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Designer and Designer’s work – Archive

Official inauguration of the Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway

   The-New-Cathedral-of-the-Northern-Light_schmidt-hammer-lassen-archittects_Photo_028The northern lights continue to be a source of inspiration to authors, poets, artists, composers and believers from different backgrounds. The chance to actually build a structure in a town which, at approximately 500 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, rates as one of the northernmost in the world and counts the aurora borealis as a regular backdrop is not one to be sniffed at so when the design competition for the Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta was announced in 2001 a number of firms applied. The lucky winners were schmidt hammer lassen architects, Aarhus/DK, together with Link Arkitektur A/S.

The city council in Alta wanted more than just a new church. The structure was to be designed as an architectural landmark that would “underline Alta’s role as a public venue from which the natural phenomenon of the northern lights could be observed”.

The design of the Cathedral of the Northern Lights is the result of the surrounding nature and local culture and through its architecture symbolizes the extraordinary natural phenomenon of the aurora borealis. John F. Lassen, Founding Partner at schmidt hammer lassen architects: “The cathedral reflects, both literally and metaphorically, the northern lights: ethereal, transient, poetic and beautiful. It appears as a solitary sculpture in interaction with the spectacular nature.”


The church rises spiralling to the tip of the belfry 47 metres above the ground. The façade, clad in titanium, reflects the northern lights during the long periods of Arctic winter darkness and underscores the experience of the natural phenomenon.

The cathedral interior, which seats up to 350, is designed as a peaceful contrast to the dynamic exterior of the building. The materials used – raw concrete for the walls and wood for the floors, panels and ceilings – underline the Nordic context. Daylight enters the church interior via tall, narrow, irregularly placed windows. A skylight puts light over the entire wall behind the altar, creating a distinctive atmosphere in the room.

Project team:
Client: Municipality of Alta
Architects: schmidt hammer lassen architects, Aarhus/DK
Link Arkitektur A/S,
Engineering: Rambøll AS, Alta
Main contractor: Ulf Kivijervi AS
Art work: Peter Brandes
Photos: Adam Mørk

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Speirs + Major received International Dark Skies Award for their strategic work on the Olympic Park

Masterplan_Legacy_240709 Masterplan_Games_240709Speirs + Major have received a coveted International Dark Skies Award from the International Dark-Sky Association for their work on London’s Olympic Park and Athlete’s Village.  News of the award, which was announced at the end of last year, was embargoed pending the lifting of the restrictions on publicity.
The award was given for work carried out by Speirs + Major in their role as ‘Lighting Design Advisor to the Olympic Delivery Authority’. Their input directly resulted in helping to reduce lighting levels across the park and thereby limited light pollution and other impacts to the environment.
“A lighting strategy already existed when we were appointed to act as Lighting Design Advisor in early 2009’ said Director Mark Major. ‘Part of our brief was to see if we could further improve upon the lighting levels that had already been determined, particularly in the southern area of the park.  We worked closely with Secured by Design, the Accessibility Group and Sustainability Group to see how this could be done.  We based much of work on what we had already agreed through the lighting masterplan for the Olympic Athlete’s Village where we had proved that lighting levels could be much lower than originally anticipated by the brief – but without compromise to safety and security.”
“We agreed that the lighting levels to the whole park would be set to a single base standard of S1 which would be then temporarily raised to around CE1 during the Games only.  This was still much higher than in the Olympic Athletes Village where we predominantly used standards such as S2 and S3.  Given on-going security requirements however it was understandable that the authorities wished to keep things a little brighter in the main areas.  Despite this we helped achieve a further reduction in energy and light pollution across the piece.”
Indeed, more than simply providing a set of lighting design guidelines, facilitation was at the heart of the Lighting Design Advisor role. Speirs + Major drew on their experience in understanding the wider social, contextual and branding issues to bring about key changes to the park-wide lighting. By example, Speirs + Major worked alongside architects Allies and Morrison to develop an additional layer of temporary lighting for the Games. This consisted of ten metre high multi-headed columns that would raise the lighting levels throughout the park during Games-time but leave them at lower levels for the Legacy.
“The lighting to the principle routes and main southern concourse had already been designed by Sutton Vane Associates.  We worked to address how the other large temporary concourse areas within the park would be illuminated for 2012 only – but in a manner that then allowed the scheme to easily be adapted as part of the Legacy Transformation.”
Other initiatives agreed as a result of Speirs + Major’s input included character work such as unifying the colour temperature across the park, implementation of a common procurement strategy leading to the final specification of the luminaires and pushing forward the overall control strategy.
In addressing the IDA Award Mark Major added:
“This award should be for the whole project.  As Lighting Design Advisors we performed a specific role advising the ODA and LOCOG. This included addressing fundamental issues such as lighting standards, colour temperature, public art and the site-wide procurement of lighting equipment and control, coupled with working at a high level across all parties to ensure this was delivered with consideration to a wider strategic plan. Many other lighting designers were also involved in the success of the public realm. The primary areas were designed by Sutton Vane Associates as part of their work for the landscape design team Hargreaves/LDA, the bridges and loop roads were designed by ARUP, the stadium island concourse by Buro Happold and of course the Olympic Athlete’s Village by ourselves. It is a testament to the collaborative nature of the project that so many lighting designers worked together to make the experience of the public realm such a success.’

