The CN Tower has dominated Toronto’s skyline during daylight hours since it opened 31 years ago; at 1,815 feet, this communications spire is the world’s tallest freestanding structure. But at night, the dimly lit giant faded nearly to black. Not anymore. Last week, 1,330 LED fixtures created by Color Kinetics were illuminated for the first time in a dazzling light show.
The programmable mix of 16.7 million colors can be changed to commemorate national holidays and other special events. They can also “simulate a clock which will mark the hours by certain colors, but we won’t turn it into a billboard,” says Gordon McIvor, a vice-president with Canada Lands Company, which owns the CN Tower. He adds that each LED fixture, roughly the size of a shoebox, uses less than 20 percent of the energy required to light a conventional color changing fixture; overall, the newly lit tower will consume 60 percent less electricity than the old scheme.
Energy efficiency isn’t the only benefit to the tower’s new LED fixtures. McIvor says that, on a clear night, residents of Rochester, New York—some 100 miles distant—will be able to spot the illuminated tower. And that’s exactly the idea. Boosters hope the new lighting will “act as a beacon” to the CN Tower’s dining and entertainment attractions, helping end Toronto’s five-year tourist slump. So while skyscrapers including Burj Dubai are challenging its standing as the world’s tallest building, CN Tower can now claim to be the world’s tallest illuminated structure.