11. Dec 2015

Light + a digital experience to enhance the urban environment

Installation: Samuel Wilkinson and Beau Lotto
Photos: Sylvain Deleu

The Ommatidium is a collaboration between industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson and world-leading neuroscientist and perception specialist Beau Lotto. The canopy of crystal lenses, which also serves as a street luminaire after dark, is installed in Old Street in London.

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By day Ommatidium is a piece of street furniture, a sculpture, a meeting place, a maker of rainbows. When struck by sunlight, the crystal lenses paint rainbows onto the pavement, creating patterns of dancing light and colour that change throughout the day. Standing underneath Ommatidium and looking upwards, the light and crystals create a kaleidoscope effect, changing depending on the angle of view. The alignment of the individual lens units was inspired by the compound eyes of many insects. After dark, LEDs illuminate the canopy, turning the Ommatidium into a glittering, gleaming beacon, a meeting point to complement the regeneration of the district.

The 1500 hand-cut prisms are set in a metal grid shaped to form a round canopy with a diameter of 3.2 metres, which is mounted on a 4.5 metre tall matt black central steel rod. LED strip lighting is incorporated into the rim of the canopy.

The added extra: the luminaire acts as a digital noticeboard. Using an augmented messaging app, Ommatidium allows information and ideas to be tagged to a particular place and retrieved via smartphone.


Ommatidium is therefore a meeting place where passers-by can be inspired by a whole array of colourful lighting experiences and leave messages for others describing what they have witnessed – a fascinating way of bringing people together to exchange ideas within the urban environment.


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