Light+Tech: FX Awards 2020 lighting design winners

Showcasing the 2020 FX Design Awards winners in the lighting product and design categories

Words by Jill Entwistle

Category: Lighting Design

As has been observed before, lighting awards are generally a case of chalk and cheese: some enormous and infrastructural, others modest and intimate; some with healthy budgets, others which rely rather more on a wealth of ingenuity. This year’s FX lighting design award joint winners in the lighting design category are a case in point.

The Arup scheme for an unloved concourse at the University of Sheffield was about taming a brutalist 1960s bridge and its bleak surroundings, turning them into a welcoming social space. A perfectly controlled use of vibrant colours for the viaduct, combined with warm white lighting to trees and under benches/step seating, transform a concrete no-go zone into a convivial meeting and hang-out place. It is a bold, very precise use of coloured lighting, an extrovert scheme that reaches out and pulls people in. 

Maggie’s Leeds certainly shares that sense of warmth, and the use of light to draw in and comfort, but is altogether simpler, lower-budget and purposely more arbitrary. Albeit in different ways, both schemes exemplify the power of illumination to create magnetic and magical spaces.

Joint Winner

Concourse, University Of Sheffield
Lighting design: Arup

(Find a full write-up of this project from FX's February 2020 issue here)

Image Credit: Hufton & CrowJoint FX lighting design award winner Arup transforms brutalist concrete into convivial space.

Joint Winner

Maggie’s, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds
Lighting design: Light Bureau

Maggie’s, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds. Image Credit: Hufton & CrowImage Credit: Hufton & Crow

Thomas Heatherwick has designed the latest incarnation of Maggie’s Centres, the charitable initiative co-founded in 1995 by writer and garden designer Maggie and her husband, architecture critic Charles Jencks. Their vision, which has thus far attracted an impressive roster of prominent architects, was to create a cancer care centre, a safe, conducive space where people could get emotional and psychological support surrounded by good architecture and uplifting landscape.

For the latest Maggie’s Centre at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, Heatherwick’s inspiration was the bathtubs overflowing with plants that he found in his grandmother’s garden. The building is organised around three elements inspired by the baths, with planting on their roofs, acting as structural cores. These oversized plant pots have branching roofs and are bounded by continuous perimeter glazing. The cores house private counsel rooms, while social spaces are staggered at different heights in the open space, with the kitchen, characteristically for Maggie’s buildings, at the heart of the centre.

 Image Credit: Hufton & CrowImage Credit: Hufton & Crow

The key to the lighting brief came broadly from Maggie Jencks herself. In her book, A View From The Front Line, she talked about the need for ‘thoughtful lighting, a view out to trees, birds and sky’ and a design that goes beyond corridors with ‘overhead neon lighting, interior spaces with no views out and miserable seating’.

‘Following these principles, and Heatherwick Studio’s guidance, our lighting aimed to create kinder spaces for the user, as well as being empathetic with the architecture, plants, art and materials,’ says Paul Traynor, principal director of Light Bureau.

The approach was to emphasise the tranquil atmosphere by placing warm lighting in niches that hold plants, pictures, books and other household objects, so they become the focus rather than the lighting. Elsewhere, simple uplights illuminate the soffits. Externally, lighting is very much garden-scale and appears unstructured like the planting. As with the interior, the lighting has an apparent artlessness but is actually all carefully planned.

Image Credit: Hufton & CrowImage Credit: Hufton & Crow

With a charitable enterprise there are inevitably budget issues to address. The answer was not to compromise the standard of fitting, however. ‘We always want to ensure that the lighting we design for a space is high quality, so that it creates the best effect and it lasts,’ says Traynor, ‘But a restricted budget can place pressure on those choices. In line with a core philosophy for us, every luminaire justifies its presence by serving multiple purposes.’

Simple column-mounted spotlights provide indirect lighting to the high soffits and serve as emergency luminaires. Anti-glare cowls avoid reflections on the glazing. As well as accentuating objects and art, shelf lighting introduces vertical luminance and elevates the roof eaves.

Talk to any good lighting designer and they will emphasise the importance of integrating the lighting with the architecture. But this was a different proposition if the desired end result was to be achieved. It is this that makes the scheme interesting and unusual, however straightforward it may appear on the surface.

‘As a result of thinking lean, we were able to reduce the quantity of luminaires rather than dilute our budget on lower-quality fixtures,’ says Traynor. ‘We worked closely with the architects on the lighting integration strategy. For the team, avoiding fussy over-integrated lighting details was essential to create a homely feeling. Not every shelf needs lighting and not every linear run of LED has to go end to end.’

