In the spotlight

The large public areas in commercial spaces demand grand lighting statements that illuminate and decorate. How can designers inject some impressive focus points into their interior lighting schemes?

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  September 4, 2006

|~|light-body-Basso-&-Brooke_S.gif|~||~|Every commercial venture wants to create a striking first impression with an inspiring entrance, and lighting is a key factor in achieving this. The combination of high ceilings and expansive floor space in a lobby or reception area demands a focal lighting fixture that not only provides adequate brightness but is also an aesthetic adornment when switched off too. Traditionally, chandeliers have been used to fulfil this dual role, but is this still the case?

Is the trend for minimalism and the contemporary school of ‘less is more’ in design rendering the role of opulent lighting solutions redundant? A host of lighting designers and manufacturers give their views on large scale lighting and also offer advice to interior designers looking to create the elusive ‘wow factor’ in their lighting choices.

Hilal Al Zarooni, managing director/chairman, La Murrina says: “Specifiers are still opting for chandeliers to add a touch of magnificence because they don’t just add character to the prominent public space but also contribute to the uniqueness of their surroundings by being a preponderant decorative element, holding a power position and creating refined and prestigious settings at the same time.”

||**|||~|light-body-alistairgrande-b.gif|~||~|Lighting company, Crystalite, specialises in traditional classical chandeliers and Ramon Navarro agrees that there is still an active market for its products; more than 50% of what it does is directed to the making of oversize chandeliers. He says: “Very few hotels are opting for modern lighting in their lobbies. In fact we just finished a very large hotel called Westin Alameda Hotel in the city of Valencia (Spain), which has large chandeliers all over. The ballroom has three flush fitted plafoniers 4m in diametre each. In addition to this we have recently completed a five star hotel called Renaissance in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Eden Garden Hotel in Johor (Malaysia), Sheraton Hotel in Subang (Malaysia), Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi and Hotel Medina Oberoi in Medina (Saudi Arabia) that have all commissioned chandelier-type lighting.”

It is possible to retain the tradition of having crystal chandeliers but in a modern space with a more contemporary approach to the heavyweight bronze and crystal installations of the past. Faustig has a range of crystal chandeliers that are far from old-fashioned. Kurt Faustig asserts that: “Chandeliers must match the ambiance of the interior in kind and size. There is still a demand for gold or silver plated metal parts, crystal clear or coloured, but brought up to date.” Faustig’s lights are made from Swarovski precise-cut STRASS crystals, which have 30% lead oxyd content. The metal frames can be custom-designed in brass, 24 carat gold, nickel or silver-plated, or simply lacquered.

Zarooni, La Murrina stresses the importance of keeping abreast of new developments and being aware of changing client briefs: “With the changing trends it is essential to incorporate innovation in the chandeliers and through unique collaborations and new design techniques, classic Venetian glass styles can be easily updated.”

||**|||~|light-body-Aureliano-Toso-e.gif|~||~|The introduction of bold colour is one way in which traditional designs are made more contemporary. Zarooni continues: “Definitely unusual in Venetian light pieces to date, we’ve chosen to showcase these new classics in black, red and milky white. We also have a contemporary line of design in which there is great influence of modern and abstract designs in order to suit the latest trends.” The Disegno selection of lights is created in collaboration with select renowned designers such as Paolo Deganello, Denis Santachiara, Sottsass Associati and Oscar Tusquets.

Within a short space of time, we’ve witnessed a complete paradigm shift in the UAE’s construction and tourism industry, which has affected the hotel lighting industry. Vikas Sareen, sales manager, Belight, Al Aqili, says that this has had a knock-on effect with designers attempting to seek a balance between the awe-inspiring splendour of the chandelier and an innovative modern day equivalent. “Most hotels still opt for huge chandeliers for a touch of grandeur in their public areas like halls/ lobbies and main entrances but upcoming hotels opt for more contemporary chandeliers. The majority of hotels are trying to move towards modernisation.”

Some of the brands that fall under the Belight umbrella, such as Fabbian, Quasar, Brandvan Egmond are launching ranges that have contemporary and classical suspension lights as an alternative to overly decorative chandeliers.
Additional substitutes that more and more designers are leaning towards include an increased use of LEDs or focused lighting for maximum impact. Philips advocates the use of wall-mounted luminaires for decoration, up-lights to give the room more space, indirect lighting, accent lighting to highlight paintings and statues for example and down-lights in reception areas. In this way you provide more accents to the different parts of the space.
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DP Smedema, general manager of Philips Lighting Middle East says: “Philips at the moment is very active in bringing lighting innovations with LEDs to the market. For hotels we have available some beautiful products, like LED spots for decoration, and LED flood and LED line are two products that can be used for illuminating and enhancing architectural structures with static, coloured or dynamic light.”

This notion of Dynamic Lighting is a relatively new concept for Philips, designed to enhance the well-being, motivation and performance of people by creating a stimulating lighting ambience that follows the rhythm of daylight, and by giving employees control over their lighting. It can be tailored to the client’s preferences, needs and moods. Another interesting innovation is the Micro Fiorenza spot for hotels and shops. It’s an ultra-compact spotlight designed around Philips’ new Mini Master Colour CDM-Tm 20W lamp. It provides an attractive light and is the perfect alternative to the traditional halogen lamp; it generates less heat, consumes less energy and has a longer lifetime.

