Germany-based essayists for the SuperLux book, and leading European light artists and lighting industry publishers and advocates, debated recent developments in the smart light cities movement, at an English-language symposium hosted by the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in 2016.
On a benign winter’s evening during the city’s Christmas celebrations, the faculty’s Acting Dean, Professor Hannelore Deubzer, welcomed speakers and delegates to its rooftop seminar centre, the Vorholzer Forum, then introduced Dr Thomas Schielke, a SuperLux essayist, light architecture columnist for ArchDaily, and a communications and education leader with ERCO, to conduct the presentations.
SuperLux essayists Schielke, Vesna Petresin, and the book’s editor, Davina Jackson, spoke about recent developments in urban light art. Another essayist, Peter Droege, clarified the beyond-urgent need to power cities only with renewable sources of energy, but noted that lighting amounted to only about two percent of the world’s total energy consumption.
Three decades ago the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Headquarters by Norman Foster emerged onto the architectural seen as an exemplary product of industrial design. The open layout with its exposed steel structure generated a powerful corporate identity for the bank. But the restrained atmosphere of white architectural lighting and the lack of distinctive façade lighting has lost its attractiveness after sunset. Now the colorful and dynamic relighting presents a remarkable example of how an architectural icon has shifted from a productivist ideology towards a scenographic image.
All over the globe, brands are looking to achieve a striking visual appearance within the urban space. Local and international companies have started to link light planning for retail spaces with the CI for a holistic brand appearance. Media façades have therefore been turned into a fascinating tool for creating an architectural landmark on the nocturnal cityscape. At night, the brand stories are told by shining messages that range from the conventional light boxes and illuminated advertisements to dynamically lit architecture. The colourful and dynamic appearance of façades and stores inside will trigger a debate about the importance of LED for brand communication, the limits of architectural lighting for CI and the way sustainability impacts marketing strategies.
Lighting is an essential element to perceive the environment at night. Diverse ideas like transformation and branding, safety requirements and technological progress have led to different nocturnal streetscapes. Street lighting has been widely installed with the argument to improve safety. With the emergence of powerful and adaptive headlights in the automotive industry and highly reflective textiles for pedestrians, the role and effectiveness of conventional street lighting is questionable. From a technological point of view, energy efficiency and low maintenance have dominated the public debate and contributed to the immense growth of LED lighting in cities, but additional developments have accelerated this trend. The miniaturization of the light source and sophisticated control technologies have paved the way for new applications. On the one hand, wearable textiles and gadgets allow pedestrians to communicate and present themselves as luminous objects in streets in a small scale. On the other hand, global and local brands have turned facades into dynamic displays to send corporate messages in a large scale. Political activists have recognised the nocturnal communication possibilities and started to use light for raising awareness regarding social and political issues. A comprehensive semiotic analysis provides the framework to identify lighting as a sign to communicate messages within the city at night. International permanent and temporary projects illustrate how the role of lighting has changed and will influence our streets in urban areas.
Apple stores do not only reveal the evolution of Apple`s design, but also how the concept of daylight and lighting has changed over the last two decades. The stores have become highly successful and over the years Apple have expanded their number of retail locations worldwide. Renowned architecture offices such as Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and Foster + Partners have developed iconic store designs where daylight and lighting play a central role. The translucent Apple cube on Fifth Avenue in New York City opened in 2006, and has even become the 5th most photographed building in New York according to Cornell scientists. The Apple stores worldwide are used as case studies to analyse the lighting design with regard to the aesthetic quality and cultural context. A focus is set on three aspects and how they contribute to brand communication: daylight, interior lighting and exterior illumination. Hence, the lighting is not observed as a tool to enhance visibility, but from a semiotic point of view where light is interpreted as a sign between the brand and consumer.
Luminous walls belong to the essential repertoire of qualitative lighting design. With light, spaces can be defined and reinterpreted. Illuminated walls allow us to provide orientation and to perceive the form and dimension of space. Further, their glow and play of brilliants could bestow a space with an impressing scenography. The lecture by Thomas Schielke at the Professional Lighting Design Convention in Madrid revealed a timeline to explain different lighting approaches: From backlit stained glass windows for spiritual enlightenment in the gothic period to modernist uniform wallwashing. Contemporary examples opened the view for pixelated colour changing planes based on LED and OLED technology. The talk with an overview of international projects covered lighting methods and techniques for luminous walls and their visual appearance for interior spaces. With a perception-orientated design perspective the architect could use vertical illuminance to create bright spaces and thereby also contribute to sustainable lighting solutions.
Conference PLDC – Professional Lighting Design Convention. Madrid, 2011