Light + Tech - Mixing tech and tradition for lighting that does more

Lighting expert Jill Entwistle reports that luminaires are becoming ever-more capable and complex, and finds that often it’s a mix of modern tech and traditional methods producing the most striking results

Words by Jill Entwistle

Whether it’s the techniques applied in manufacture or what a light fitting can do beyond the simple process of illumination, luminaires are becoming more complex and capable.

It’s not just about making a humdrum lamp more compelling by injecting a bit of colour action. It’s the subtle and thoughtful ways electronics can be applied to create both aesthetically pleasing and purposeful lighting.

Or ingenious ways that a luminaire can be manipulated to adjust lighting level or mood.

Often it’s the marriage of modern technology with traditional artisanal methods, an intriguing amalgam of past and present, that produces the most striking results.

‘Moon’ and ‘Sun’ Special Luminaires, Vedanta
Nulty Bespoke

The new London headquarters of global mining and metal company Vedanta in Mayfair comprises an ultra-flexible 860 sq m executive space: a hallway of mirrors with six working areas and the chairman’s office extending from it. The boardroom, offices, meeting rooms and hall of mirrors can transform into a large open-plan events area. When the space is opened up, the mirrored walls and meeting room partitions disappear, moving on a series of tracks into the ceiling. The walls are stored in pockets to the side, transforming the various rooms into the single, large open-plan venue. The lighting plays a key role in the metamorphosis of the space with its innovative, chameleon-like design features.

As part of the lighting scheme by Nulty+, Nulty Bespoke created a series of 15 large, elliptical, feature luminaires (1250mm x 750mm); seven in the hallway, which are recessed into the sweeping, three-dimensional Corian ceiling. Dubbed ‘moons’, they are capable of a wide variety of functions, providing five dynamic white effects for day-to-day use, and a multitude of colour-changing effects when the offices open up as an events space.

There are 68 individually controllable pixels within the thermally formed, dome-shaped, matt acrylic diffuser.

Making the fixture even more versatile, a ring of 18 small downlights surrounds the perimeter, projecting pools of light, designed to replicate shafts of daylight.

There is one larger version of the elliptical fixture in the chairman’s office referred to as a ‘sun’. This measures 1800mm in diameter and is surrounded by 30 individual spotlights. Only when the space is opened up are all 15 moons and the sun revealed.

All lighting functions are run by a bespoke DMX control system. Lighting requirements can be adjusted by scene selections as well as traditional dimming, or separated into more specific functions using tablets. By designing the controls to mimic the elaborate flexible wall systems, the controls remain easy to use no matter which of the many spacial configurations are deployed. There is also an interactive element as algorithms and motion sensors allow light to track users’ movements.

Lighting design: Nulty+
Interior design: DaeWha Kang
Office fit-out: Modus


Gople Lamp

(main image)

The result of the last collaboration between Artemide and avant-garde architect BIG was the Alphabet of Light. From letters to lettuce, the latest luminaire is designed for plants. Also rather appealing for humans as it happens. The Gople Lamp combines tradition with technology, featuring a smooth, Venetian-blown glass form housing RWB (red, white, blue) LEDs, which help plants thrive indoors by diffusing red, white and blue tones.

‘Gople is able to nourish nature, to grow plants with a special and very precise light quality,’ says Carlotta de Bevilacqua, vice president and head of product innovation at Artemide. But, she adds, ‘it can create an optimal environment for humans, taking care of emotional, physiological and perceptive experience’.

Gople Lamp

The RWB combination is unusual, RGB (red, green, blue) being a more common blend for colour mixing. As well as encouraging plant growth, the patented (in 2011) RWB LEDs also create different scenes or ambient effects, and provide functional white lighting. The lamp calibrates its emissions according to the PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density) values required in a plant’s two phases where an appropriate supply of light is crucial: bluer light (425-450nm wavelength) for the growth phase and red light (575-625nm) for the blooming stage.

Gople combines direct and controlled RWB emission with white indirect diffused light that can be controlled separately. The glass housing is available in white crystal, transparent silver and transparent bronze finishes.

The concept of the lamp derived from the ambitious Area 2071 project in Dubai, designed by BIG, where a lamp that would both illuminate and nourish green public spaces was wanted. ‘Starting from this project, we decided together also to produce the lamp in a simpler version with an E27 socket, flexible enough to adapt to the evolution of standard source technologies,’ says de Bevilacqua.

28 Series

The 28 Series features an innovative fabrication process that manipulates both the temperature and the direction of air flow into blown glass. This results in a slightly distorted sphere with an interior landscape of circles and inner spheres, including an opaque milk glass diffuser. This houses either a low-voltage xenon or LED source.

The series is available in 90 glass colours and in custom combinations. The most effective results come from clustering the fittings, so that subtle tones and lighting effects can play against each other.

Image Credit: Design Republic ShanghaiImage Credit: Design Republic Shanghai

Bocci has recently installed two permanent site-specific lighting installations featuring the 28 Series at venues in Asia: Neri&Hu’s Design Republic in Shanghai and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Inside Design Republic Commune, which occupies a former colonial police station in Shanghai’s Jing’an district, 60 hand-blown pendants in custom colours – tonal shades of grey, blue, purple and white – highlight a double-height atrium, designed to suffuse the tall, narrow space with light.

The second installation is at the Moon Lounge in the Mori Art Museum, mixing milk white, ivory and translucent pendants.

Studio Nina Lieven

SUNset, from Studio Nina LievenSUNset, from Studio Nina Lieven

To call SUNset a luminaire is to do it something of a disservice. Berlin-based Studio Nina Lieven describes it as a ceiling lighting device, though even that is rather clinical. By moving its components, the user can alter the colour of the light from neutral blue to deep red. Pulling the metal ring allows the coloured cylinder to move vertically and changes the mood of the lighting from a bright daylight to a colourful sunset. Inside the cylinder is an external LED E14 light source. Pulling or pushing the cylinder changes the temperature of the light from around 3500K to 2000K. Available with two rings (100cm diameter) or one (70cm), the lamp is made of brass, aluminium and acrylic glass.

‘My main interest is to combine natural phenomena, geometrical forms and kinetic movements to create fascinating objects for everyday life,’ says Lieven, who studied product design and sculpture in Kassel, Germany, and Madrid. ‘During my studies, I developed a strong interest for light and the behaviour of things and matter.’

SUNset won the German Design Award 2019 presented this month at the German Design Award Exhibition in Frankfurt during the Ambiente Fair.

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