Building Skin with Digital Tattoos of London

Leicester Square W Hotel

Leicester Square W Hotel

There’s a great interview with designer James Carpenter where he talks about a strange phenomenon concerning light. No, he doesn’t explain about how light is both a wave and a particle at the same time; instead, he talks about how light  changes at the boundary between inside and outside. Moving from the outside to the inside, light becomes privatized for the interior occupants; but moving outward from the inside the light is public, and can add to the experience of folks on the street. Even though Mr. Carpenter is not the designer of the above project, his words are… illuminating.

The project above was designed by Jason Bruges Studio for the Leicester Square W Hotel in London. Throughout the day, cameras mounted on the hotel’s roof take photos of the surrounding city. When the building lights up at night, it broadcasts a pixelated panorama outward through translucent glass to the city. It’s exciting for visitors to see such a new-fangled facade, just as it is exciting for the hotel to get a bevy of publicity and become a local landmark so quickly. In london it usually takes either Lord Norman Foster or a much longer time.

Suzanne LaBarre, who wrote a lovely article about the facade, says “it’s about as close as a chain hotel in a glassy modern building can get to visual harmony [with historic London]. But I’m not sure visual harmony is what the hotel is after. Sure, there’s some notion of context embedded in the hotel’s skin, but the expression is digitized and abstracted to point of being unrecognizable by passers-by. The digital nod to the neighborhood actually exaggerates how different the hotel is from its neighbors– oh sorry, neighbours. And even though this new neighbour has skin tattooed with 600 colour-shifting lights, I hope the neighbourhood is happy to see it move in.


March 17, 2011