The attached images illustrate the park lighting masterplan in games mode and legacy.
Images: Speirs + Major.

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When honest engineering structures are turned into fairy-tale princesses

This gallery contains 4 photos.


San Francisco Bay Bridge

By Joachim Ritter

My honest opinion about lots of LED dots on enginered bridges.










One theory put forward by psychologists claims that human beings are unable to cope with too much choice. The likelihood of designers regretting having opted for one product rather than another is very high. The chance of a different version of an LED luminaire being better is far greater if the selection is wide to begin with. A study carried out in the year 2000 by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper from Columbia University in New York City on the so-called “too-much-choice” effect triggered further investigations to be made. They ran a test in a supermarket to observe shoppers’ behaviour when offered six different flavours of jam in one week and 24 different flavours the week after – then six again and 24 again, and so on. The wider the choice, the greater the interest from the shoppers, but the fewer actual purchases. Consumers bought more jam when they could choose from just six different flavours.
When it comes to design, we are talking about what works well, and not about how things might turn out. The problem is, however, that we are inclined to want to use the mass of possibilities technology offers us whether it makes design sense or not – it’s just too good to miss.

Borsphorus bridge in Istanbul

Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul: “fancy” and colour changing.

Take facade projections, for example – often referred to as art installations. They are rapidly taking over our cities and are relatively easy to produce. I have nothing against projections and large-scale (moving) images or graphics on extensive building surfaces. Some of them are fascinating and nice to look at. But I do think it is important to point out that architecture and facades were generally not originally designed to serve the sole purpose of providing huge canvases for light artists – or whoever – to paint on. Architectural lighting, on the other hand, is designed to enhance the facade and the three-dimensional structure or space as the architect intended it to be perceived. Light art applied to facades is quite honestly too often wrongly referred to as architectural lighting.

A further area where we are witnessing the misuse (or even abuse) of architectural / engineering structures are bridges. A dynamic lighting installation applied to a suspension bridge, rendered possible thanks to LED technology, looks quite charming at first glance … sparkly, pretty … Although I doubt whether the bridge was ever intended to serve as an art object in that sense. A bridge would probably feel a lot more comfortable being appreciated as a miracle of engineering, don’t you think?  Isn’t the application of a dynamic lighting scheme on a bridge not the attempt to

... in a fashion style.

Fashion style – no enineering!

turn the bridge into something it is not: a dazzling (not literally) diva? Should the lighting not be celebrating the masterpiece of engineering it clearly is during the daytime in the darker hours of the day? Engineered structures have an aesthetic of their own that they and their makers are, or were, proud of. They don’t want to hide their qualities or make parts of themselves look fancy by draping LED strings all over them.

A new lighting scheme for Bay Bridge in San Francisco is attracting a lot of attention in the popular media and on various Internet platforms. The bridge is divided into two sections. The first section from East Bay to Treasure Island was designed by Brandston Partnership, while the second section from the Island to San Francisco has been illuminated by light artist Leo Villareal. The light art is programmed to look as if it is rolling over the suspension cables in waves. It is admittedly interesting to know that this kind of installation is possible on such a large-scale project. The “action” is all visible from a distance, and you really need that distance to be able to perceive the dynamic show. None of the drivers crossing the bridge are aware of the installation and will not be able to appreciate it unless they are not using the bridge to cross the water but have purposefully positioned themselves somewhere further away to view it after dark.

The issue I have with this concept is that it is not the mighty forms and structures of the bridge that are illuminated or accentuated, but rather specific surfaces that are used in order to display something on them. This is not architectural lighting but quite obviously an art installation. Now some people might go for this sort of thing, but the structure – if it had a soul or feelings – would quite rightly feel used.

