For the 2012 New Year’s Eve celebrations I visited Reims, in the Champagne region of France. Reims has an awe-inspiring Cathedral, which celebrated its 800th anniversary last year, as the centrepiece of the city. The cathedral is one of the masterpieces of early Gothic architecture, acting as a blueprint for much that followed in France, the United Kingdom and beyond. It exhibits intricate carved detail both externally and internally, has an incredible lightness to its stone structure owing to its flying buttresses and includes some spectacular stained glass including a number of refreshing 20th Century windows designed by the artist Marc Chagall.
As part of the 800 year celebrations the cathedral put on a sound and light show, or ‘son et lumière’, which rivalled anything I have previously seen; including the Jubilee celebrations at Buckingham Palace which have previously been covered on this blog by Geoff Rich (link).
The show, which lasted 20 minutes, attempted to tell some of the stories of the history of the Cathedral and highlighted beautifully the intricate statuary on its facade. As an architect it was great to see the facade come alive by being ‘sketched’ onto. The sketches highlighted unique building elements and proportions, reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s sketches from “Vers Une Architecture” coming alive in front of your eyes. Other highlights included the silhouettes of workers moving large stone elements into place and the building melting away to reveal the magnificent interior and stained glass windows coming towards you. My photos do not do justice to the complexity of the effect however these series of YouTube videos, not taken by me, show the entire display (link).
The effect is created by a process called 3D projection mapping. A 3D computer model of the facade is created which is then coloured up using special programmes. Set back from the facade were two stacks of projectors which project the video onto the building creating the three-dimensional effect. There are many great things about 3D projection mapping: there are no limits to what can be projected, it can help with the educational understanding of the building, it does no harm to the building and most of all it is a great spectacle. The possibilities are really endless and I expect to see a lot more of this in the future as awareness grows, the technology improves and, hopefully, it becomes cheaper.
I sincerely hope that this technology has further uses outside the sphere of advertising where many of the good examples are currently found. As a resident of Bath, UK, I would love to see it applied to the west facade of Bath Abbey, helping to bring alive and interpret Jacob’s ladder and other features.
Click images below for high-resolution.