The lighting of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the highlight of this year’s Vivid Sydney, is the brainchild of creative innovator Iain Reed, founder of 32 Hundred Lighting.
Reed has played a part in Vivid Sydney since 2011 lighting the city skyscrapers with Skyscraper Illuminati. Yet until now, Australia’s most recognisable icon, on par with the Opera House, has remained in the shadows while the rest of Sydney has shone.
Reed has long wanted to put the spotlight on the bridge for the annual Vivid Festival, and now with the support of major Vivid sponsor Intel, he has a chance to let loose with his creative genius.
In the weeks leading up to Vivid, Reed and a crew of 10, have worked night and day to lay multiple kilometres of cable, more than 100,000 low energy LED lights and 140 custom made high powered LED par can lights.
With software developed by 32 Hundred Lighting, the public will be able to paint the bridge to their own creative design, on an interactive screen located at Luna Park Sydney.
While 32 Hundred can lay claim to most of the major lighting events around Australia, over the years it is the Harbour Bridge that has captured Reed’s fascination more than any other. He lit the bridge red for World AIDS day, installed the O for Oprah, created its 75th birthday light show and has sat atop the arches for countless New Years Eve celebrations, harnessed to the arches in a halo of smoke and blazing colour, stage directing the light show.
Each installation came with its own set of logistical difficulties but the scale of the Vivid light-up, together with the interactivity, is by far Iain’s most challenging, requiring 2000 programmable LED batons, LED colour washes and intelligent moving lights. All of these colours will play across the bridge like a piece of music.
32 Hundred Lighting’s Iain Reed on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The technology will allow people using the interactive LED screen at Luna Park to choose from a variety of effects, palettes and movements to create a two minute play of colours across the bridge
“The Bridge is such an amazingly beautiful structure both from the outside and the inside,” says Reed. “I wanted people to have the chance to play with its appearance, to turn it into a kind of fairy tale. People will be able to ‘paint’ it all the colours of the rainbow.”
Reed knows the nooks and crannies of the Harbour Bridge like an old friend. But the familiarity has never lessened his awareness that working unharnessed on its spans and arches comes with risk. The installation is approached with military precision – pockets emptied, checks, double checks and a buddy system that means each of his crew is looking out for each other.
“The first time I went up for New Years Eve 2007 was a bit daunting,” says Reed. “It was a big beastie, a huge monster but it’s a lovely old girl full of character and characters.
“Even so it is potentially a very extreme environment and safety is paramount.”
In addition to lighting the bridge 32 Hundred Lighting will light the city skyscrapers for Skyscraper Illuminati and create a video wall around the entire window circumference of the Harbour Control Tower at Barangaroo.