After 10 years of working on the nuts and bolts of Enlighten Illuminations, Peter Milne can definitively say that the National Library of Australia is his favourite building to work with.
With two slide projectors beaming still images onto the front of the stripped classical design, the building is one of the simpler architectural projections that Milne and the team at Electric Canvas do for the 11-day event, and yet, it's been his favourite "for forever".
"It always looks terrific," he says.
"There's no animation on it, it's a series of five stills but it is commanding and engaging. We love all of the buildings but the library is my favourite."
This year, Electric Canvas has been given the brief of the Great Australian Dream to adorn the National Library with, breaking it down into five separate themes, for five separate stills. Focusing on the landscape, building the dream, multiculturalism, the dream of equality and the dream of home, the slides - as always - will take items from the institution's collection to beam up onto the facade.
For the first time, the presentation will also play into the building's purpose and include an audio story that will told over the speakers as the images are shown.
While each Enlighten Illuminations promises to be bigger and better than the year before, and while new things, such as the library's audio track, bring something different to the program, there is a never an active goal to improve on the previous year.
"It is our endeavour every year ... to provide image design based on the brief that we get from each of the institutions," Milne says.
"Sometimes it's a reflection of what activities they've currently got going on in the inside, other times it's more celebratory or recognising current events.
"Questacon this year will be doing something quite different. Quite recently it was decided to change the direction of the piece about Questacon and make it a piece about renewal. The recent bushfire tragedies and wildlife and habitat impacts have a very negative outcome but there is renewal to come, and that's a very positive message."
As for Australian Parliament House, there will be five treatments set for the event, which are based upon materials from its collection, including the Great Hall Tapestry, and the Museum of Australian Democracy will be using its Behind the Lines political cartoons - to the theme of ScoMo's greatest hits - as well as other artwork in its collection.
The Sydney and Melbourne buildings will see the work of artists Jodie Cunningham and George Rose, meanwhile, the National Gallery of Australia has enlisted the help of performance artists and leaders of the Sydney queer art and club scene - Club Ate - to light up the iconic 60-metre facade with the video projection In Muva We Trust.
But each of the designs, while visually spectacular, are the last piece of the puzzle. In order for the treatments to work cohesively with the facade, Electric Canvas needs to either capture the building's architecture by shooting 3D laser points to develop a wireframe model or scan the building to create a complete model mesh. This means the artists can then go to work from every angle.
"It's certainly not treating the buildings as screens - that's not what we're about at all," Milne says.
"In the case of Club Ate at the National Gallery, we taking small snippets of their work that are provided from a template that we provide them.
"Then we lay the artwork on the front here and the balcony here and on an archway there, like a jigsaw puzzle to put the whole thing together so it becomes an intricate task."
It takes the team at Electric Canvas four months to complete the design, and with less than a week to go until the big reveal, they're now at the pointy end. However, for the Enlighten Festival as a whole, planning starts long before work on the architectural projections starts.
"Literally, after this Enlighten finishes we'll start planning the next one so we can work with all of the attractions and really keep the momentum going and build on what we've done," festival executive producer Vickii Cotter says.
Over the years Enlighten has become a creativity bubble. This year's event was inspired by last year's festival. And next year's will build on what happens over the next couple of weeks. And perhaps one of the key things that enable the festival to operate in such a manner is the fact that it doesn't have an official yearly theme. They just let the imaginations of everyone involved run wild.
"One of the things which is really lovely to see is how each attraction interprets their building and how they want to use it because I guess it's really nice just to see how they bring the message of what they do to life on their buildings," Cotter says.
"We've got six events over 17 days so bringing the Enlighten concept together as a whole and then overlaying a theme over that would be too much. It is almost better for the attractions for the buildings to showcase their buildings and what they stand for and what they believe in because that all seems to work really beautifully together."
What happens naturally, however, is the slight connections between the projections and light installations. Last year, several insinuations took inspiration from the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. This year, it's International Year of Plant Health, as well as the recent bushfires, which has fueled the inspiration.
"What we'll see is a lot of the attractions are picking up on that theme," Cotter says.
"So what we'll see a lot of things in relation to bees, we've got some regeneration projections happening, we've got some installations that also pick up subtly on that theme as well.
"We've got International Year of Plant Health recognised in our illumination so we'll have some really amazing flower installations where people will be able to take their selfies.
"It sort of just happens naturally, not by design, which feels quite nice. That way you can feel connected to each of the buildings where they tell their story."
- Enlighten Festival runs from Friday and runs until March 15 at Parliamentary Triangle. Enlighten Illuminations and the Night Noodle Markets run from Friday until March 9. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular takes over from March 7 to 15.