Balls? Yes, smart ones

Environments 28 August 2014 | 2.32pm

For those that have visited our London office recently could be forgiven on thinking they had just walked into a planetarium. Visitors of No 8 Fitzroy Street have had the pleasure of viewing our lighting team’s latest collaboration on an interactive lighting installation, aptly named, “Balls”. The installation consisted of 42 individually controlled LED balls which were suspended within the building atrium.


The balls hang from the ceiling by wire but aren’t simply a static fixture, they were programmed to move up and down and change colour. The idea behind the installation was to give people a greater connection with the space around them and more control over their environment.


The motion and colour of the balls was designed to respond to real-time changes in the working environment. 16 million different colour-variants and infinite combinations in height were initially determined by the presence of people and ambient noise within the atrium and surrounding office space. The spaces around the atrium were wired with microphones to measure noise levels and sensors to detect movement.


These sensors constantly streamed live data via the wireless network to the control centre. The software was written by architects Alma-nac and Ruairi Glynn, in collaboration with Felix Faire, to take the stream of data, compute against background data levels and then display it graphically across the balls.


However, in order to truly give the users of the space control, the software was also written to be open source, free for anyone on the internet. During the month of June, Arup people were encouraged to engage with this open-source system to provide their own data and ‘curate’ the control of the balls. The results were amazing. Interactions such as directing the balls to mirror energy consumption, numbers of people working in our offices, whether our employees are happy, internet traffic intensity or how much coffee is being consumed have all been designed and visualised by the Balls installation.

To see more images of this project and other innovative lighting work follow Tim at

Tim Hunt

London, UK

“I’m a Lighting Designer with an industrial design based background. I have a passion for lighting design and the way light can be used to accentuate architecture and create unique environments.”

View all posts by: Tim Hunt