter projects (2011 and 2013).

“It’s quite literal and the amount of raindrops indicates the level of probability of rain, so if there’s a 70 percent chance there’ll be lots of raindrops and if there’s only 20 percent, there’ll be just a few,” said artist Bruce Ramus.

During the time when the building is not depicting the next day’s forecast, it takes on a more abstract and interpretive appearance, drawing from the real-time data sent from the weather station on top of the building. There is a delay of about one second between the actual weather and its depiction in the artwork. After midnight the lights depict a representation of the current phase of the moon, which moves slowly as the moon changes.

Ramus said artistically he was interested in exploring how light can reflect people as a community, an individual and society. He wanted to see if he could reflect the environmental rhythms of the area to give the artwork some purpose and meaning, and found the weather became an obvious theme.

“I’ve really been struck, some people call it obsessed, by how occupied people are with the actual weather and the numbers and ‘What’s the high going to be today?’ ‘What’s the low temperature?’ People seem to talk about it all the time and at first I didn’t really get it,” said Ramus.

He added: “But then I got it. I’ve never been so inappropriately dressed so often. I end up either too hot or too cold, so I’ve started to get how the weather patterns really influence how people [in Melbourne] live.”

Articulating the architectural design of the building and finding a way to connect it to the community was a key part of the artwork design. “It’s not just for lights to do what they do, it is really to articulate the architecture in a very creative way and we wanted to just skin the building with light,” Ramus said.

888 Collins Street is due to be completed later this year.

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