Ghent Light Festival 2012 wows with LEDs


Ghent Light Festival wows with LEDs

Where can you find a unique combination of 1000 years of architectural styles combined with the contemporary art of light? The second edition of the Festival of Lights Ghent, in Belgium, took place from 26 – 29 January 2012. More than 200,000 visitors followed the 5-kilometre (3 mile) walking route of the light festival.

This year the light festival’s theme was ‘Happiness and Music’, which is not a coincidence since 2012 is the Maeterlinck Year in Ghent. On 9 November 1911, the Swedish Academy  announced it was awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature that year to the author Maurice Maeterlinck, of Ghent origin.  In 2011 it was the one hundred year anniversary that Maurice Maeterlinck earned the highest literary prize and he is still the only Belgian writer to have received this honor.

His famous magical fairy tale “L’Oiseau bleu”, the Blue Bird, broaches the subject of happiness. It is a story about the little girl Mytyl and her brother Tyltyl. They are looking for the Blue Bird, because a fairy has told them that the Blue Bird can cure the little girl living next door. On their search they go through exciting adventures, however without success. When they arrive back home, they decide to give the girl their own white dove instead. And then something extraordinary happens: the white pigeon turns blue and the little girl gets better. The moral of the story is that by being selfless and giving away something of your own, you can bring happiness to other peoples’ lives.
Music, of course, can also make us happy. Recently, Ghent was honored with the title of Creative City of Music, by UNESCO. So, in 2012, happiness and music were designated as the theme. Musicians and light artists joined together to create a variety of  light and sound projects.Ghent Light Festival LED Lighting

One spectacular project for the light festival which took a lot of detailed installation work was the colonnade of a cathedral. Luminarie De Cagna, an Italian family business founded in 1930, have become famous for their temporary lighting shows. Eighty years ago, on festive occasions, the  company illuminated buildings and squares with oil and carbide lamps. This was quickly switched to electric lights, and since 2006, only LEDs are used for their new projects. The lights are joined to make large curtains of light, which are placed onto buildings or spread out on other objects in the area. In this way, whole streets and even squares are full of light.

During  the 2012 Ghent Light Festival,  Belfortstraat was transformed by Luminarie De Cagna. A giant colonnade was made of wood and thousands of colored LED lights, with arches reminiscent of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture. The entrance area was over 90 feet high and the audience walked under it, into a fairy tale gallery, surrounded by light and color. Surprisingly, despite a huge amount of LEDs, this immense work of art consumed only 20Kwatt / h of electricity.

The colonnade was also seen in 2010 at the GLOW festival in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Glow is the International Forum of Light in Art and Architecture and is held every November in the city. The light festival attracts more than 300,000 visitors and grows in size every year.

In 2011, Luminarie De Cagna built a new structure on the square outside Eindhovens Grand Central Station. There, a dome which resembled a building from the Italian Renaissance, such as St Peter in Rome, was erected for the start of the light festival tour. Measuring 25 metres high and 20 metres wide, the dome was a true spectacle and an impressive entrance for visitors to the city.

GLOW light festival EindhovenIn the brightly lit center of the 30,000 LED lights, was the bronze statue of Anton Philips. In the first half of the twentieth century, Anton was in charge of the Philips group for more than thirty years and developed it into a successful multinational. Cupola Luminarie de Cagna was designed to celebrate Philips 120-year anniversary and pay tribute to a man who was for years not just a figurehead of Philips, but also seen as the father of the city of Eindhoven.

Written by Julie Allen

This article was originally published June 2012 on and is reprinted with their kind permission.

07 Oct