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Australia - Brisbane Powerhouse: The art within


Brisbane Powerhouse is a contemporary performing and visual arts, dining and conference venue nestled on the beautiful banks of Brisbane River beside New Farm Park, Brisbane, Queensland. 

Built in stages between 1928 and 1940 on the eastern riverside point of what is now New Farm Park, the New Farm Powerhouse used to supply electricity for the largest tram network in the southern hemisphere and serviced many of Brisbane’s suburbs. Being officially decommissioned in 1971, when trams were replaced by buses, Brisbane Powerhouse was taken over by a new crowd. Hordes of squatters and artists made their home amongst dangerous industrial constructions and left a legacy of graffiti, or what is now officially known as heritage-listed aerosol art. The now derelict building was not only a welcome shelter for the homeless, but also a site for target practice for the army, a location for film-makers and, as a precursor of its future, a stage for underground art happenings.
 
Surviving two decades of neglect and a partially completed demolition project, the building was reacquired by Brisbane City Council in 1989. A significant example of industrial design of the art deco period, the power station was finally envisioned as a space for arts and culture.
 
Still maintaining much of its original 1920s structure, as well as its street-art graffiti and a significant amount of the original brickwork, the Powerhouse reopened in 2000 as a cultural hub for the city. Then, it was once again wonderfully restored and refurbished in 2007, using modern steel and glass features to make it relevant to today’s culture and architecture. The Powerhouse now hosts two restaurants with bars and terraces overlooking the river, two main stage theatres seating up to 740 and 200 people respectively, an open stage for live performances complete with viewing galleries, an exhibition basement, as well as functions and conference rooms. The Powerhouse has therefore become a cultural landmark that houses visual and performing arts such as theatre shows, stand-up comedy, photography exhibitions, burlesque spectacles and jazz concerts, music and cultural festivals, putting on 1,250 artistic performances for over 700,000 visitors a year.
 
From an architectural point of view, its striking construction still preserves remnants of Brisbane’s early-mid 1900s: the industrial red brick façade, interior steel beams, gantry, generator and cement floors are the leftovers of a pre-war industrial power station turned into an iconic arts centre. A new lighting system has been recently required to further enhance the vintage and industrial style features of this outstanding building at night, delivering a new lease of life through a clever use of light and colour.
 
Artistic Director of Brisbane Powerhouse, Kris Stewart wanted to give a splash of colour to the façade, so beautiful in its irregular texture and differently shaded bricks, to let it shine in the night of Brisbane as an invitation to Brisbane’s arts lovers. Brisbane based lighting design practice RIXONDESIGN was contacted by Precinct Director Neil Cairns to design and implement a permanent solution to give the iconic facade a nighttime presence to match its daytime stature. The high front walls required an even colour distribution, with tight glare control requirements that could be reached only by using powerful LED lighting fixtures. After extensive 3D modeling of the facade and surrounding area, an array of GRIVEN Powershine S MK2 in RGBW colour configuration with multiple beam distributions were selected. The fixtures are mounted in two positions, on the lift shaft directly opposite the main entrance, and on a supplementary pole to the right hand side of the facade in order to reach an optimal light and colour distribution, minimizing any effect of obtrusive light for the properties surrounding the Powerhouse. A palette of Brisbane Powerhouse colours are on display, with event specific hues available on demand as a backdrop for the myriad performances that occur on the forecourt throughout the year. 
 
The Lighting Designer, James Rixon says: “We are grateful to have been given the opportunity by Brisbane Powerhouse to design a permanent solution for this iconic facade. The Powerhouse is instantly recognizable to everyone in the Brisbane Arts and Architecture community during daylight hours, however with the previous external lighting this instant recognition was lost after sunset. With the implementation of the new external lighting, the facade can continue to be enjoyed after dark by patrons, artists and residents of the New Farm area. Many thanks to Precinct Director Neil Cairns and to the Powerhouse Board.
 
Using 96 powerful RGBW LEDs, POWERSHINE MK2 S is available with a vast choice of optics for the maximum lighting design flexibility. The combination of RGBW LEDs provides an unprecedented astonishing white light output quality, as well as a wide variety of intermediate colour hues for a broad range of application purposes. POWERSHINE MK2 S Polar Edition features an integrated de-icing system with electrically heated glass, which assures a comfortable functioning even in the utmost severe cold weather conditions.
 
 
Products installed:
10x Powershine S MK2  RGBW
 
Credits:
Lighting Design: RIXONDESIGN
Installation: LED Integrations 
Product supply: ULA Group
 

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