It’s very rare that I post anything about lighting nowadays. Originally, this blog was going to trace both my lighting career and my writing career. Then the lighting disappeared out of the picture as I got disillusioned with it while getting more and more involved with writing projects.
However, I have just reached a lighting design mile stone. I have completed the biggest and most complicated project yet, after almost 4 years as an Architectural Lighting Designer. The building will eventually host galleries, restaurant, offices, residential flats and outdoor event spaces. It’s been a massive job, especially since there is hardly one simple square room. It’s been daunting, stressful but also very inspiring. Even if I prefer smaller projects, this is the kind of stuff that got me excited about lighting design in the first place.
I also learnt a lot, mostly about myself. As much as I complain about the main light calculation program we use, I do love building rooms and trying to re-create the clients’ visuals so that it will resonate with them when we show our lighting concept. Personally, I have never liked “fake photography quality” visualisations. I prefer hand-sketches or other types of sketchy visuals that show your intentions, not a fake reality that doesn’t exist yet.
I also quite liked that it was complicated. I had to really use my brain to figure out the spaces and what might work to get the lighting effects wanted. Too often lighting is creating standard placement patterns or the lighting has already been specified by someone else and all you have to do is tell the client if it works or not. If you’re lucky they’ll actually listen to your advice as well, but don’t count on it…
Now we wait! After we handed over our proposal, all we can do is wait for them to approve, want to make changes or make an order. I shall share with you if it goes ahead. It promises to be a very cool building.
The week before Easter I was given the opportunity to visit the Light and Building exhibition in Frankfurt for the first time. I have been wanting to attend this massive exhibition since I heard about its existence when I was still a lighting design student. Naturally, I was very excited to go.
As always I was not necessarily drawn to the things I ought to be drawn to. Hanging around my own company’s stand did not really appeal to me even if I do think that we had one of the better ones in this vast exhibition. White boxes with too many glary fittings was the predominant stand layout unfortunately. Neither did I enjoy going round looking at our competitors, although of course I still did.
No, I ended up in interesting conversations about how to keep a company with strong roots in its design history updated, product design in general and the history of French product design in particular with a bit of patent problematics thrown in.
So what did tickle my fancy? Osram’s OLEDs were amazing. The stand really drew me in and I think their product was the first time I have seen OLED fittings as a convincing solution to genuine lighting situations. That you, a bit naughty or not, could try to bend the material and see how flexible it is, was of course a plus. I also saw a few companies that combined lighting and sound proofing units. Brilliant idea! How many have not worked in noisy open offices? Imagine having a nice wall feature that combines office art, lighting and sound proofing such as the one from Acoshape+. Or linear fittings over the desk that not only provide light but absorbs the sound. And just like any other person, I enjoyed walking around on the floor that lit up with the pressure of my weight. Lighting designer or not, it was great fun seeing the light tiles follow my steps.
Next year I shall come more prepared – ready so see even more of the exhibition. It is a mad, mad world.
Osram OLED tiles in display cabinets, as feature lighting and over reception desk. Below acoustic and lighting wall.
Contrary to what I have posted lately, this blog is about lighting design as much as it’s about literature and writing. So how come there are rarely any posts about lighting, you might ask? Or you are a hardcore literary fan and you are just glad that the lighting updates are few and far apart.
When I moved to London, I had a long list of lighting projects that I wanted to see, buildings etcetera that I had read about and wanted to see in real life. I was good at ticking off that list and to write about what I saw, analysing what I thought about it.
As I made London my home, three things have happened. My writing has taken a larger and larger part of my life as my spare time has been filled with writers groups, lectures about publishing and writing, and exciting discussions with fellow writers. I also have a full-time job as a lighting designer within retail. That sounds very exciting to everyone outside the business who think that I spend my days being creative and designing for the theatre (if only). But like any job, the day to day life of a lighting designer can be quite mundane and, to be frank, boring. I have also seen all those exciting projects that I wanted to see and have not had the opportunity to create a new list.
To be honest, in some ways I miss a lighting design group to meet up with on a regular basis to get inspiration, hear about events and projects or just to discuss where this fast moving business is heading. What are the issues we all come across on a daily basis? This is very much what I’m doing in my writers groups and it helps to keep the inspiration and excitement up even on tough days when you just want to give up and work with something else. You loose faith in you abilities or are just having an unusually hard-to-get-anything-done day.
Since I’m pursuing two professions, it easy to start comparing the two. Personally, I don’t believe in comparing unless you are trying to make a decision between two or more options. Instead, do what gets your juices flowing and do it to the best of your ability. What everyone else is doing is up to them.
Daylight – our cheapest, most varied and beneficial light source.
Last week I was sent to my company’s head office in Milan. I was very excited to be allowed the trip and appreciated the break from the normal routines.
It was an intense trip but also full of inspiration. Not only did the company have the usual showroom where our fittings are displayed but there was also a showroom to explore colour rendering (how accurately colours are seen), colour temperature (the difference in how warm/cold the various light sources are preceived) and light against different textures.
There was also a museum with various pre-electricity lamps that the family has bought and collected over the years. I love that stuff! There was everything from the simplest oil lamps purely for practical use, to elaborate, quirky and heavily ornamental lamps.
