CN Tower's new look

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The specs sound like they're from the latest ad for LCD televisions: 16.7 million colours, Chromacore technology, digital control.

But all of this is coming (very) soon to a skyline near you. And when it does, Toronto by night will never again be quite the same.

Over the past week, the CN Tower has been testing its new $2.5 million lighting system after dusk. Ribbons of colour have spilled down the 553-metre-tall structure, ebbing and flowing like water.

Or, in some cases, like sequins.

Because the computer-controlled system is so flexible, virtually any look is possible. So, depending on when one happens to glance up, the tower can appear as refined as a clean sculpture – or as garish as a midway.

"We want to remind people that it's our intention to really elegantly light the structure," said a spokesperson.

"So what they're seeing over the past few days is not what they'll be seeing in the future." The public will get an official glimpse of that future, when the new installation is launched with a light show demonstrating its capabilities June 28. There will be also be a special blitz on Canada Day, with nightly shows continuing all year long.

But why the big change now?

A news release states that for almost a decade the CN Tower has maintained "minimal exterior lighting... while searching for advances in technology that would present an energy efficient solution to lighting Canada's National Tower."

Apparently, that search ended with a lighting system from a U.S. company called ColorKinetics. Its track record includes installations at the Hollywood Bowl and the LAX Gateway at the Los Angeles airport.

The CN Tower news release stresses that the system is efficient – using 10 per cent less energy than the most recent setup, and consuming about 60 per cent less power than was needed to fully light the tower in the 1990s. In other words, David Suzuki won't be knocking on the porch to change the light bulbs.

But will the new look fly with people accustomed to the tower's less flashy lighting? To steal a cliché, guess we'll just have to wait. And see.


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