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DETAILS

[lighting talk]

This issue we talk to Beatrice Witzgall, award-winning architect, lighting designer and founder of LumiFi.

COULD YOU TELL ME... What made you train in architecture and lighting design? I have always been a creative person, though not enough to become an artist; and I considered engineering since members of my family are engineers. I felt architecture was a marriage between the technical aspects of engineering I liked and the creative aspects of artistry that I have always been drawn to. My passion for lighting emerged as I tried to combine architecture and technology. I always knew that technology would transform the way we interact with one another and as the industry began to grow, my work as an architect changed from creating buildings to developing responsive spaces that incorporated sensors or movable walls [1 Parsons School of Design Interactive Lobby Installation, 2003]. I realised lighting is a way to bring architecture and technology together. How important is lighting to design? Light and shadows and the way in which they interact are integral to design. Without lighting in architecture and spatial design, it is impossible to have perspective. Lighting brings layers, and animates a space, making it dynamic and alive. A good example is the Superyacht Pacific [2] where we highlighted hundreds of different textures softly through lighting. Why is thinking about and working with light important to you? I am passionate about my environment and the people within it. Crafting a valuable and impactful experience for people, and creating a strong identity in an atmosphere is enriching for everyone’s lives. One project I worked on whilst at L’Observatoire is the Lincoln Center Alice Tully Hall [3], which in 2010 received a Lumen Award for its strong identity. What excites you about light and lighting? The way it can affect people’s emotions and lifestyles. Lighting is an experience and it is constantly changing in nature. Of course, without proper general lighting it’s difficult to perform certain tasks, however, lighting can not only brighten a space but create an atmosphere and influence emotion. For example, amber light can create biological associations with a sunset or fire, while a colder blue white light mimics daylight and decreases melatonin production to reduce tiredness. Now, with emerging technologies, we can bring lighting control into the hands of the people and they can create their own lighting scenarios for different functions or emotions. [4 - Fashion 26 Hotel Lobby] What are the best and worst illuminated spaces you have visited? The way that lighting can affect someone isn’t necessarily because of the space, but rather the emotions that are attached to a certain lighting experience within a space. I am in tune with perceiving subtle lighting nuances, so I notice when lighting is affecting me. I often get stressed when spaces are glary and I have to squeeze my eyes to see clearly. I also get bored and tired when the illumination is flat or when there are only downlights that cast ghostly shadows on people’s faces. Personally, I love the strong, warm winter light in the Caribbean - the marriage of the bright sun directly above you with the blue of the ocean. I also love the colours that come out at sunset, when the lighting shifts and the amber colours of daylight appear.

How important is shadow and the balance of darkness in your work? Shadow is a key element to any form of design — it creates depth, layers and contrast in a space. The amount of shadow and contrast appropriate within a space depends on its functionality, as well as the mood that it is trying to initiate. When we design our lighting moods and light scenes, we work consciously of this notion. If a space is intended for focus, the periphery should be darker, while if the space intends for more spatially-oriented tasks that require walking around, it should be more evenly lit and use less contrast. How do you approach lighting a building through architecture? It is a combination of factors. Lighting enhances the character, personality and message of a building. It creates an experience that goes beyond just functional illumination. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on some amazing projects with some great architects, each with their own lighting and design philosophy. Steven Holl, for example, uses primarily indirect lighting that is soft and subtle, while for a Frank Gehry building, we installed very technical fixtures that became part of the structural skeleton. [5 Fabrikstrasse 15, Basel] About the role lighting plays in the life of a city? How do you contribute to that? Cities are continually changing and unless you are part of a city planning committee or work on big, iconic landmark projects, it is difficult to impact the city’s lighting landscape. The way buildings are positioned, and the materials that make up the exteriors, can influence a city’s light scene purely through reflections. In New York City, the sunset bounces off the glass skyscrapers in midtown and creates an amber glow throughout the city. How does the LumiFi app work with modern lighting design? The power of smart lighting is that it enables dynamic lighting. For some time, lighting needs and moods haven’t been able to easily adapt unless you had an expensive control system. Now you can schedule lights or add coloured lighting which support certain atmospheres such as amber for a lounge or sunset mood. LumiFi allows users to interact with lighting in a completely new way. [6 LumiFi interface]. It also brings lighting know-how directly into the hands of everyone.

mondo*arc August/September 2015 - Issue 86  

mondo*arc International magazine for architectural, retail and commercial lighting. mondo*arc is the leading international magazine in archi...

mondo*arc August/September 2015 - Issue 86  

mondo*arc International magazine for architectural, retail and commercial lighting. mondo*arc is the leading international magazine in archi...