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Calatrava's Belgium railway station is illuminated with artwork by Daniel Buren


The Santiago Calatrava-designed Liège-Guillemins station in Belgium has been transformed with major art exhibition by Daniel Buren. For one year beginning on October 15th, 2022, the lofty space is illuminated in a vibrant wash of color, a monumental and temporary work by one of France’s best-known artists.

The work, entitled Comme tombées du ciel, les couleurs in situ et en mouvement, harmonizes with the rhythmic architecture by Calatrava and floods the railway station with a bold interplay of colorful light. The artwork has been deployed across the vast arrays of glass panels which enclose the station’s canopy, and will be constantly transform response to the shifting light throughout the day and changing seasons.


Daniel Buren’s Comme tombées du ciel, les couleurs in situ et en mouvement envelops both the main, arching canopy and the two side awnings of Calatrava’s Liège-Guillemins railway station in Belgium. Embarking on the ambitious project, the artist underwent a precise analysis of the ‘as-is,’ taking a minimalist approach to ‘what was there already and then making a proposal for transforming it.’

Ten thousand square-meters of the station’s roof is wrapped with transparent and adhesive filters in seven colors. Five colors — pink, green, blue, white and orange — project a checkerboard pattern from the glass panels while two others — yellow and red– cloak the side awnings in a form that is ‘reminiscent of the striped panels,’ a recurring feature of the artist’s work since 1960s.


Apart from the red and yellow on the station’s awnings, which Daniel Buren included to recall to the flag of Liège, Belgium, the selection of the colors and their placement is not the result of a specific request or aesthetic preference on the part of the artist. Instead, they are the result of the colors available for the translucent material, along with a recurring principle in Buren’s work, which is ‘to position the colors from left to right in the alphabetical order of the country where the work is located.’

The team writes of Daniel Buren’s process: ‘Laying the colors out in a checkerboard design makes it possible for visitors to contemplate the movement of the sky and the projections of colour simultaneously, thus enabling visitors to discover and understand the relationship between light and the projection of color. According to the artist, the meaning of the work would be lost if there were total immersion in the color (without the alternating empty space).

‘The horizontal nature of the work adds visibility to the projection of color. This is unlike stained glass windows in churches, which only project a minimum amount of colour onto the ground because of their verticality. The result is an interplay of strong contrasts which is at one and the same time in movement, thanks to the constantly changing projections and reflections, and stable as a result of the effect of the self-adhesive film on the roof.’

‘It is essential to keep in mind that more than one hundred thousand people go through this station each week and that they are not there to look either at a work of art or anything in particular. We must not lose sight of this: there needs to be something unexpected for them to discover,’ Daniel Buren comments,

‘It is the sun and the sky that will make these entirely coloured rectangles come to life with their projections onto the platforms, people, trains, objects, the stairs….These projections will unleash the colour to meander freely.’