In Helsinki, winter nights can last upwards of 18 hours, and it takes a resilient population to endure the entire season when the sun barely crests the horizon. To celebrate this highly valued commodity of light and allow the public to reclaim an industrial space for civic and artistic celebration, architecture firm Pöyry Finland Oy and lighting studio Lighting Design Collective designed Silo 468, a permanent installation originally created for Helsinki’s stint as the 2012 World Design Capital.
Now, even on the darkest of days, Silo 468 serves as an urban beacon of light, visible from miles away. To illuminate the interior, the team perforated the exterior surface of the 56-foot-tall tank, which was previously used for oil storage. Through these holes—when natural light is seasonally available—the red-painted interior is infused with dappled sunlight. Conversely, the silo’s steel exterior is lit from within. The interior is ringed with 1,280 2700K white LEDs, mounted in alignment with the 2,012 surface cutouts (the number commemorates the installation year). Programmable dimmers allow the LEDs to interact with software that refreshes its algorithmic data every five minutes, to respond to changes in wind velocity, temperature, and precipitation. This results in a series of kinetic light displays, which never repeat.
Every evening at midnight, the white LEDs switch to red for one hour and give the silo’s interior a warm, red glow. The color is a nod to the tank’s former use as an airtight container of energy. Now, with a new development and an illumination-themed residential neighborhood springing up around it, Silo 468 is a purpose-driven focal point of light, and Helsinki is all the brighter for it.
Project: Silo 468, Helsinki • Entrant: Lighting Design Collective, Madrid • Owner/Client: City of Helsinki Planning Department • Architect: Pöyry Finland Oy, Jyväskylä, Finland • Lighting Designer: Lighting Design Collective, Madrid Team Members: Tapio Rosenius, Oscar Martin, Rodolfo Lozano, Victor Soria, Gorka Cortazar, Reinaldo Alcala, and Rodrigo Arcaya • Lighting Programmer: Lighting Design Collective, Madrid, and Sun Effects, Helsinki • General Contractor: VRJ, Helsinki • System Integrator: Sun Effects, Helsinki • Photographer: Hannu Iso-Oja, Helsinki • Project Size: 1,017 square meters (10,946.9 square feet) • Project Cost: $2.6 million • Lighting Cost: $160,000 • Watts per Square Meter: 2W • Code Compliance: CE Certification • Manufacturers: E:cue; Traxon Technologies Jury Comments: Sophisticated and stimulating. • Engaging use of technology. • Makes use of an unexpected element--an abandoned oil tank--and repurposes it in an inventive way.