Simon Berry, director of Illuminate, shares with designMENA his thoughts on lighting design evolution.
If I were to ask you “What do you need light for?” how would you respond? You may answer, it helps me to see, it helps me to find my way, to read and to appreciate everything around me. But if I were to ask “How does light make you feel?” it is not as easy to answer. Exploring the emotional connection with light in relations to a space or context is what we do at Illuminate Lighting Design. From the conscious perception of the physical space to the subliminal signals that emit from the environment, we approach the synergy between lighting and its influences creatively along with the advancements in technology.
In interiors, the unfortunate common mistake is to conceive lighting design from only a floor and ceiling plan. Most ignore the verticals, which are key elements to the finished visuals. Ignoring the verticals will result in a space that will feel over-lit and unwelcoming. Lighting designers treat every space as if it was a stage and each scene a performance to create visual hierarchy, layering and drama. When balancing the play of shadows and materials, scale and placement, colour tone and effect, we also ensure that the design is fit for purpose.
We had the privilege to work on the Raffles Hotel in Istanbul back in 2012 and the hotel opened in 2014. The project was one of the pioneers that used light to influence our biological circadian rhythms in luxury hospitality. Back then, the circadian rhythm lighting technology was in its experimental phase, similar to how LED started out. With no stable solutions at hand we used the colour temperature that slowly drifts from cooler white temperature in the morning to a richer warmer temperature in the evening. This was implemented at most public areas, from the lobby to all-day dining as the spaces are directly connected and widely used throughout the day and night.
It was interesting to see how the mood and energy changes. The fresher, cooler temperature in the morning encourages movement and evokes an energetic feeling which then slowly shifts to a more relaxed and calm environment as the evening approaches. This relation between light and well-being of the users doesn’t get old; in fact it is flourishing. In the residential world we see lighting manufacturers integrate the same technology into conventional lamps, meaning consumers can have access to this form of well-being light.
Designed sensitively, interactive and animated lighting can help to stimulate a space and create a social media moment. It is also interesting to clients who always look for something unique and identifiable with their project. At Nuo Hotel in Beijing we challenged ourselves to explore LED video mesh to bridge the vast atrium. The lobby space has a high ceiling of 11m; within the ceiling there are irregular triangular skylight pockets each having a depth of 2m. These pockets created the perfect opportunity to install the mesh (accessible from behind) and we finished the verticals in each pocket with stretch membrane. The membrane both conceals the LEDs and performs as a surface on to which the video can be projected and viewed.
This means that when the mesh was off the pockets it had a seamless visual to the ceiling. The video content was also critical to the success. We opted for clouds slowly drifting across the pockets which then transitioned to stars at night, having a video feed means we could introduce ‘showtimes’ from Koi Carp, to a gentle water ripple, through to Cherry Blossoms slowing falling. Even the famous Beijing Opera masks were used to give a local connection.
At Illuminate, we tailor our approach to every project. Every country has its own legislation in terms of energy usage and lamp selection but we need to ensure that we make the most out of any situation. For Al Manzil in Dubai, we worked very hard to give the lobby a unique feel from back-lighting the massive Arabesque-patterned feature wall to a large end-emitting crystal chandelier to create a grand welcome statement, whilst blending seamlessly into the fabric of the building – which is the ultimate goal of any lighting design.
As designers, it is important to consider how you want people to feel under the light. Respectful lighting reveals what is intended to be seen and make people feel comfortable with its presence. Many spaces we’ve been to today expose the truth whether we like it or not. Thus, in closing, there is definitely room for improvement in lighting technologies and design. I believe intelligent lighting will continue to develop to be more intuitive to human nature. Imagine an intelligent lighting system that anticipates your emotional needs when you are present in the space and adjust the scenes to suit; joyous celebrations, intimate dinner, rest and healing or purely functional to perform your housework. I think we have exciting times ahead and illuminate looks forward to continuing our collaborations with manufacturers and seeing the next evolutionary leap for lighting.