Over the rainbow: a multi-purpose digital streetlamp launches for LDF

Arriving near the end of London Design Festival, The Ommatidium, created by designer Samuel Wilkinson and neuroscience professor Beau Lotto, is a multi-purpose landmark, acting as a sculpture, street lamp, community notice board and refractor of light, which beams down rainbows from its 1500 hand-made crystal prisms.

The Ommatidium, a multi-purpose piece of street furniture, which takes its name from the individual organic units that comprise an insect's eyes
Designer Samuel Wilkinson and neuroscience professor Beau Lotto collaborated to create The Ommatidium, a multi-purpose piece of street furniture, which takes its name from the individual organic units that comprise an insect's eyes
(Image credit: TBC)

A shining beacon of connectivity rises in Shoreditch Design Triangle (opens in new tab) today, and it comes bearing rainbows. Arriving near the end of London Design Festival (opens in new tab), The Ommatidium (opens in new tab), created by designer Samuel Wilkinson (opens in new tab) and neuroscience professor Beau Lotto (opens in new tab), is a multi-purpose landmark, acting as a sculpture, street lamp, community notice board and refractor of light, which beams down rainbows from its 1500 hand-made crystal prisms.

It's this multi-functionality that separates The Ommatidium from just any old piece of street art-cum-furniture. It is partnered with a notice board app, Traces, which allows users to post a whole range of multimedia (music, pictures etc) to physical spots, and its built-in WIFI means the project is more than just a pretty lamp – it’s a fixture that uses virtual technology to bring people closer together.

‘It’s really just about a new concept – pairing something that isn’t just a beautiful object, it’s an object that has functionality,’ explains RSA award-winning designer Wilkinson. ‘You can meet people there and look at all this digital content and just find something interesting... it’s beautiful and it's functional.’

This is a concept the pair both agree on. Beau Lotto – a seasoned TED speaker – believes bringing together neuroscience and design can help create meaningful experiences on social media. When talking about interactions with social media devoid of physical context, he asks, ‘How can they be meaningful instead of merely informative?’ The Ommatidium, they hope, is the meeting point of the real and virtual worlds.

Though focusing on interactivity, Wilkinson made sure not to neglect the structure's aesthetic appeal. ‘A lot of street furniture for me doesn’t feel it’s got enough effort in it: for this, people look at it and think, “Oh, is it a beautiful chandelier for a hotel?”’ During the daytime, in the rare instance that the London sun is shining, it casts rainbows through its prisms, but at night, it becomes a beacon, beaming 24 powerful LED lights. Though street lamps normally use between 39–153 watts depending on function, The Ommatidium produces a solid 140 watts of energy – actually rather green for a public installation.

A commitment to both aesthetic beauty and digital connectivity is what makes The Ommatidium a truly modern artwork, as well as acting as a potential precursor to streets filled with art that brings us together virtually and physically. ‘I think the streets should be as beautiful as anywhere else – more beautiful, potentially, because it’s for the public and more people get to enjoy it.’ Isn’t that the truth?

The Ommatidium's roof is made of 1500, handcrafted crystal prisms

The Ommatidium's roof is made of 1500, handcrafted crystal prisms, creating a new age street chandelier. 'In an area like Shoreditch, you have to try to produce something of really top quality,' explains Wilkinson

(Image credit: TBC)

Reflective prisms on the London street lights

By day, the prisms will refract hundreds of rainbows onto the pavement, but at night it will be illuminated with twenty-four LED lights

(Image credit: TBC)

Street light that doubles as a digital hotspot

In collaboration with Traces, Lotto's geo-location app that allows users to post virtual notices to physical locations, The Ommatidium will use built-in WIFI (to be installed in 6–8 weeks) to become a tangible hotspot for digital content

(Image credit: TBC)

The Ommatidium, London's new type of street lamp

The Ommatidium takes the place of Lotto's former solar-panel experimental installation, The Beacon (opens in new tab), but this project, according to Wilkinson, is about bringing 'a nice sense of place, and bringing more meaning to that place'

(Image credit: TBC)

Installation of The Ommatidium

The Ommatidium is officially launched today (25 September) as part of London Design Festival

(Image credit: TBC)

INFORMATION

More information can be found via Lotto Lab (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS 

The Ommatidium
243 Old Street
London
EC1V 9EY

VIEW GOOGLE MAPS