At its main campus in Higashiosaka, Kindai University, Japan’s fourth largest, completed a new building for the newly established Faculty of Informatics. The faculty aims to foster information technology professionals to meet the rapidly rising needs of society for artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cyber security. Many classes going remote during the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced opportunities for students to attend school in person. Under such circumstances, we aimed for a new style on campus with experiences that stimulate, workspaces that inspire, and opportunities for social interaction.

We chose “Light” as the theme of this project as light is what drives high-speed fiber-optic networks. After discussions with the client and architect, we focused on the fact that white light is a collection of multiple wavelength regions (colors). We separated and revealed these colors to paint the space like a vivid watercolor as the concept for the building.

The first floor of the main building has a multiple-purpose space with a black interior that is used as a digital art gallery and for social interactions across different faculties. The second and third floors have laboratories where natural light shines through. Stairs connect these floors vertically at two locations. We laminated the glass staircase railings with dichroic film to shift the colours with the viewpoint and illumination angle.

Our biggest challenge was providing functionality and achieving the presentation concept of the stairs while taking advantage of the characteristics of the film using a single lighting method. We decided on an approach of lighting the steps with a single, easily identifiable color in consideration of safety, while bringing forth light with a high presentation effect on the outside of the stairs. To tackle this challenge, we tested the lighting effect on a mock-up using actual dichroic film. This showed that light falling on the steps reflected more colours when it fell on the film directly, whereas the colors toned down as the illumination angle approached parallel. On the other hand, light transmitted through the film created colors in all lighting conditions. We installed LED lights under the handrails to illuminate the stairs directly from above and successfully produced a rainbow of colors on the outside of the stairs. Together with this, natural light shining from above reflects at various angles as time goes by, producing changing layers of iridescent color that create the impression of an aurora. Although in general, full-color light sources are used to fill a space with colorful light, this project employed dichroic film instead. Artificial light provides a constant effect while natural light shifts with time. Stillness and motion — two kinds of lights coexisting and overlapping to create impressive visuals.

The rainbow-colored stairs rise in a spiral carrying passion soaring into the sky with the future dreams and diversity of the students. These stairs give function but are also a symbol for the Faculty of Informatics that encourages social interaction among the students and supports them as they take large steps toward their futures.

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