At this point, it is well known that I am a big fan of neon. It is something that we have obviously worked to incorporate into our Junction House project through things like our rooftop placemaking sign (it’s actually LED), our collaboration with local artist Thrush Holmes (his work incorporates neon), and the neon popup gallery that we hosted last year in collaboration with the Downtown Yonge BIA and Neon Demon Studio. So it was no surprise that a friend of mine sent me an ArchDaily article this morning talking about how neon lighting shapes architecture.
What I like about the piece, and the pictures it includes, is that it emphasize the spatial qualities and potential of neon. For a lot of us, neon has come to represent brash advertising. Neon is bright. That was and is great for advertising. But that association has been changing. Even cities like Hong Kong, which have for so long been synonymous with neon, are starting to lose that form of advertising. I’m not saying that loss is a good thing. But I do think that we are now seeing neon being used in completely different ways. It has become more creative. It has become architectural.
Below is an excerpt from the ArchDaily article that speaks to this same idea. But what you really want to do is shoot over and look at all of the photos.
Yet because neon is so fundamentally associated with signage, which can feel limiting or kitschy for some architects, it is often neglected. Rudi Stern writes further that “Unfortunately for many architects, neon is the last shoddy pink ‘pizza’ sign they have seen, and they summarily reject a medium that offers great promise as a spatial and environmental element.” Thus, despite its historical and commercial associations, neon has the potential to be even more than retro symbols or cosmopolitan phrases. Abstract designs, atmospheric colors, and the kinetic properties of light combined can completely alter a space even without references to a historical aesthetic or explicit messages. In the images of the With.It Home below, BodinChapa Architects have used neon in a non-representational way to create a stunningly memorable James Turrell-esque room that is simultaneously tranquil and radiant. Neon light has the power to completely transform a room even if used in as simple a way as lining the corners of the ceiling, due to the unique properties of light in conversation with the sense of space itself. If architects can move past its commercial associations and investigate its relationship to architectural space, neon can become an even more powerful atmospheric element than it is already.