Back in 2000, an architectural lighting designer from Pula, Croatia, had an idea: What if the shipyard cranes that loomed over the port city’s industrial waterfront could be turned into shape-shifting monuments?
It took 14 years for technology (and city politics) to catch up to his vision, but earlier this month, Dean Skira‘s project, called Lighting Giants, finally launched, transforming the Uljanik shipyards into a ballet of light and industry.
Skira used 73 Philips LED spotlights, weighing 88 pounds apiece, to project changing patterns on eight monumental cranes. (The cranes themselves stay still while they’re lit up.) Each of the lights has 64 LED chips, and together they can create 16,000 different colors and intensities.
For the opening ceremony, Skira programmed a lighting performance synchronized to music. It starts out like a Brobdingnagian game of Simon and builds to a dramatic, Prokofiev-backed finale. The lights are now scheduled to turn on three times a night, for 15-minute intervals, with special sequences for holidays.
The project cost 1.5 million kunas, or just under $270,000; one-fifth of that came from a city grant, and the rest was raised privately. (Skira didn’t take a fee for his work, and Philips offered its LEDs at a discount.) Lighting Giants echoes similar projects in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Gdansk, Poland; and Bilbao, Spain. The difference is that the Pula cranes are still very much in use, and as the cranes move, Skira’s illuminations will adjust to them, in endless variations.