Another trend is that the shape of luminaires is moving to rounder models. Architects like to see the miniaturisation of luminaires as well and nowadays they prefer to use suspended light boxes of extruded aluminum as a design object, according to Smedema.

||**|||~|Light-body-La-Murrina-Venez.gif|~||~|Klaus Schmidt, export manager of Hera agrees that indirect lighting is a good contemporary alternative to traditional chandeliers. Today, in most applications, Halogen spotlights are being used and companies such as Hera have developed light fittings to cater to the needs of designers who want to create a focal impact with light. Modern applications use energy saving, cool, and long lasting LED-technology, either as LED-Point for display cases, LED-Floor for up-lighting, and LED-Spot for focused downlighting.

All of the lighting specialists canvassed expressed the need for the designer to concentrate on where the light is being used. What light colour would the customer prefer so they are subconsciously attracted to the focal light? For instance, Hera’s LED lights come in a choice of warm-white (3200 K) and cool-white (5500 K) light colours, which give very different effects. Other points to consider are heat development, especially in glass displays: Does the heat affect the product shown? The ideal credentials for LEDs should include having a strong output, low heat, low power consumption, zero UV-radiation, with a long lifetime.

The shift of emphasis in ultra-modern commercial spaces onto spotlights is highlighted by Munich-based lighting firm, Occhio, after it claimed the Light of the Year Award for its Occhio Sento spot during the Light and Build lighting fair in Frankfurt earlier this year. This win proves that the market is moving away from opulence and towards function. Occhio’s minimalist reflector heads and pivoting arms change the design and light distribution of the lamp and can give numerous lighting effects.

||**|||~|light-body-Murano-Due-ether.gif|~||~|Its local distributor, Novo Technologies LLC Dubai, represents some of the leading interior lighting design companies. In addition to Occhio; it offers brands such as Italian-founded Prandina, Swiss firm Regent and German company, Die Krauts. Prandina is ensuring it stays abreast of new developments and is future-proofing its designs by developing projects and products that explore the use of different materials such as aluminium, steel, fabric, polypropylene, polycarbonate and fibreglass.

In terms of materials, it is becoming evident that the high-end market wants contemporary lighting with chrome or brushed aluminium and glass finishes combined with LED and RGBS Technology. But this introduces the question of how to stop innovative designs dating quickly. The key is for designers to avoid the temptation to specify the fashion of the season for a project simply on grounds of its popularity. Zarooni, La Murrina says: “The lighting industry has literally exploded with innovation. Constant advancement in designs has resulted in new abstract and conceptual shapes being the current favourite. Today’s fixtures are more refined and more attention is given to detailing nearly every aspect of the light right from the base to the pull chain which gives the fixture greater enrichment.”

Fashion is combined with function to create decorative lamps and fixtures that do more than simply illuminate. From the time of limited choices we have reached an era where we have the liberty of choosing different colours and materials which excite and innovate, but surely such fashion is transient?

||**|||~|light-body-Occhio-SENTO.gif|~||~|Sareen, Belight suggests overcoming the possibility of out-dating by in depth research into the space and the client’s requirements for it: “Designers should always specify something which goes in line with the theme of the project and try to choose something which makes their project stand apart. They should not compromise on the quality and the design part. I would go one step further to say they should always keep the prevailing prices of a specific product in mind before specifying rather than changing the final purchase to suit the tight budget later. This would not only change the complete desired result but would also be a big compromise in terms of quality and image of the project.”

Internationally renowned lighting consultant, Jonathan Speirs, agrees: “Far too many projects leave lighting as an afterthought, and use whatever is left of the budget on the lighting rather than realising that lighting is one of the most important elements and should be one of the first specifications to be considered when allocating budget percentages.”

He continues: “In terms of what is a current trend or what is ‘trendy’ at the moment, this is quite a dangerous thing; yes, technology is moving on and designers should not be afraid to experiment with effects and what can be achieved now, but they shouldn’t be tempted to jump on the bandwagon of what is en vogue this season for the sake of it. The right idea should be applied to the right place. We are not concerned with iconic light fittings; our job is to make the space feel exactly how it should feel.” The right focal lighting design in the right setting could be what defines the client, their organisation and ultimately their ambition.

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Evidence that the Middle East is gaining international recognition in the lighting industry lies in the success of the inaugural Light Middle East which has reinforced the decision of the world’s leading lighting associations to support Light Middle East for 2007. For the first time ever in the Middle East, three of the world’s top lighting associations - the European Lighting Design Association (ELDA+), the International Association of Lighting Design (IALD) and the Lighting Urban Community International (LUCI) - will be showing their support of the Middle East lighting industry through their partnership with the region’s leading trade show for architectural, urban and retail lighting solutions. In addition, Dubai will host the first Middle East Lighting Awards (MELDA) next May.||**||

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