Osram transforms the Noma Earth Tubes into an interactive light installation


Noma Earth Tubes, Manchester, UK

The impressive Noma Earth Tubes with a height of 5.60 metres are part of the 80,000 square metre Noma municipal refurbishment project in the north of Manchester. The three towers supply fresh air to the co-op support centre located beneath it in the centre of the upgrading zone. In addition to their primary function the climate towers also fulfil an aesthetic task, making the public space much more attractive for both visitors and residents. This vision has been rendered possible thanks to state-of-the-art LED lighting solutions from Osram.

The task consisted of highlighting the shape and structure of the three ventilation towers with a creative and interactive light installation capable of fascinating but also integrating observers. The lighting had to visualise various topics such as local and global events and enable visitors to influence these externally. The aim was enabling the light object to continuously develop but to still maintain its level of fascination. To breathe life into this vision, the managers contacted the specialists from Osram Lighting Solutions. With its Traxon product spectrum the company offers flexible and customisable solutions as well as the requisite experience needed to succeed with such complex projects.

The lighting was subdivided into three elements – the 'ribs' attached around the towers, the round 'covers' and the curved upper 'crown'. Traxon supplied RGB LED lines according to customer requirements that with their innate flexibility could be simply adapted to the individual shapes of the specific towers. A customised, all-round cylindrical media screen shell was created for each tube for this purpose, consisting of 5,760 individually controllable LED light points per tube. A round media screen was created for the upper side of the ventilation towers using Traxon RGB Media Tube LED modules – the screen is located precisely above the ventilation grid without disturbing the air flow and functionality of the towers. A total of 10,800 individually addressable LED light points are integrated into the three covers, with each tower featuring a luminous ring as a crowning effect consisting of Linearlight Flex IP LED modules. Control of the complete lighting system is via an e:cue control server. 

The flexibility of the Osram solution is demonstrated by the four different methods of lighting: organic video, motion tracking, gesture control and Twitter mode. These all give the towers their own identity and enable complete interaction with passers-by - motion sensors project shadows onto the towers for example in accordance with the movements of people nearby. Colour sequence commands are executed via tweets and implemented in a matter of seconds. It is not only motion and atmosphere on-location that can be visualised though - moods and responses to global events can also be rendered using colours and light patterns. The towers were illuminated in the national colours of France for example following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

At this year’s Lighting Design Award the project, illuminated by Cundall Light4, gained a special mention in the "Community and Public Realm of the Year" category.

Project partner:

Lighting designer: Cundall, UK
Architectural lighting specialist: StudioTech, UK


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Noma Earth Tubes, Manchester, UK

Noma Earth Tubes, Manchester, UK

Noma Earth Tubes, Manchester, UK



OSRAM, based in Munich, is a globally leading lighting manufacturer with a history dating back more than 100 years. The portfolio ranges from high-tech applications based on semiconductor technology, such as infrared or laser lighting, to smart and connected lighting solutions in buildings and cities. OSRAM had around 33,000 employees worldwide at the end of fiscal 2015 (September 30) and generated revenue of almost €5.6 billion in that fiscal year. The company is listed on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt and Munich (ISIN: DE000LED4000; WKN: LED400; trading symbol: OSR). Additional information can be found at www.osram.com.