Wellington Cable Car

Tunnel vision

Lighting installation in Wellington/NZ

The Wellington Cable Car is the only historic funicular railway in existence in New Zealand today. But one thing has changed along the traditional route that serves the area around the city’s natural harbour – a change that has turned the cable car ride into a futuristic journey. The route comprises three sections of tunnel, two of which have now received new interactive lighting installations by lighting designer Angus Muir.

Angus Muir was commissioned to design a permanent dynamic lighting scheme to be applied across the arched stone walls inside the tunnels following last year’s son et lumière art event known as the Power Plant Festival. The installation is based on LED technology. More than 45,000 LEDs were applied in each of the 100 metre long tunnels and are controlled via a bespoke control system located at the bottom of the hill, which allows the programming and recall of a series of fascinating 3D moving light shows. All the control gear is set up on a fibre network with zero latency.

The view into the narrow, gloomy looking stone tunnel suddenly lit in blue, red, yellow or green is stunning enough. Added to this, passengers riding through the tunnel are also surrounded by dynamic bursts of LED light. The designed sequence of colours fluctuate through series of kaleidoscopic patterns. The otherwise shadowy space is transformed into a bright and vivid landscape of light, underscoring the wonder of climbing a hill on rails. The phrase "the light at the end of the tunnel" takes on a whole new meaning. Due to the length of the tunnel and the cleverly designed installation on the ceiling of the elongated space the curved lines of LEDs converge at the tunnel exit, the spaces inbetween disappearing and the colours suddenly forming lines and patterns with no indication of what is to come next. The light show reconsiders the architecture of the over 100-year-old space as a luminous and dynamic channel.

And anyone whose imagination is stretched even further can envisage himself soaring through space in a science-fiction film such as "Blade Runner", about to land in the dark on a runway illuminated by colourful flashing lights, as the captain announces: mission complete.

planning participants: Angus Muir