Once symbols of agricultural bounty and the communities whose livelihoods depended upon them, under-used grain silos have since found new roles as housing, climbing walls and even opera houses. Now in Helsinki, Finland, an old oil silo on the city's waterfront has been converted into a new civic space, lit by a digitally-controlled light installation that displays ever-changing feedback from its environment.
Designed by Madrid's Lighting Design Collective, Silo 468's launch marks the beginning of a major waterfront development project in Helsinki, named World Design Capital in 2012. Acting as a landmark, the silo uses both natural and artificial light to designate it as a landmark, visible from far away.
As seen in the video, the 36-meter (118 feet) diameter, 17-meter (55 feet) tall steel silo is lined with a network of holes and 1,280 white LEDs, which are controlled by custom software that mimics the swarming motion of birds. Real-time patterns of temperature, along with Helsinki's famous strong winds, are also translated into a fluid display of light and environmental interactivity.
Sunlight also filters into the silo's red-painted interior, evoking a womb-like sense of warmth and expansiveness. According to Designboom, the silo turns red for one hour starting at midnight to "reflect the structure’s former use as a container of energy." Thankfully, at 2:30 am, the lights shut off completely, minimizing the wasted energy that is usually associated with such urban structures.
There are also 450 steel mirrors placed behind the silo's holes to reflect sunlight, creating a shimmering effect that echoes the behaviour of the nearby water.
Taking it beyond just another forgotten structure, Silo 468 is an evocative intersection of place, urban regeneration, nature and technology -- something we'd love to see happening for unloved silos everywhere. Check out the rest of Lighting Design Collective's works.