Anolis Enters Vortex at Canberra Airport

Anolis LED lighting fixtures – a combination of ArcSource 6 RGBWs and ArcSource 12 RGBs – were specified to illuminate the striking ‘Vortex’ water feature at the front entrance to the Departures level atrium of Canberra Airport’s newest passenger terminal.

The design and engineering of the diamond shaped water feature was created by Waterforms’ Dirk Slotboom and Michael Salis working in close collaboration with Paul Mutton from GMD Architects who designed the award-winning building. They then enlisted the expertise of Waterforms’ lighting designer Con Nomikos to illuminate the work.

The gleamingly slick contemporary transit portal represents not just Australia’s capital city, it is a gateway for positivity and a symbol for future economic development and growth in the ACT. Dirk wanted the separate physical elements of the water feature – the water wall and the vortexes at each end of it – to resemble a living system. Thinking of these two counter-rotating water elements as “two whales below the ocean giving the sense of something alive underneath … of which the vortex is an extension. A space where water, light and energy unite to create an organic, breathing water sculpture”.

With lighting absolutely fundamental to this concept, an imaginative approach was required that added drama and accentuated the kinetic elements. As well as the obvious creative aspects, the lighting scheme had to highlight the practicality of the Vortex as a buffer between the road where passengers are dropped off and the impressive glass atrium soaring skyward behind. It had to assist in directing people through the doors and into the terminal itself, so the final design featured the two Vortexes  connected by a water wall and a rear water display.

Con, a lighting professional for over 20 years with a career encompassing the lighting of concerts, music festivals, television productions and other entertainment genres as well as built environments … has brought fresh and new perspectives to the lighting of water art, which he has been doing for Waterforms for around 7 years.

The water wall is juxtaposed against cool black granite, so the units needed to be bright enough to light the water boldly and cleanly, so it popped out from its surroundings, and for this Con chose Anolis ArcSource 6 RGBW fixtures. These are inset into laser cut holes along the base of the wall. For the two vortexes, he selected ArcSource 12 RGB units. All are driven via Anolis ArcPower 144 drivers and DMX controlled.

Con has used both these products before and found them to be “extremely reliable”.

The finished lighting scheme makes a dramatic statement that enlivens the whole water feature allowing it to stand out, cutting through the general visual ‘noise’ of the environment maintaining “colour, clarity and elegance”. The water wall also has an eye-catching saw-tooth pattern that contrasts with the high impact profiles of the vortex cylinders .

Con has used Anolis products in his designs for over 10 years – right from the launch of the brand – and comments that the after sales support from Australian distributor, the ULA Group, is another consideration in his choice.

“Anolis themselves has always been open to listening to end-users and willing to manufacture the products that we need. It’s imperative that the specifications are complied with and delivered to the highest standards with a water feature” he adds, which is why they prefer European made products for the application.

The vortexes can change colours, stay as one colour or produce special combinations for specific occasions. They can appear to grow larger or smaller and change shape with variations in colours and the size of the air bubbles injected via the water system. Con used tiny grain-sized bubbles at night to maximise the reflection of light in the water and produce bright, luminous colours, he increased the size of the bubbles during the day to enhance the clarity of the water flow.