The Beacon is an experiment that explores whether it is possible to turn the very ground we walk on (pavements, public squares, etc.) into sites for harvesting solar energy. Located at the entrance to London’s most trendy districts, Hoxton and Shoreditch, through which 3 million people pass every week, the Beacon turns on its head the area’s historic motto ‘More Light, More Power’.
More than that, however, the Beacon, as with all Lab of Misfits' work, explores how we come to understand the world around us – in this instance by means of a visual illusion. By showing people that even the colours we see are shaped by context, the Beacon’s message is that none of us are outside observers of nature, and instead are shaped by our past interactions and environment.
The Beacon is also a social experiment into ownership and community. Most immediately, the tower is an attempt to add a moment of colour to the local community, but the aim is to also directly give back to the community in which it’s embedded. Through a shared ownership agreement, we hope that the Beacon will remain a public project that is not just enjoyed, but also contributes to the larger community of Hackney.
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Designed by Lab of Misfits and built in collaboration with Enzo Fiondella (of Interactive Imagination) and Kees van der Graaf (of van der Graaf Studio), the Beacon is a 6-metre high tower of coloured Plexiglas, solar panels and fluorescent tubes.
The installation produces its own electricity through an array of solar panels, mounted at the top of the tower, and through a 20-metre path of innovative solar paving slabs, which are made from photovoltaic cells, embedded in a mixture of recycled glass and resin – manufactured in Hackney, from glass produced as a waste product in the borough.
During the day, the Beacon is illuminated by sunlight, which at the same time charges up a bank of batteries in the base of the installation (there is no mains power). At night, the batteries use their stored solar energy to power 16 high-efficiency fluorescent tubes. The Beacon is lit up at night only if the solar panels have converted enough energy to drive the lighting display. How fast the display depends on the viewer: the more the viewer moves, the brighter and faster the Beacon’s display. In short, how long the Beacon remains illuminated (if at all), and how brightly or fast, depends on ecology.
Shoreditch Trust CEO Micheal Pyner:
‘The Beacon represents a cutting-edge approach to lighting – Shoreditch Trustis committed to innovative approaches across all its activity. This incredible contribution to addressing challenges regarding the use of energy and using an art installation to bring this to the public attention makes real that commitment. Shoreditch was the first area in London to install municipal street lighting, powered by burning waste. So, it’s fitting that we should now pioneer a 21st-century alternative that uses materials recycled in Hackney and solar energy.’
The Beacon is located at the junction of Old Street and Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch – the postcode of the Road Trip Bar, which is right next to the installation, is EC1V 9EY.
If travelling by tube, it is one minute’s walk from Old Street station (Northern Line) and not far from Liverpool Street (Central Line). You can get there by any of the following bus routes 21, 35, 43, 55, 76, 78, 141, 205, 214, 243, 271, 394, N 35, N55, N76.