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Liège-Guillemins station undergoes colour transformation in public art project

Daniel Buren art installation at Liège-Guillemins station
16:34 18/10/2022

It’s a playful game of colour and light. The checkerboard of filters covering half the soaring glass roof of Liège-Guillemins station transform the architectural wonder into an ever-changing tableau below.

Strobes of colour dance off the steel arches of the birdcage-like structure, jewel-like hues brighten up the passenger-filled platforms and trains pulling in and out of the busy transit hub.

Daniel Buren’s monumental installation As if fallen from the sky, the colors in situ and in motion is an artistic interaction with Santiago Calatrava’s architectural masterpiece. The conceptual artist, famous for his distinctive in-situ works in his home country France as well as around the world, calls his latest artwork “a cohabitation”.

Daniel Buren artwork

Long interested in the Japanese architectureal concept of  "borrowing" the landscape, Buren insists that his ephemeral oeuvre is not an “appropriation” of Calatrava’s design. As an admirer of the Catalan engineer and architect, the artist was instantly captivated by the cathedral quality of the Liège structure.

The absence of a façade, replaced by an arched glass roof canopy englobing the infrastructure of the station, contributes to the transparency and seamlessness between the station’s interior and exterior.

These characteristics suit Buren’s hallmark visual tools: simplified patterns and stripes, along with a graphic design, that always relates to the surrounding architecture and space.

Daniel Buren artwork

As regards his newly-inaugurated installation, “it is the sun and the sky that make these entirely coloured rectangles come to life with projections onto the platforms, people, trains, objects, escalators,” says the 84-year-old.

The work is designed to bring pleasure to the masses. “It is essential to keep in mind that more than one hundred thousand people go through the station each week and they are not here to look either at a work of art or anything in particular… there needs to be something unexpected for them to discover.”

Buren applies his own logic to the mosaic colour scheme of the installation, while avoiding his own personal preferences. Pink, orange, blue, green and white were chosen for their contrasting hues and arranged according to their alphabetic order in French, the local language.

Daniel Buren artwork

For the station’s side awnings - access and departure points - the red and yellow of the Liège flag were deliberately selected.

The transparent adhesive filters cover almost one hectare in total, always alternated with clear panes of glass to allow for natural light and interaction with the sky. With the installation in place for a year, the changing seasons will ensure a constantly moving scene for travellers and visitors.

Financial backing for the €600,000 project was provided by Liège services company Uhoda, which also found sponsorship from other local companies.

Stéphan Uhoda and Daniel Buren

Said chief executive Stéphan Uhoda (pictured above left with Daniel Buren): “I am a fan of breaking down the barriers to contemporary art. One of my main motivations in developing this project was to use a public space to make the work of an internationally recognised artist accessible to as many people as possible and to promote our city on the international cultural scene.”

The public sector chipped in around 20%, principally the city and province of Liège, along with the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Support was also forthcoming from SNCB.

An information booth at the entrance to station, at the Grand café de la gare, provides visitors with information along with a booklet proposing ‘good views’ to best admire both the station and the installation. Guided tours are provided by nonprofit Art&Fact.

As if fallen from the sky, the colors in situ and in motion
Until 15 October 2023
Guillemins train station

Photos: © Damien Maguire / Image Digital Photography

Written by Sarah Crew