However fascinating the technical possibilities may be, I can’t help thinking that it is all a bit too much, and not appropriate. I think I could even have accepted coloured architectural lighting rather than the tiny glittering drops of light or the waves rolling over the suspension cables. A bridge is a bridge and wants to do the job it was designed and constructed to do. It doesn’t have to sell its soul to anyone for the sake of art. Don’t take anything you can get your hands on and make a glamourised beauty out of it, dressing it up and adding jewels and making it dance! True beauty doesn’t need enhancing. But if you are going to illuminate it, then please focus on the curves and volumes.

I would be interested to hear what you think…

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Giants – starring

In the footsteps of Giants

One of the first projects of a new strategic masterplan jointly developed by Ljusarkitektur, Skistar and the Municipality of Åre is a new skiing attraction in the ski resort of Åre. It’s a nighttime lighting concept for a family-friendly 3.5-kilometre slope called “In the Footsteps of Giants,” and was developed with author Mathias Knave. It is based on old Nordic tales of giants and trolls, and the concept includes glowing orange poles that refer to fire and lava beneath the surface, dynamic blue-hued general light that echoes the moonlight, sparkling rocks and hidden treasures. The effects are achieved with projections of ancient motifs and stories that remind skiers of the colourful past at the peak area around Åre. Finally you ski through a tunnel of light – the transition between the giants’ and the man’s world. Other programmed light scenarios can also be used later in the evenings and in the early mornings when the lifts are not open. These fascinate visitors and villagers alike, and keep rumours alive about the giants said to live on Åre Mountain. The extreme climate demanded rigorous long-term product monitoring and testing to ensure reliability of the easily operated system. In its first season “In the footsteps of Giants” became a very popular attraction with hoards of visitors.

Lighting design: Ljusarkitektur, Kai Piippo, Paul Ehlert

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What can pass as (lighting for) art

By Joachim Ritter

 A lot of what you find washed up on the beach can be readily classified as redundant or waste. Swiss artist Ursula Stalder collects items she finds along the shore, and could be regarded as an “archaeologist of the modern world”. The pieces she gathers have been torn from their original material context or transformed by natural processes or sheer force, often resembling novel sculptural forms. It is hard to decipher that some of the objects are, let alone what they were used for. The artist is based in Lucerne and has been wandering the beaches of Europe for the last 20 years sifting through what has been washed up. “The objects I collect I regard as modern-age archaeological finds, pieces of our cultural history”, Ursula Stalder explains.

On the occasion of Designers’ Saturday 2012 in Switzerland at the end of last year Ursula Stalder staged an exhibition of her beach finds – in a location that was as extraordinary as the objects on display. The exhibition was a marriage of space, design and art, delightfully and unusually lit to create a memorable experience. Nineteen simple tables were arranged in a curved line along a 50-metre corridor, each table top providing a platform for the art pieces, displayed under the gentle rhythm of light and shadow and with a musical backdrop of cello suites composed by Pablo Casals. Ursula Stalder: “Items collected from Chesil Beach, Los Molinos, Pescara, Heraklion … were grouped according to where they were found, each compilation telling its own story”. And it worked! Visitors old and young mused, pondered, told each other stories – loudly or in whispers.

Artist Ursula Stalder


The other aspect of the exhibition that worked well was the interplay of art and light: contrasts were accentuated and simultaneously put into context. To what extent are art and design mutually dependent, when do they complement one another?

And actually the fixture chosen to light the exhibits was “only” a task light, the kind you find regularly on an office desk. And yet this luminaire, sourced with precisely focussed LEDs, did the job perfectly. This shows once again that it is not the type of luminaire that defines its application, but the technology it incorporates and the creative way it is used. The LED task light looks good and comprises the right technical details. The elongated carbon fibre housing containing the LED module is attached to the aluminium stand magnetically and can be removed and replaced easily. The light can be dimmed continuously via the switching ring that is integrated into the design of the stand. The warm white LEDs create an intimate pool of light where it is needed – perhaps even onto art exhibits.

Product applied: Lyra LED task light, Licht+Raum

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“The LEDs got brighter”

A blog from Linnaea Tillett, who continiously blogs on her company website.

