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Painting with Light brings festive walkthrough to Bruges

Picture: Kris Van De Sande

Painting with Light (PWL) has created a 2km walkthrough lighting and visual ‘experience’ in the centre of Bruges for the festive ‘Wintergloed’ (Winter Glow) season.

Commissioned by Bruges Plus, PWL’s winning pitch was led by Peter van den Bosch, business unit manager for leisure and entertainment, and lighting expert Iiris Rousku who designed the various lighting artworks with their team.

It comprises a series of elegant, eye-catching, ephemeral and different lighting and projection-mapped installations, located in six different areas. Each installation was inspired by an aspect of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Bruges and its many visitors over the different generations.

Different approaches were taken for each work – some can be observed, some can be touched and interacted with and others are fully immersive. Some add a playful touch, others utilise ideas related to colour changing and mood empathy, while others riff with nearby textures, materials and natural elements like water reflections.

Picture: Kris Van De Sande

This, the first edition of Wintergloed, includes the lighting of pathways, waterways, streets, buildings and monuments, trees and foliage, bridges. There is also a special custom construction – The Cathedral – built in the Station Square, which is lit and projection-mapped.

This new Wintergloed lit environment was crafted primarily for the citizens of Bruges, rather than as a magnet attracting additional tourists. Therefore it needed to take a specific approach to impress those already familiar with all the locations.

Mapping Bruges

Projection mapping is involved in two of the installations, the Station Square and the 19m-high Poertoren Tower, constructed in 1401 by master mason Jan van Oudenaerde to store the city’s gunpowder, which is also a remnant of the late-medieval city walls. An enormous moon is projected onto the tower using a Panasonic RZ projector linked to a Christie Coolux media server. This projection showcases the cycle of the moon over a 12-minute timeframe.

The Station Square installation is extremely prominent. The Cathedral is built from a customisable but off-the-shelf combined wooden / tented structure comprising four elegant arched ends which are 10sqm and 11m-high.

Picture: Kris Van De Sande

PWL chose the structure for its aesthetics and as a practical solution to house the video projection system. The team designed the custom print on the outer skins. The full ceiling expanse and all the walls above 4 metres are filled with projections from five Panasonic PT-RQ32 machines rigged inside the structure, crossing over to project on the opposite walls, with the fifth one beaming up into the vaulted roof.

Video content is stored on one of PWL’s disguise d3 4×4 media servers and includes drawings and artwork collected from local schoolchildren based on the topic of ‘magical winter animals’. These were coordinated by PWL and Bruges Plus who liaised with local schools. Over 294 kids participated and can see their drawings “fall” from the sky inside the Cathedral ceiling, and selected images are highlighted each day.

The cathedral is lit using Chauvet COLORdash Batten-Quad 12 LED battens positioned all around in a curtain of light effect. Robe iPointes are rigged outside the structure to accentuate its central position and draw visitors – like a beacon – from other points around the city.

Painting with VR Light

PWL and Bruges Plus also invited selected local street artists to express their creativity using the Cathedral as a canvas. The artists paint in the VR environment wearing the goggles and their artwork is projected onto the ceiling and walls in real-time so the audience can see the process. They can also observe exactly what the artist is seeing in VR on screens around the space.

Picture: Kris Van De Sande

PWL has created special ‘light’ brushes with different colours and textures the artists can use in the VR world.

The new Bruges Wintergloed lighting experience has set the bar high and been a huge hit with the public in generating positive feedback and interaction.

Mayor of Bruges Dirk de fauw commented: “This lighting concept is a great ‘experience’ thanks to the harmonious interplay of light art installations, light stimuli and projections … and it is also functional.

“Light has an all-encompassing effect enabling two walking directions which allow us to manage our end-of-year crowds much more flexibly.

“Light also connects. It connects and unites different points in the city, not only along the walks, but also, for example, by applying the same winter light patterns on ‘t Zand and on the Markt. It also connects past and present by highlighting our historical heritage in an innovative way.”