“The 600 Years”: A medieval clock tower comes to life

This is absolutely wonderful:

So many levels to this. Art has been an integral part of architecture since architecture began, of course; buildings have always served not just functional needs but aesthetic ones, expressing the myths, stories, and philosophies of the builders. But the advent of “urban projection mapping” takes the notion of “architecture as art” to a stunning new level (or at least it can, when wedded to an intelligent artistic sensibility rather than just crass advertising).

This projection — celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Astronomical* Clock in Prague’s Old Town Square — is easily the most impressive I’ve seen. The tower itself is already a masterpiece, boasting a mechanical clock and medieval astrolabe, a zodiacal ring, a calendar dial, and an hourly display of moving clockwork figures, among other embellishments; the history it’s witnessed is already inscribed into its features, if the eye knows where to look and how to interpret what it sees. But the dynamic images superimposed on the tower’s structure bring that history to life: they unlock it from static, solid forms, using the tower as a canvas to comment on the tower itself. They take the viewer from the tower’s construction in 1410, through upheavals in astronomy, religion, war, and politics, to the dawning of the space age: the tower itself fittingly transformed into a rocket headed for the stars, whose movements it was meant to chronicle in the first place.

This visual feast was engineered by The Macula (an artist? a collective?), whose website explains the philosophy behind the project (crudely rendered from the Czech by Google Translator):

Video mapping using current technology available in the entertainment industry, a whole new way. The main contents are the projections to cooperate with the selected object and try to break the perception perspective of the viewer. With the projector can fold and stress any shape, line or space. Evocative play of light on the physical object creates a new dimension and changing the view of the seemingly “normal thing”.

Everything becomes an illusion.

The closest thing to this that I’ve seen in person is the enormous video wall of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia (though that’s actually a 10-million-pixel LED screen rather than a projection), but as entertaining as that is, it doesn’t approach the levels of sublime that the Prague video does. In any case, it’s exciting to see these artistic efforts to play with architecture — to quite literally cast buildings in a new light — and to find new ways to interact with the real objects around us.


*The video calls it the “astrological” clock, but it’s “astronomical” according to Wikipedia and various Prague tourism websites. I’ll stick to the scientific rather than the pseudoscientific term.

(h/t Tor.com)

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