Giving Madrid A Makeover, With Op-Art Christmas Lights

How has your city prepared for the holidays? By throwing up a few thinning acrylic wreaths? By slapping on a few dreidel decals? Well, that’s not how they roll in Madrid. Each year, the city spends millions on decorations, which range from a 300-square-foot nativity scene to dozens of light shows commissioned by artists and designers who work in the city.

One of the best comes from Italian-born Madrid-based architect Teresa Sapey, who designed a long display in the Barrio de Salamanca. The installation is much like the snowflake-and-candle displays you see in most cities, cantilevered across the wide boulevard from a lamppost. But instead of holiday symbols, she’s installed a series of concentric circles edged in colored LED lights. As you get further away from the lights, the circles begin to overlap, creating a dizzying array of shapes and colors. It’s the Vegas Strip, had it been designed by Marimekko.

Fears about driver distraction aside, it’s a fairly magical (and secular!) effect. Sapey, who has been based in Madrid for 22 years, is incredibly proud of the installation. “I work with spaces to move emotions,” she writes. “I’d go for provoking just about any kind of feeling, no matter what it is . . . Whether [you] like or dislike, I do not really care.”

For more, here’s a whole forum thread devoted to pictures of Madrid’s holiday lightshows.