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136 TECHNOLOGY / LEDS


Panos Andrikopoulos explores how the development of solid state lighting technology is blurring the boundaries between lighting design disciplines and what the possible consequences may be for architectural lighting practices.


POTENTIAL ENERGISED


During his career, any architectural lighting designer will come across the same ques- tion: “Oh, so you are a lighting designer? What kind of concerts/plays/films do you work on?” For a long time now, the differ- ence between theatrical lighting designers, directors of photography and architectural lighting designers has been too blurry for people outside the industry to understand. This is due, of course, to a lack of knowl- edge of the profession - or is it? If you think about it, you may find that those people outside the industry were right after all. But this is something we all know. Stating the obvious, light is light and lighting is lighting and of course there are many areas of overlap, either with regards to technical issues or design principles. This is true, but it isn’t something to make a big fuss about; similarities can be found in many professions, enough to make us con- tinue this discussion until an LED becomes cheaper than a fluorescent lamp (if we are still around to see that). So what has LED changed? Nothing and everything, one can argue. Yes, the fixtures obviously. But let’s have a closer look on that issue. Solid state lighting has not only made fixtures better, but it has changed their use, and created new ones. For years, there was a classification of fixtures based on purpose. There were theatrical fixtures, there were architectural fixtures and so on. But what would the classification be for an LED strip? It is used in many architectur- al projects, but anyone familiar with the work of Andi Watson, lighting designer for Radiohead, will remember how he suspend- ed (and animated) a bunch of them from a stage truss, creating an amazing three di- mensional set for the band and overwhelm- ing emotions for the spectators1


. And what


about the music video - created by United Visual Artists - for their 2007 song Battles, which used the light coming from a series of vertical LED strips to create and define the space instead of illuminating it2


.


LED has changed not only the efficiency of the light source, but first and foremost it has changed the size and the controllability of the light (and all its qualities: intensi-


ty, colour, distribution, movement), and this is the ground where the fixtures, the techniques and, most of all, the ideas start to blend into each other. This mix can be seen in practices like the pioneering studio of architect Jason Bruges3


, or the recent-


ly founded, but already famous, Cinimod Studio4


, or Magic Monkey5 and kollision6 from Belgium from Denmark - lighting


design studios that show a keen interest in digital arts, computer science and inter- action design (and employ not just lighting designers, but software developers and engineers as well). You can also see this mix in the exhibition and architectural lighting


“Light is an incredible medium to play with


and the era we are living in is full of potential, so lighting design cannot


afford to - and won’t - be left behind.”


design practice DHA design8 , founded by


renowned theatrical lighting designer David Hersey9


of designer Paul Cocksedge10


entertainment lighting sources and even lasers. And, on the flip of the coin, digital arts studios like UVA7


are starting to show an interest in more architectural projects.


Size does matter So the size of the light source has changed, but is that so important? If you are trying to create a high contrast scheme, hell yeah, it is! Retail schemes, exhibition design and museum schemes, or even residential spac- es with a need for a more intimate feeling and offices with a need for more indirect lighting, crave small-sized light sources. A small size also allows us to use more theatrical and dramatic lighting techniques to better manipulate the focal point11 choose from a bigger effects pallet.


and


back in the 80s, or even in the work , who uses


Do as you’re told!


Control, control, control: the hidden fantasy of all lighting designers. And what amazing progress there has been in recent years, a whole new world of possibilities. When it comes to theatre lighting, the evolution has been so overwhelming that a new profession has been introduced: the lighting programmer. In architectural lighting there have been enough changes to start a whole separate discussion, but this isn’t a history lesson, rather an attempt to tackle what the future holds for us. It’s a question I am not qualified to answer, but I have every right to ask: if there have been this many new lighting control systems introduced with a wide use of DMX protocol in architectural applications in such a short period of time, what will a lighting scheme of the future look like? And what does the future hold for lighting design practices themselves? I can’t resist the temptation to risk a prediction, which in my eyes seems to be an easy one: lighting design practices have to - and will - become more technologi- cally aware, not only in terms of products to be specified (that of course is nothing new) but in the field of services that they provide to architects and others. Light is an incredible medium to play with and the era we are living in is full of potential, so lighting design cannot afford to - and won’t - be left behind. Just as graphic design evolved from the traditional software (or even the handheld pencil if you look a little bit further into the past) to web coding and scripting12


, and architects and industrial


designers incorporated parametric design and scripting with tools like Grasshopper13


,


so the lighting designer of the future has to be more multidisciplinary (as have the practices themselves), more technologically aware and with a strong design ethos.


Panos Andrikopoulos is a lighting designer at DHA design.


panos@dhadesigns.com


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