The entry courtyard to the new visitor and exhibit center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard welcomes guests with an intimate quality of light and human-scale fixtures. With many of the windows in the historic commandant’s house blocked off by exhibits, custom light boxes transform the building into a warm presence along the heavily-trafficked street. The atrium bridging the old and new buildings is a glowing lantern. Architecturally integrated and concealed fixtures illuminate massive photographs and sculptural elements spanning the entire height of the three-story atrium. The building and its lighting are designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

An exhibition space holding light-sensitive archival objects needs a controlled environment. In the case of a historic Brooklyn Navy Yard building, that meant blacking out all the windows. But what about the outside? Our challenge was to reanimate what would otherwise look abandoned, and keep the look of the building. Our solution was a very tiny bulb above the top frame of each of the many windows; the building would never look uninhabited.
At the time we were brought on the project, the available LED technology was still very actively forming itself (as it constantly does.) Starting with an 11 watt bulb, we did a number of tests in the studio and on site. It was stunning that such a small wattage was WAY too bright. So we took it to a 6 watt LED and we put that up, and we still felt it was a little too bright. Down to a 3 watt — everyone was happy and we ordered all the LEDs and they were delivered to the site and we put them in…and it was waaaaay too bright.
Everyone stood there and looked at us and said WHAT DID YOU DO? And what we realized — and confirmed with the manufacturer — was that our 3 watt LEDS had indeed gotten brighter with advances in efficiency. The LED company said “Hey it’s great! We increased the efficiency! The same wattage is giving out much more light!”

But of course more light is *not* what we wanted. And they didn’t want to take them back. From the industry’s point to view, we don’t make things which are inefficient. We make more efficient! In fact, there was no factory anymore with the dimmer bulbs in production. Is there a one watt bulb? No! In the end, we went with a dimming system. What this illustrates is a relatively new concept the general public is now facing: wattage does not tell you anything about brightness and efficiency. Even tho manufacturers were telling us that a 15 watt fluorescent was equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent, your experience when you screwed in that new bulb told you otherwise. I think people were just starting to get a grip on that when LEDs blew it all out again. The efficiency of an LED and the way it makes light is actually so unrelated to its wattage that you actually have to think of it entirely differently. You have to really re-imagine what light is.
I’ve been arguing for awhile that it’s a very difficult concept to understand abstractly – and that’s because our association with wattage is so deeply ingrained. What really makes sense is to go out and buy one of each kind of light bulb and try it out at home so you can see it and remember it and start to make new associations. While you’re there rethinking everything you’ve learned over a lifetime of seeing under incandescent A lamps, you can also startto absorb how a tube or globe or any of the other many shapes of bulbs changes the way that lighting reads.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., client
Beyer Blinder Belle, architect
D.I.R.T. Studio, landscape architect


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Silo 468 in Helsinki by Lighting Design Collective

Media in the Media

Silo 468 in Helsinki by Lighting Design Collective, Madrid, is all over the Internet right now. The project received the award for Best Spatial Media Art at the Media Architecture Biennale in Aarhus/DK in November 2012, and it will probably not be the last award to go its way. Silo 468 is already appearing on a variety of lists of nominations for jury members to consider …

It sits by the sea facing central Helsinki, Finland. Prevailing winds well known to residents are strongly present. The natural light, wind and the movement of light on the water formed the principles for the lighting concept. Walls are perforated with 2012 holes referring to the Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 year.

The lighting signifies the start of a major urban redevelopment for the City of Helsinki. It functions to draw focus to unknown district and creates a landmark and a marketing device for the City. Maybe most importantly through the use of natural and artificial light it created a unique civic space for the citizens to use. Furthermore, it set a precedent for a new district for 11000 people to become the “district of light”. During the first years the silo is mainly viewed from distance when the area starts to get build. 1280 LED domes in 2700K white are fitted inside the silo behind the cut-outs and visible from several kilometres away.

LDC developed a bespoke software using swarm intelligence and nature simulating algorithms that refresh responding to parameters such as wind speed, direction, temperature, clear night and snow. System dials out every 5 minutes for new data. The patterns are fluid, natural in feel and never repeat. They are slow but speed up in relation to the wind speeds creating constantly changing mural of light. At midnight the exterior turns deep red for one hour. The colour refers to the former use of the silo as a container of energy. At 02:30 when the last ferry goes past to Suomenlinna lights go off.

The interior gains importance as the area gets populated. Inside is painted deep red. Daylight seeps through the pattern derived from original rust patterns on the walls. North facing wall has no perforations. 450 steel mirrors moved by winds are fitted behind the holes. With sunlight the silo appears to glimmer and sparkle like surface of water.The warm white LED grid reflects light indirectly via the red walls into the space. The moving patterns read as halos racing across the walls. The Silo is a civic space for the citizens of Helsinki. Floor was added and rigging infrastructure, power, water and emergency & cleaning lighting. Light intervention has created a new space for people.

During normal use the installation uses about 2kw of power, which is approximately two Watt per square meter. The software creates a particle system that combines motion behaviors from birds, insects, an fishes to create organic and non repetitive animations for the lighting system, in a 128 x 10 LED grid. This animations are being generated using current data from the local weather, specially wind speed and direction, to create a vast and unpredictable array of light movements that give the viewer a visual representation of the weather sensations in the city. The control application was developed in OpenFrameworks, an open source c++ toolkit for creative coding, an runs in an e:cue Lighting Control Engine mx server.

