The real door is a blast-proof steel heavyweight model, but on Saturday it was lifted off its hinges and replaced for the day by its digital double — a screen bearing a familiar black iron lion’s head knocker, painted numerals with a slightly crooked zero, and brass letter box grandly inscribed “First Lord of the Treasury”.
This super-tech multi-layered sandwich of technology is pre-programmed to show the Union flag, but creates a silhouette in white lights on the outside of anything moving past on the inside.
The idea was dreamed up by Islington-based special effects expert Jason Bruges, who, aided by a 20-strong team, lit the Shard over Christmas with pre-programmed patterns and light beams, and created “digital wallpaper” for the corridors of Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.
Berkshire furniture maker Benchmark created the outer frame of the No 10 digital door from timber with conventional joints and many coats of black paint and varnish to get that familiar high-gloss finish. Inside are seven layers of glass, acrylic and paper with printed circuit boards, LED lighting and electronics at the centre. Motion sensors pick up patterns from anyone or anything moving behind the door. It works both ways — you can get a pattern inside of anyone standing outside.
“Here is a perfect fusion of craft and technology,” says Sean Sutcliffe, director of Benchmark, which he founded 30 years ago with Sir Terence Conran.
Bruges says: “We’re showing the magic, the fun, the art of technology. There is motion-triggered and light technology all around our homes.” We all understand thermostats that programme themselves, sensors on cooker hobs, and controls for TVs, phones and tablets.
Fun projections that lit up the digital No 10 door included Larry the cat, the resident mousecatcher who spends a great deal of time on a rug by the radiator in the hall, along with a uniformed policeman standing guard outside.
The digital door will be in Shanghai for the second Great Festival of Creativity, which the Duke of Cambridge will open. Over three days, 500 UK companies and experts will parade British expertise in design, architecture, fashion, manufacturing, craft and technology.