What if the city’s available billboards were given a second life? BOA Light Studio, a French collective known for lighting up architecture worldwide, strives to make nighttime an immersive design experience by turning unused, rundown or vanished commercial billboards into light sculptures.
From Le Monde’s headquarters in Paris, to Denver’s International Airport, to the roof of the Alliance Française in Chicago, BOA Light Studio has been reimagining the urban landscape, using light as their main medium. A nod to the “Siècle des Lumières,” French for the Age of Enlightenment, the installation, Les Lumières: Urban Buffet, opened as part of the fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2021), which, under the theme The Available City, provided a framework for a collaborative, community-led design approach that presents transformative possibilities for vacant urban spaces that are created with and for local residents. Think vacant lots, unoccupied buildings and, well, abandoned billboards. Within this context, the illuminating addition to Chicago’s skyline was part of a broader mission: to turn vacant space into collective space. A light-up urban intervention.
“The sculpture lights the way for a bold vision,” says the collective. “What if the city’s available billboards were given a second life to create a denser art presence, making creative speech more accessible to neighborhoods across the city?”
Standing across the street from Alliance Française staring at a building with a light sculpture on top is overpowering. Between light and darkness, art and design, technology and nostalgia, one cannot help but consider an array of things: the role of the human senses in architectural design practice—both individually and collectively, the future of billboard advertising (spoiler alert: it’s digital), and the value of urban space, are just a few that come to mind. But it can also be sublime.
“Les Lumières: Urban Buffet,” Alliance Française de Chicago, 54 West Chicago, on the roof. Through January 7
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