One of the most iconic cityscapes in Finland, Tammerkoski Rapids is the historical centre of Tampere and the birthplace of Finnish industry. For two centuries, up until the shift to post-industrial era in the late 1900s, the factories around Tammerkoski were the powerhouse of Finnish economy, leaving a profound legacy in both the mindset and the skyline of the city. Now that most of the monumental factories lining the rapids have been closed down and converted into recreational, commercial and residential use, the design team’s assignment was to rethink, modernize and expand upon the outdated 1980s lighting adorning this kilometre-long waterway that is expected to emerge as one of Finland’s candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Since most of the buildings along the rapids – as well as the area as a whole – are historical landmarks protected by law, it was crucial that the lighting wasn’t too dominant, overpowering the treasured vista. Thus focusing on refined rather than flamboyant design choices, each structure was tactfully highlighted in a way that best complimented its distinctive characteristics, allowing the venerable buildings to tell their own stories. At the same time, great care was taken to accentuate the three-dimensionality of the rugged stone and brick surfaces, creating a fascinating interplay of light and shadow.

Each luminaire was carefully selected after extensive on-site testing to guarantee the perfect match for each building. Of particular note is the Finlayson Factory facade that was illuminated by projecting light from opposite rooftops through gobos in order to prevent the light from trespassing into the building. While all facades were illuminated exclusively with warm white light to ensure a calm and distinguished overall appearance, coloured light was sparingly used at a few select locations, most notably inside the old turbine halls, visible through the large windows as a discreet blue glow.

Another important consideration was how to tie together a kilometre-long area encompassing dozens of edifices, bridges, dams, hydroelectric power plants and other structures that vary greatly in style, dimension, material and colour. As a unifying theme, a continuous string of lights was installed on the embankment walls, custom-designed to withstand the extreme conditions caused by the freezing winter temperatures and the simultaneous humidity arising from the current.

The perpetual motion of water, cadenced by its shifts from majestically rolling rivers to tranquil reservoirs and thundering cascades, was emphasized by programming the embankment wall luminaires to project a subtle dynamic mix of warm and cold white light onto the surface. Coupled with the illuminated cascades and, during the coldest winter, steam gently levitating above the surface and ice forming on every structure, the lighting produces a dramatic display of the transformational power of water, a tribute to the waterway that defined the city.

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