An industrial site in the northern French city of Jeumont sparkled with light during Les Jupiterriennes, a special event that took place January 31 to February 9, 2003. The man behind the magic of the event is lighting designer Koert Vermeulen, principal of Art-Concept-Technology, a Belgian design firm based in Brussels. Vermeulen used light to bring luster back to Jeumont, and illuminate a site that is slated for development as a tourist destination with entertainment, culture, retail, and restaurants.

Jeumont, which means “mountain of Jupiter,” is located on the French-Belgian border. It was once a major industrial center, with a large factory making alternators for power plants all over the world. It was also a major stop on the European train route from Moscow to Paris. “Even the Czar of Russia would come out of his carriage when the train stopped in Jeumont,” notes Vermeulen. By the mid-20th century, Jeumont, like many other European industrial cities, was in decline and its industrial center abandoned.

Today there are plans to turn the old train station into a museum based on energy and trains, in celebration of the city's history. The complex will also include a hotel. “It is like a mini-theme park,” Vermeulen explains. “This forgotten site will be integrated into the city as part of a major urban renewal project. Named after Jupiter, Les Jupiterriennes was designed to show off the site and present the idea to the region, to sponsors, and to the public. It was an energy-based event, so they came to me for the lighting.”

A highlight of the lighting was an interactive totem, almost 100' tall (31.5m), built by the Belgian branch of Stageco, using steel truss and scaffolding to hold up 24 projection screens, each 2m by 2m (6.6'×6.6'), mounted in a checkerboard pattern. Stageco also designed special attachment pieces to hold the skin of high-tech plastic screens, made of a material that can withstand high winds and harsh weather conditions.

“This was the largest freestanding tower in the world,” says Vermeulen. He also used 24 Clay Paky CP Color fixtures, one on each projection screen, and ETC Source Four PARs to light the center of the truss. There were also strobes attached to the top so that airplanes could clearly see the structure. Two Space Cannon Millennium 4000 automated searchlights were hung 30' (9m) high to add a color wash. “To make the totem interactive, I created 150 cue lists,” notes Vermeulen. “It was like an interactive playground. Children especially would stand before the totem, and, by touching things, a random choice of cues would run. It was very popular and looked amazing.”

A small building on the site, referred to as Bâtiment 2, was used as a canvas for drawings done by the school children of Jeumont, to show their ideas of the city. “The images were scanned and made into a PowerPoint presentation, and projected on a large screen using Panasonic projectors,” explains Vermeulen. “There were 625 images running in a loop on the outside of the building.” To light the building itself, Vermeulen added ETC Source Four ellipsoidals with various patterns, as well as Philips wash lights with 400W HQI lamps.

At the future museum site, two E\T\C Audiovisuel PiGi large-format projectors with double scrollers were used to create one large image, 45m (148.5') wide and 18m (59') high, on the outside of the structure. The content for the projections was provided by a French graphics school called SupInfoComm.

The interior of the building, referred to as “Atelier D,” was totally transformed to tell the story of Micheline, an imaginary woman from Jeumont who is celebrating her 75th birthday and wants to visit the planet Jupiter. Her birthday celebration is a 25-minute show complete with a horse act and an aerial act. The performance elements were directed by ZO, a Belgian director who goes by just the one name.

Vermeulen was faced with transforming a very large space that measures 40' high by 120' long by 45' wide (12×36×13.5m). “It was divided into two sections,” he notes, pointing out a transition area and the planet Jupiter. The transition area was dressed with 120 different style umbrellas, hanging from the ceiling to represent wishes sent from Earth to Jupiter. To light the space, Vermeulen used 48 PAR-64 uplights as well as 12 Martin Professional MAC 600 fixtures. “These were hung as high as possible, and between the two rooms, so I could use them to wash the floor and ceiling in both spaces,” he says. “The umbrellas were carefully hung, like art, but we had to move some that were blocking the lighting.”

The transition space is peopled with a series of unusual-looking wax figures. “These are very strange characters designed by a French artist,” says Vermeulen. “They represent people who want to leave Earth and go to Jupiter but never actually get there.” The figures include a family photo session, a farmer, and the denizens of a pub. Vermeulen created museum-like lighting of the figures with a combination of 300W fresnels, ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, PAR-20s, and wash lights. The overall look is rather minimalist, with a dark atmosphere in blues and greens.

The planet Jupiter is described by Vermeulen as “a very empty space, all amber and red.” The backdrop is a star cloth measuring 20m by 40m (66'×132'), as well as projections on a wall painted a matte gray. The aerial act and horse act are lit with six Clay Paky Stage Zoom 1200 SV fixtures as well as the MAC 600s, plus Source Fours to help pull the performers and horse and aerial acts out of the background projections, which included a train station on Jupiter, a NASA-style photo of Jupiter in the distance, and an 1800s-style illustration of Jupiter and its moons.

A variety of consoles was used to control the site lighting. For the sound and light show on the exterior of the old train station, Vermeulen used a High End Systems Status Cue®, selected for its ability to run a scheduled show from an audio CD without the need for a separate show control system. The exterior lighting along the walkways was run via a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II console, with a second used for the totem. This console was cued via MIDI from an Avenger Conductor show control system. The interior lighting of Atelier D was controlled with a Compulite Sabre console, with a dedicated board operator who ran each show. The dimmers were by ADB. A special powerline was installed by EDF (Electricité de France) with a total consumption of 800A on 400V tri-phase.

The lighting equipment was supplied by two companies: Philing SA for the interior and exterior of Atelier D and the totem, and Phlippo Showlights for Bâtiment 2, the illuminated walkway, entrances, and train station. All projection was done by Philing SA with PiGi and Cameleon projectors, with video and the interactive elements by Wouter Van Beirendonck.

“Overall it was very big, like an opera effect,” says Vermeulen. “All the lighting was intended to enhance the story. Nothing was overdone. Each light was there to help communicate the story to the public.”

Contact the author at elgreaux@primediabusiness.com.