In with the old, in with the new

Ellie Naismith

Last week saw the exciting announcement that Lumiere London will be lighting up the West End in early 2016. Artists from all over the globe will be using London’s iconic architecture as a backdrop for their work for three days of magic.

Lumiere has already visited Durham three times, a city that is steeped in history – from the Shrine of St Cuthbert to the Durham Miners’ Gala, yet every other year it is transformed into a futuristic, magical haven. Highlights of the last festival included ghostly glowing gowns in the cloisters and an elephant majestically plodding its way across one of the bridges, all of which came together to truly transform the city.

Transforming a city over years rather than days is a much harder task.

The boundaries of architecture and design are being pushed to create places that we could not have ever imagined – whether it’s through tall, striking towers, or through bringing new technology to eco homes. Yet bright visions can be halted by sceptics who would prefer to see the world stay as it is rather than as it could be. And if we weren’t able to communicate those visions to help get people on side then we’d never see any progress at all.

Lumiere fuses art with a city’s history to create a new sense of identity and place, if only for a few days. Architects and place makers do the same but with bricks and mortar, designed to last decades.

The beauty of architecture, and celebrations like Lumiere, is it helps us to see how the new can complement the old. Whether that’s the old Miners’ Hall with neon stick men scaling its walls, a 1960s library overshadowed by a scale model of the sun or Chicago’s Soldier Field stadium with its Grecian pillars.

One of the places to be included in the Lumiere displays will be King’s Cross – its new architectural facelift being a prime example of modern design complementing its history. But had this idea been poorly communicated that immense and impressive lattice might have been left on the drawing board.

We’re excited to see what Lumiere has in store for London. But we’re also excited to help realise new visions for cities and towns across the UK.