In todays society, we take light for granted as we tend to over-light our spaces, leaving lights on in rooms where we are not, for example. We forget that once to extending daylight into the evening was expensive and precarious as the burning flame had to be watched. No light where it was not needed. From an eco-friendly perspective, an attitude we perhaps should take to heart again.
I was also given a chance to see the amazing architecture of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. I have seen a similar galleria in Naples but Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II was even more grand. The central dome with its glas and steel structure mind-blowing.
I mostly write about good lighting design and light fittings that appeal to me. Partly it is because I do not like to speak ill of anyone, and partly because I prefer to focus on positive aspects of my surroundings. However, you can learn from identifying the things you don’t like, opinions you disagree with and to simply form your own opinion.
I recently had a meeting with my local bank. The banker was late and I spent some time waiting. Is there anything more boring than waiting?! An obvious thing for me to do while I wait, is to look at the lighting. At this bank it simply did its job – giving enough light where it was needed and I will not say that it was bad. However, the more I looked at it – I could only come to one conclusion: it was a very confused and random pattern that did not seem to fill any specific purpose. If there is no purpose, lighting is often arranged in a square and even pattern throughout the room. That did not apply here. The other take on things is to place fittings in pattern according to function, area or simply to fit the shape of the room. We do this in our own homes as well, different fittings for different tasks. That design concept did not apply either for this particular bank. I do wonder who designed it and what their concept was. Although, I fear there was neither design nor purpose.
As I am new to London there is loads of stuff to explore. In lighting there has been the May Design Series, an international furnishings fair. There is a fantastic fair in Stockholm – Northern Light, so I had great hopes for the May Design Series. Perhaps a Sunday morning was not the best time to visit which made me think that there was not much to see. I chatted with a few exhibitors, saw a few cool light fittings and listened to Terence Woodgate talk about product design. Woodgate have designed some really neat fittings that I fell in love with and his talk was interesting. Clearly the highlight of my visit. The interior design part of the fair, however, was a big disappointment.
The search continues for good lighting venues, places to learn more about lighting and finding inspiration.
Why use metal halogen, 12V halogen AND compact fluorescent lighting in such a small space?
Light fittings by Terence Woodgate – looks so much better in real life
Light fittings by Tom Raffield
Light fitting by Daniel Schofield Studio
There are many places you pass everyday but never notice – especially not the lighting, which, if it is done well, you are not really supposed notice. Sure, the cool, striking, beautiful feature pendant should be noticed. It is there to catch your eye, but general lighting should not be seen. It should only create an atmosphere – whether it is of comfort, security, relaxation, or a general feel good. This can be done with artificial lighting as well as with daylight.
Last time I travelled to Sweden I went through Paddington station to catch the Heathrow Express. The natural light, the skylights, in there are amazing. Pity that I was in a hurry, otherwise I could have stayed there a few hours just experiencing the space. The artificial lighting looks glary in the pictures but you don’t notice the fittings that much since there is this amazing ceiling with daylight. I also like the contrast of the white daylight in the ceiling and the warmer lighting from the fittings that highlight the architectural features.
Another everyday place with lighting that I like is the London Underground. The simple lines of fluorescent tubes, just as they are, really appeal to me. It is clean, simple and unobtrusive. It also fits in well with the sometimes rough surroundings but is discrete enough to fit with the more decorated stations.
The most amazing thing about lighting though, and the reason why I love my profession, is that you can do so much with lighting. With artificial lighting it is only your imagination that set the limits. Not to forget the ever changing natural daylight.
West Kensington Station
Recently, I saw the photo exhibition Hairstyles and Headdresses with photos by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, a Nigerian photographer who has documented hairstyles in Nigeria. I’m glad those hairstyles are not part of my “beauty regime,” not that my thin, silky hair could ever be prevailed upon to fix into such elaborate creations. The images showed plain heads focusing on the hairstyles; black and white images with high contrast. Perhaps more amazing than the images themselves, was the lighting. Photography is difficult to light since photos are often framed with glass in front of the image. I have never designed lighting for a photo exhibition but I have been to enough of them were you have to search for a viewing spot that does not have a glary reflexion of a spotlight mid picture. This exhibition had hardly any of those problems. I was impressed! A wide corridor with luminaires close to the walls left the walls bright but the ceiling and mid-floor dark. What a joy to see good photography in good lighting.
Last weekend I spent a chunk of it working on my new film script, my theatre play and my poetry-novel. For the novel I am currently working on all the additional texts. Below is the text for the back-cover. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. For those who want to read the story itself, go to: http://www.finntheblog.wordpress.com.
Finn the Farmer’s Son is a coming of age story set in a farm community in the recent past. Finn is a child of nature, innocent but sturdy, with his person firmly rooted in the soil of his ancestors. The wider world will try to break him through war, death, filth, and destruction of the nature he loves. But good forces are at work too. A fairy, named Miredhel, will bring beauty, light and love to Finn. She will fight for his innocent soul and show that even the weakest flower can defeat destruction, just as spring brings fertility after a barren winter.
The story is told through a series of poems that tie the events of the story together.
Exhibition hall at South Bank Centre