Tunnel Vision at the Barbican

Recently I went to see Tunnel Vision: Array at Beech Street near the Barbican Centre. As part of the Barbican’s Open Fest, the tunnel was closed off for this light show – a collaborative venture where 59 Productions created digital projections to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music Karawane as recorded by BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

We walked into the closed off section of the Beech Street tunnel. The popular event was sold out but the large tunnel still let people have space enough to move around. Along the wall are the projectors but there is nothing to indicate the display of light, colours and patterns that will soon play over our heads on the ceiling and walls.

There are lines and checker patterns that move and change colours. Lines chasing each other, criss-crossing over the ceiling. Bright red sequins or chain-mail that shift into the appearance of sun light through leaves. Green mesh and the pattern of African cloth fill out vision. A single line of light snakes over the ceiling like a living thing. Later changing into lightning that flashes at intervals. Flowers appear in the tight lines. They circle and vanishes. Smoke flutters over the ceiling and rain drops splash on the surface of water that doesn’t exist.

The modern classical music is complicated. It rises and falls. Obviously written with the full potential of an orchestra and chorus in mind, to show off their range. The light patterns are amazing, running over the ceiling, changing, shifting, playing games with the music. It’s easy to get mesmerized.

59 Productions are not new to this game, having done the video design for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, for War Horse theatre production and for David Bowie is exhibition, to name a few. Array is the latest of installations within Culture Mile, which lets public spaces be seen in unusual, new ways.

The light show is amazing. It’s hard to imagine that we are still standing in what is normally a busy road in central London. The music is fantastic as well, on an intellectual level. I must confess that I tire of it after a while. There is another problem as well. The music is so complicated that at time the light show doesn’t seem to keep up. There are moments when so much is happening musically that the colours and light fail to highlight anything in particular. At other times the light show is perfectly timed with what’s happening in the music and the ceiling becomes a fluid screen of impressions that beautifully follow the music in atmosphere, colour change and patterns.

We walk out into the grey day. It’s snowing again but in our minds the vibrant colours still lingers.

 

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Länsimetro lighting design project

My first lighting design article was published yesterday. It’s many years since I studied journalism and it’s nerve-wrecking to be published, almost more so than when writing fiction. Fiction is fiction after all – I make it all up.

I’ve never really seen myself as a journalist although maybe I need to re-assess that. Getting in touch with strangers and probe them with questions always seemed like an odd way to make a living. Why would anyone want to answer my questions and do I do justice to the subject in my finished article? In this case, have I captured the project in a way that those involved can be proud of it?

I really like this project. When I came across images of it I was intrigued. That’s why it felt more natural to get in touch and the questions came of its own too. I’ve noticed when I’ve previously written articles about health that, since I have genuine interest in the subject, it doesn’t feel like writing an article. It brings it closer to fiction, there is a story I want to convey. One is based in my imagination, one is based in real life.

For those who are interested here is a link to the article:

http://www.lightinginsight.com/valoa-design-lights-up-the-extension-to-helsinki-metro-system/

170921_länsimetro_tapiola_006Photo: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio

A Lighting Design Mile Stone

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.

Light+Building 2016

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.

Lighting vs Writing

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.

20150627_135742Daylight – our cheapest, most varied and beneficial light source.

Milan Lighting Design Trip

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.

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