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In Croatia, Old Shipyard Cranes Become Glowing Sculptures

The city of Pula puts a permanent spotlight on its industrial heritage.

Image
Goran Sebelic/Skira

When 19th-century industrialization leaves clunky remnants like giant shipyard cranes by the harbor, you can either try to hide them or, as the Croatian port city of Pula has decided, turn them into a work of art.

Built in 1856, Pula’s Uljanik shipyard is one of the oldest still in operation today. In 2000, the city began considering relocating the shipyard to free up the area for tourism. That’s when Croatian lighting designer Dean Skira conceived quite the opposite idea: the shipyard could be illuminated into an attraction in itself.

It took 15 years, but Skira’s vision was finally realized last month, when his Lighting Giants project went on display for the first time at Visualia, a festival of digital art and lighting design. Illuminated by 73 LED spotlights, the eight cranes at Uljanik were transformed from mechanical eyesores to a troupe of radiant dancers. Each spotlight weighs almost 90 pounds and contains 62 pieces of LED chips, which can be programmed into 16,000 variations of color and intensity.

As you can see in the video below, the inaugural performance was synchronized to a soundtrack featuring compositions by John Williams, Daft Punk, and Prokofiev.

Putting together Lighting Giants was expensiveit took a $50,000 grant from the Croatian Ministry of Tourism, plus private sponsorships and donations totaling over $500,000. So you can bet this will be a permanent installation.

The cranes are illuminated every night between 9 p.m. and midnight,  for 15 minutes on the top of each hour. According to a spokesperson from Skira’s firm, while these regular showings are not coordinated to music, soundtracks will be deployed again for special occasions in the future.

Take a closer look in these photos. 

All photos courtesy of Goran Sebelic/Skira. 

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