The designers responsible are from Lighting Design Collective in Madrid/E. The founder and design director of the practice is lighting designer Tapio Rosenius, who – one might say – was destined to become involved in new forms of lighting design, media display, interaction, film production, motion graphics and visual arts within architecture. He gained a degree in Lighting Design from the School of Arts and Communication in Tampere/FIN and an MSc at The Bartlett, UCL London/UK. After working in practices such as Kevan Shaw Lighting Design and Maurice Brill Lighting Design, he founded his own practice in 2009 in Madrid and works on an international scale.

In the PLD issue no. 87 this project, which is far more than simply a pointer to the future, will be fully reported.

Project team:

Client: City of Helsinki planning department, TASKE, Helsinki Energy
Project manager: HKR Executive
Executive Architect: Pöyry Finland Oy
Lead Design: Lighting Design Collective: Tapio Rosenius, Oscar Martin,
Rodolfo Lozano, Victor Soria, Gorka Cortazar, Reinaldo Alcala, Rodrigo
Arcaya (
Electrical Engineers: Olof Granlund Oy
Contractor: VRJ Etelä-Suomi Oy

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What has Avatar got to do with architecture?

Fifty years ago the list of credits before, and mainly after, a film included the persons responsible for the set – the buildings and structures that created the scene where the action took place. These scenes were often set up in the film studios or somewhere in the prairie in Arizona. Monument Valley was home from home for John Wayne, so to speak.

Film productions today do not involve the building of sets as they used to. The disaster movies and other films built around catastrophes or human dramas that we are so familiar with, plus epics such as Lord of the Rings, are basically generated on computers. In the last few years this has become standard. Present-day cinema tells us stories in 3D, or combines animation with real-life human elements – virtual reality interspersed with human faces. The computer has taken over. That is to say, the computer calculates what the visual effects designer provides in the way of data and creates images. Entire cities can be built this way.

But who are the creative minds that are generating these new worlds – worlds of wonder, worlds that we would like to be part of or fear ever experiencing. Perfectly crafted architecture or architecture with anarchistic intent. Perhaps this is why many of the designers behind the virtual worlds and environments we experience on the screens in our cinemas today have indeed studied Architecture. It would appear to be a dream job – possessing the divine power to create new worlds. Are these designers not more architects than the likes of Sir Norman Foster or any other person qualified to design architectural spaces? Alessandro Gobbetti is one such designer. At PLDC 2013, he will be presenting his experience of creating architecture and architectural lighting in and outside the film world.

Alessandro Gobbetti (* 1982) gained his Bachelor Degree in Architecture at the IUAV University in Venice, Italy, after which he completed his Master at the Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft, The Netherlands.
His interest and skills in architecture, lighting and animation won him first prize for the Best Animation Video at the Enel Digital Contest in 2009. In 2010 Alessandro attended the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, USA.
While at Weta Digital in New Zealand in 2009, Alessandro worked on the film production Avatar as the Lighting Effects Assistant Technical Director. Amongst other awards, the film won the Academy Award in the category Best Visual Effects and the Visual Effects Society Award in the category Outstanding Created Environment in a Feature Motion Picture.
His work as Lighting Effects Technical Director continued at the Peerless Camera Company, where he worked on the film production Green Lantern in 2011.
Alessandro’s most recent work for Framestore in London, UK is as Creature Effects Technical Director for the film production Gravity.

See a movie from Alessandro about his work here.

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Philip Rafael: The Dark Art discussion session

Philip Rafael is a senior lighting designer at Studio Illume in Shanghai. One of his concerns as a lighting designer is the loss of darkness. He has therefore suggested a discussion session at PLDC 2013 on need of darkness in architecture.

Philip wrote to the PLDC team: “…I am proposing a session at PLDC that differs to the normal talks / presentations … What I have in mind is an open discussion session with invited guests (maybe around 5) and jointly with the audience discuss the topic of darkness with the target of achieving some sort of conclusion towards the end of the session. I feel that that this step is important because there are already several lighting designers in the world who discuss the topic of darkness, but they all do it on a more or less individual level. I think someone needs to bring everyone together in a joint effort, otherwise it will continue to prove difficult to take this to a stage where we can formulate concrete goals that can hopefully influence the profession…”

Thank you, Philip. This is a great idea and we would like to develop it with you. Anyone who would like to respond immediately should do so now and start the discussion. You can also join the ongoing discussion started by Philip on LinkedIn.

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