Canadian Electrical Industry News Week

Bridge

 

September 13, 2017

An iconic architectural feature of the Montreal skyline by day, the Jacques Cartier Bridge now shines with an innovative lighting signature that celebrates the unique engineering of its historic structure. Thanks to intelligent programming connected in real time to big data and social media networks, this bridge is by most measures the most connected bridge in the world. It comes alive every night and changes constantly, in synch with Montreal’s seasons, weather, traffic and social media activity.

A flagship project for the city’s 375th and Canada’s 150th anniversaries, the illumination of this steel colossus was a major challenge. This project unites the bridge with the city and its citizens, by combining expertise in civil engineering and large-scale project management with the creative talent of Moment Factory and six world-class local design firms.

From sunset to sunrise: the concept

An iconic landmark by day, the bridge takes on a new life at night. As the sun sets, the bridge awakens, bringing light, movement and data to the structure. Over the course of the night, the bridge uses these features to tell the evolving story of Montreal and its ongoing rhythms. The following morning, as the day breaks, the bridge’s pulse fades into the sunlight, waiting for its next turn to shine.

A real-time reflection of Montreal's social media energy

The energy of Montreal is represented through a subtle play of light on the bridge’s exterior skin. For 52 minutes each hour, the bridge pulses with the city’s social conversations as tracked on Twitter in real time. The intensity, speed and density of these light fragments change depending on how often Montreal-related hashtags are liked and shared. Viewers create a unique coloured spark by sending a Tweet directly to the bridge’s own dedicated hashtag #illuminationMTL.

Hourly show

On every hour, at night, short 8-minute animations create a big data-driven show that visually translates Montreal’s activity and mood based on different types of daily data: the weather, traffic, news, major events, and more. This changing content makes the bridge a true barometer of Montreal life.

As the seasons change, so does the light

The bridge changes hue with the seasons thanks to a 365-colour calendar. Day after day, the bridge’s heart gradually changes from an energizing spring green to a radiant summer orange, a voluptuous fall red, and finally an icy winter blue. Like the forested mountain after which the city is named, the colours change gently with the seasons; the light subtly evokes the passage of time as an enduring artistic expression that reflects its surrounding ecosystem. 

About the project

Features of this connected lighting project include:

  • lighting directed to four areas of the bridge’s steel superstructure: piers, turrets, interior core or “heart”, and exterior facade or “skin”
  • a soft lighting is directed inwards towards the heart of the structure, minimizing light loss and distractions to vehicles
  • a dynamic lighting of the exterior skin is directed outwards towards the surrounding metropolis
  • an art concept was created by Moment Factory in collaboration with six Montreal multimedia and lighting studios: Ambiances Design Productions, ATOMIC3, Éclairage Public / Ombrages, Lucion Média, Réalisations and UDO Design
  • project management by The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated
  • engineering work done by the consortium WSP-AECOM
  • lighting system installation by Pomerleau
  • lighting technology by Lumenpulse and Philips Lighting

Key facts

  • The Jacques Cartier Bridge has been a Montreal icon for close to a century, a jewel of civic heritage, and a source of pride for Montrealers since its inauguration in 1930.
  • It’s 600 meters long + 15,650 tonnes of steel: a true iron giant, the bridge’s superstructure definitely pulls its weight.
  • Over 250 participants from all professional backgrounds worked on the bridge’s lighting for over two years (creatives, engineers, lighting designers, project managers, programmers, rope access technicians, steelworkers, electricians, traffic officers, and more).
  • 10 years of operation and maintenance were secured in the illumination project budget.
  • Sensors installed on the bridge track vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, as well as wind speed, wind direction and precipitation levels. 
  • 53 big data points classed into 11 categories are consolidated into each hourly show
  • Up to 500 light points, representing the most recent and most-liked tweets, circulate simultaneously on the bridge’s skin.
  • 2,807 lights: a combination of projectors and tube lighting illuminates the steel superstructure to reflect the activity of the city.
  • 50,000 hours: estimated minimum lifespan of the energy efficient LED lighting technology.
  • 10.4 km: length of cabling needed to illuminate the bridge (for data transfer and electrical power).
  • 10,000 mounting systems to secure the lighting fixtures to the steel supports on the bridge (about 5 per light).

Photo credit: Moment Factory.

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