This year marked Ghent’s second festival and organizers incorporated larger streets and squares to invite bigger installations. The 29 illuminations explored the theme of happiness and music but a massive cathedral constructed of more than 55,000 LED lights along Belfortstraat (Belfort Street) was the show stopper. Here Italian lighting experts Luminarie De Cagna erected a giant colonnade of wood and hundreds of thousands of colored lights. Lighted arches and ceiling vaults evoked Renaissance and Romanesque cathedrals. The arched entry — an imposing 28 meters high — led to a gallery of light and color that felt almost like a fairy tale come to life.
It would seem that such a display would ring up substantial energy costs but in reality the event causes barely a blip in the city’s energy consumption. During the festival some other lighting is turned off and many of the illuminations use low-energy LED lamps. One goal of the festival is to bring attention to energy consumption and the Ghent Light Plan which has enabled the city to reduce energy consumption for public lighting by 11 percent since 1999. Further economies are expected to yield an additional 20 percent savings, according to Heirbrant.
Massive creations such as Luminarie De Cagna’s are only part of this cultural event. A number of illuminations are interactive. Others are projected onto buildings and make a social statement or seemingly manipulate the facades.
The various displays are clustered in two areas of the city center. Public transportation to the varied locations is available but almost all of it is walkable. The city also makes additional storage sheds for bicycles available.
Attendance at the first festival was approximately 200,000, more than organizers anticipated. This year, they added an extra day and made that number more than doubled with an estimated 480,000 coming from Belgium as well as the Netherlands, the north of France and other neighboring countries.
The event gives visitors an opportunity to “experience Ghent in a unique way,” observes Hierbrant. Dates for the next festival have not been set.
Since the 1930s, Luminarie De Cagna has created lighting for special events. For Light Festival Ghent 2012, the Italian company transformed a section of Belfortstraat into a dramatic Renaissance cathedral. To create the illumination, which was hands down the show stopper, the company used curtains of LED lights joined together.
Typical Portuguese tiles inspired this illumination of ever changing patterns. The way the audience walks and moves determines the patterns projected onto the façade of St. Jacobs church. The goal was to reflect the movement of people in a city.
The public participated in this interactive display of glow sticks woven into a bench to form bands of light. If a glow stick broke, they made a wish. The end result: a bench full of wishes. Make a Wish Foundation benefited from the sale of glow sticks.
Passers-by were surprised by this quirky installation: a lone phone booth on a corner transformed into an aquarium. The phone still stands inside the booth, now filled with azure waters, colorful fish and wavy water plants.
The building appears to be burning in this display. Video images of fireplaces and fires projected from the inside give the illusion of flames in the first floor windows. The cathedral hovers in the background.
Dubbed a “guerrilla intervention,” this event was a flash mob for lights. The lights appeared unexpectedly in four different locations in the center of Ghent. The show was dramatic and stunning.