Aesthetics aside, lighting has become an integral part of interior design. It not only encourages a dialogue among the different dimensions – light, space and time – but also takes on a multitude of roles within architectural spaces and built environments.
From creating a brand identity to reinvention of spaces and aiding orientation, lighting attributes can dramatically alter the character of any space. It interesting how light is no longer just about placement and brightness delivered, but how it can establish a human response, while complementing the architectural forms.
Simon Berry, partner at Illuminate Lighting and Design, HBA’s lighting division, says: “When you stop thinking of light as something required to perform a task and consider how it can weave into the surroundings and the emotional context it can deliver, you start to become a lighting designer.”
Through a combination of scientific research and product innovation, lighting design is being considered with a more nuanced attitude in interior spaces.
A human-centric lighting approach is one of the most topical subjects in the industry. With multi-million dollar research and development backing the theory, there are now evident benefits to be reaped by implementing this in commercial and work spaces. British professor of circadian neuroscience, Russell Foster, has done extensive research and discovered light-sensitive ganglion cells in the retina, which influence the body’s internal clock. He recommends exposure to bright blue, enriched light during the day, which intersect and stimulate photoreceptors for a more alert response, and which can be toned down in the evening.
Academics and designers alike are stressing the physiological or psychological relevance of lighting. “Light has many forms, hues and levels of brightness, and carefully selecting each one of these delivers the required intent,” says Berry, adding that it’s important to ensure the right balance for the right location.
Regina Santos, associate lighting designer at design firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ), attended the Light + Building trade event in Frankfurt last month, where some of the biggest innovations in lighting design are launched every year. She explains that human-centric lighting focuses on balancing our production of melatonin through the use of different colour temperatures of the white light spectrum. “This is achieved with the use of a lighting control system that smoothly and automatically shifts the colour temperature of the architectural lighting throughout the day to boost your system for a fully awake mode during daytime, while allowing you to relax at night time,” says Santos.
Describing how improvements in technology are backing the research-led trend, Berry says: “We see more and more lighting designers veering towards health and wellness, especially with the availability of technologies that allow us to change colour temperature within the fixture, so that the ambient light is aligned with the sun’s movement, which guards our circadian body rhythm. We’ve employed this in some of our projects, which transition from 3,000K in the morning to 5,000K during the midday, before being turned down to 2,700K in the evening.”
In the past few years, the breakthroughs in LED technology have provided new avenues for lighting designers. Easy to apply, economical and versatile properties have all established LED as a preferred technology across various platforms. The infinite possibilities of working with LED have provided the impetus for further innovations in lighting products.
“It’s a vast topic, but for us what we found most interesting was the movement away from conventional lamp sizes,” says Berry. “Originally, when LED was first announced, many manufacturers looked at how it could be used within the restrictions of current lamp envelopes, but as this technology improved, we started to see a shift into luminaires which were being designed to house only the LED chipset. This has resulted in the miniaturisation of fixtures, and I hope this process continues.”
He adds that, ultimately, for lighting designers, primary focus is always the lit effect, and the smaller the fixture required to achieve this, the better it is for the overall result.
Other significant developments in the industry include new technologies in the electronics and optic systems segments. Santos of GAJ says that this feature has provided flexible solutions, which essentially use light beams from different angles, all originating from a single source. “This is a state-of-the-art technology that only a handful of manufacturers have developed so far, but this will certainly drive the market into taking this to the next level,” she says, agreeing with Berry’s revelation on the shrinking size of lamps.
“Reflectors are being designed to a more advanced level to improve the performance of light from very small fixtures with significant output.”
Making such applications possible are lighting manufacturing companies such as iGuzzini, Alger-Triton and Preciosa, who are employing pioneering technologies to provide form with a functional and mindful edge. “Working with a range of different materials allows us to develop smarter value engineering techniques, which provide diverse creative outlets for new and innovative design,” says Joe Chamberlin, director of international sales at California-based lighting firm Alger-Triton. “These technologies not only help us maintain design integrity, but also keep clients’ budget demands within check.”
With its history dating back to 1724, Czech company Preciosa is synonymous with luxury lighting. The company, however, has found novel ways to integrate craftsmanship and technology. “We have an engineering team as well as an entire research and development department that is completely focused on consistently coming up with new ways to push the lighting envelope,” says Martin Fryzelka, managing director at the firm. “It also helps that our clients in the Middle East are willing to embrace extraordinary concepts.”
As architectural spaces continue to evolve, so does the approach towards associated design industries, with lighting being among the most noteworthy sub-sectors.
Fryzelka says that while an integrated perspective isn’t entirely new, it has become increasingly more popular among designers who automatically factor in the lighting concept into their plans from the very beginning. “Stakeholders, who think about lighting design this way from the very start, will see the benefit for years to come by using reliable products that also act as timeless design elements,” he says.
“Also, incorporating a sense of place and (when speaking about commercial clients) staying true to the local culture and genius loci are principles that will never fade.”
Santos, too, believes that spaces can be significantly enhanced by lighting though simple and basic fundamental lighting principles such as ambient lighting, focal lighting, and play of brilliance, as first described by pioneer lighting designer Richard Kelly.
“These basic points can guide how lighting is used in a space. While aesthetics are driven mostly by the design direction of the interior design and FF&E teams, using integrated architectural or decorative lighting, functionality is mostly achieved by fixtures that complement an integrated lighting scheme,” she says.
While technology continues to be the main catalyst of new developments in the lighting industry, manufacturers, especially those with hundreds of years of legacy built on the back of craftsmanship, are equally keen to preserve it.
“We’re not a mass lighting producer,” emphasises Fryzelka. “We create bespoke lights and installations by hand at our factory in the Czech Republic, creating an authenticity with artisanal and sustainable products, which are quite important to our clients. We’ve always believed lighting is an essential part of a room’s design and can even act as a statement piece, not merely a functional part of the furnishings.”
In terms of product design trends, materials have seen immense innovation as well. Alger-Triton’s Chamberlin says that metal work particularly is becoming more than just a structural part of a fixture.
“The demand for beautiful satin brass and polished copper finishes is very much trending in our production line at the moment with glass and crystal somewhat taking a back seat (although still a significant part of our output),” he says.
Sustainability also remains a driving force in the design industry, bar none. It’s part of the larger goal to reduce carbon footprintglobally.
“Lowering energy consumption is a focal point in lighting design, as all lighting schemes are encouraged to achieve basic American Society of Heating, Referigerating and Air Conditioning standards (ASHRAE)-driven Lighting Power Density (LPD) parameters,” shares Santos. “Some regions and green standards set targets demanding a maximum LPD that is even 10% to 12% lower than what’s stated in ASHRAE, which has become easier to achieve with the use of LEDs.”