At night the building appearance is transformed, with the branched pots clearly legible against the higher hospital buildings around the site. With a fully glazed perimeter, ensuring a seamless transition from the inside out was crucial. From the inside, the main objective was to avoid specular reflections, and maintain clear views out, allowing the viewer to appreciate the garden.

‘Facade lighting was consciously avoided,’ says Traynor. ‘Building lighting would have been inappropriate here.’

Strategically positioned sources illuminate both the soffit overhangs and the soft landscape. Landscape lighting is understated. ‘Mainly a few ambient glowing bollards were included in key locations to give visual depth and help understand the irregular and steep surroundings,’ says Traynor. ‘These bollards disappear within foliage and were designed specifically to diffuse lighting sideways.’ Major trees were highlighted with low-glare uplights, to add height to the composition.

Although there has been, appropriately, a lack of technical over-egging, the result is a seamless harmony between structure and lighting – a warm, welcoming space. As architecture critic Rowan Moore wrote in The Observer: ‘A well-placed window, a calming material, the fall of light, a soothing acoustic are all more important to the aims of Maggie’s than the signature moves of a famous designer.’

Category: Lighting Product

So much in life is about who’s got the biggest, hence the seemingly endless willy contest manifested in the relentless rise of ever-taller buildings around the world. On the other hand, in the electronics sphere, it’s about how much can be packed into the tiniest of spaces. Certainly in lighting the pursuit has been for the smallest.

Minimal Track from Arkoslight is a low-voltage (24V) surface track system, with ultra-slim profile, and miniaturised luminaires and components. It is designed for spaces where small, discreet fittings are ideal from a practical point of view, such as window dressing and low ceilings, or wherever a minimal fixture presence suits the interior.

The system comprises a matt black anodised aluminium profile and a flexible rectangular-section conductor. The two elements merge into one, drawing a line across the space. Measuring 15mm wide and 10mm high, it has no visible connections, fastening elements or connection tracks.

Manufacturer: Arkoslight

Minimal Track is a 24V surface track system, with ultra-slim profile, as well as miniaturised luminaires and components. Image Credit: HRHMinimal Track is a 24V surface track system, with ultra-slim profile, as well as miniaturised luminaires and components. Image Credit: HRH

The aim has also been to make it easy to install. First, the profile marks the structural path of the system. The flexible conductor is then pressure-coupled inside the profile, with no need for tools, and continuously along the whole path. This thermoplastic rubber contains the copper tracks that electrify the unit.

Luminaires are pressure-connected and secured with two small safety mechanisms. The track corners enable a 90° change in direction in one or several planes. There are seven different luminaire options: Alaska, Six XS, iO Micro, Plus Micro, Fit 20, Top Micro and Line Micro, all (except Alaska) in textured white or black, and with high-quality (CRI90) colour rendering.

Alaska is a contemporary reinterpretation of the incandescent filament light bulb, with each luminaire traditionally produced. A solid optical glass sphere, the body is a single piece that is manually lathed and polished. Inside, the LED is set back, projecting the light through an acidified cavity in the glass. Visually, the luminous cone shines light through the sphere, mimicking the appearance of an incandescent filament. With warm colour temperatures (2700K/3000K), output is 390lm/410lm at 3.5W.

Minimal Track from Arkoslight. Image Credit: HRHMinimal Track from Arkoslight. Image Credit: HRH

The Six XS is a disc-shaped projector housing a combination of reflector and lens. Available in warm white plus neutral (4000K), it comes in 17°, 23° and 34° angles with an output between 400lm and 450lm.

Plus Micro is also a projector but allows the beam to be adjusted manually for greater precision. It comes in 10-35° beam angles, warm and neutral temperatures, and outputs of 500lm/525lm/570lm.

Io Micro is an LED spotlight small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Designed for accent lighting applications, its small dimensions mean it can be discreetly fitted in more confined spaces such as display cabinets and shop windows. Beam angles are 20°, 40° and 54°, with the same colour temperatures and outputs as the Plus Micro.

The cylindrical Fit 20 is another projector option and is particularly designed to prevent glare, which means its output is less punchy at 127lm/150lm. Available in warm white and with 12°, 30° and 54° beams, it can also be orientated in any direction.

Top Micro is a downlight that has a conical distribution with two possible beam angles: 19° and 38°. It also comes in just warm white options with an output of 190lm/210lm. Line Micro will offer a linear general lighting option and will be introduced shortly.

Alaska is one of the seven different luminaire options available. Image Credit: HRHAlaska is one of the seven different luminaire options available. Image Credit: HRH

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