Holiday Installations and Public Space

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Galway, Ireland Christmas Market

Every year, cities and towns around the world ring in the winter holiday season with various types of celebrations. Whether it’s a live show at Disney celebrating the spirit of Christmas or a grand-scale First Night event in honor of the New Year, it’s exciting to see what entertainment designers come up with to capture the joy and excitement of the holidays. Here’s a closer look at some of the most interesting holiday installations that we’ve seen during the 2014 season.

GIF the Halls

GIF the Halls, San Francisco

Recent studies have shown that while 75% of Americans send holiday cards, nearly half of recipients dread them. Whether it’s due to environmental concerns or wanting to eliminate holiday cards from their own to-do list, this year Gif the Halls offered a novel solution. Participants had holiday messages projected onto a 100 foot tall digital greeting card on the side of a San Francisco building. This experiment was a partnership between WP Engine Labs, 10up, and Gray Area Foundation. The images were projected at two highly trafficked areas on San Francisco’s Market St. between December 20th and the 23rd. We love the creative combination of technology, design, and bringing a memorable holiday experience to a public space. The potential to reimagine how we handle holiday greetings is likely to be a hot area for exploration and experimentation in the design world moving forward.

Follow the Light, Alaska

Follow the Light, Anchorage Alaska

There are few settings more polar and evocative of winter holidays than Alaska, with snow on the ground and the Aurora Borealis performing a light dance overhead. This year, an artist collective calling themselves The Light Brigade are upcycling and repurposing old decorations to create “the largest sound and light sculpture Alaska has ever seen.” The installation, “Follow the Light,” features light, sound, and an occasional bit of performance art. It’s located in the Elderberry Park area of Anchorage, near the Alaska Railroad track way. The old decorations that are being used are a part of Alaska’s history: metal pipe decorations that were created and displayed around Anchorage from the 1960s to the 1980s, during the Alaskan pipeline project. The event’s focus is the next hundred years of Alaska’s history. Hundreds of lights are triggered by sensors as people move through the area, working in 20 minute loops, along with music to create an interactive experience. The installation will be in place from the Winter Solstice until January 10th.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

European Christmas Markets

If your idea of Christmas involves narrow streets and historic villages, you can look a little further afield to the European Christmas Market. Nearly every major city and many smaller villages feature these public spaces dedicated to the holidays. They’re one part art and light display; one part food and commerce. Mostly, they’re about getting people outdoors around the holidays in a celebratory fashion to mix and mingle. Copenhagen’s Christmas Market, for example, features four miles of Christmas lights strung around Tivoli Gardens under the direction of the city’s chief Tiffany’s designer. Each market is a bit different, but is built on hundreds of years of local tradition and often occupies space near the city’s main cathedral. Notably, for example, Dresden is famous for its annual 8,000lb fruitcake. Wandering the markets is a multisensory experience, with light displays, carolers, and the smell of traditional holiday foods in the air.

However you’re celebrating the holidays this year, it’s fun to see how different groups are imagining public spaces this holiday season. From old traditions brought alive through Europe’s holiday markets to the impact of technology on the way we share holiday greetings, 2014 has been an exciting year to explore how we celebrate the holidays and the impact these approaches have on our public spaces. When thinking about different ways that entertainment designers can make a positive contribution to the community and share their passions, bringing light and joy to communal areas in creative ways is surely at the top of the list!

Image sources: ADN, Gif the Halls, Budget Travel

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