Making a Splash

November 23 2011 — by Philip Rose
I’ve just got back from Durham’s Lumiere festival where I collaborated with Canadian landscape artist Peter Lewis to produce Splash, his vast waterfall of light that cascades into the River Wear from the Kingsgate footbridge. The artwork is one of several light installations commissioned for Durham’s 4-day international light festival, organized by Artichoke.
Image by Matthew Andrews
Image by Matthew Andrews
Peter Lewis wanted his waterfall to glow eerily like the northern lights at the Arctic. So I decided to light the waterfall from a distance of 160m using colour changing LED projectors. The waterfall is first lit in cool white mimicking moonlight on a clear night before a timed sequence of colours glow in imitation of the Aurora Borealis.

The piece has certainly been popular, as large crowds have filled the narrow streets to see the various illuminations. One of my highlights was the installation by French ‘fire alchemists’ Compagnie Carabosse, who filled the cathedral with lanterns made from miners’ vests. Another was Simeon Nelson’s Plenum – a sequence of projections on the tower of St Oswalds Church.

Elsewhere Tracey Emin, Martin Creed, Claire Fontaine and Tim Etchells also designed neon sculptures for landmarks around the city.

Speirs + Major’s association with Durham dates back to 2006 when we were asked to prepare a blueprint for the city after dark that later became known as the Light and Darkness Strategy.