Shining the light on quality, not quantity

Operating in a country where building designs are becoming more innovative and progressive, lighting designers in the UAE are well and truly working in a creative playground. Zoe Naylor reports on how some of the latest sparky projects are putting themselves on the map, and how firms are coping with growing demand.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  September 30, 2006

|~|139prod200.gif|~|The skyline of Sheikh Zayed Road (top) with the Burj Al Arab (bottom left) and Dubai Creek (bottom right). The city has become a ‘benchmark’ for lighting firms operating in the region, with the scope of projects offering rich pickings.|~|It’s all well and good designing eye-catching buildings, but in a region where developers constantly try to outdo one another, sometimes the most effective way to set a project apart from the crowd is through the clever use of lighting. Interior and exterior lighting is big business in the Gulf – especially given the grand scale of many of the projects here – and it is attracting lighting designers from around the world to bid for contracts.

“Dubai offers an extraordinary prospect for creative design,” says Dhruvajyoti Ghose, director of Australian firm LDP (Lighting Design Partnership). “The density of high-end projects evolving in close competition with each other gives rise to an increased dependence on the power of good design to create points of difference. Clients are no longer hesitant to pursue innovative designs. It has become the design benchmark for many of the countries in this part of the world.”

LDP is currently working on Dubai’s City of Arabia, where it is responsible for all the interiors and exterior of the Mall of Arabia, the exterior lighting for the proposed hotels as well as the public area lighting for Wadi Walk. Throughout the project, the firm aims to create lighting that will accentuate the architecture and create a distinctive night-time image.

“The lighting we chose for the exterior façades emphasises the articulated fenestration of the buildings,” explains Ghose.
“The vertical planes are accentuated with soft washes and the pilasters boast offset accents, which balance the traditional architectural rhythm. It is lit using flat washes with slight relief at the entrances.”

To retain the traditional architectural forms, coloured lighting is limited to a few key understated accents. Ghose says that the lighting used for the mall has a dual role of creating retail ambience and ‘way finding’, and says it is also essential to have a variety of lighting options to sustain visitor interest: “Theatrical lighting is the keyword for this particular zone, with animated water pools creating additional drama.
“Custom filtering, diffusion and redirection solutions are being implemented within skylights to retain the focus on the retail merchandise without harsh glare.”

In terms of technological advancements within the region’s lighting industry, Ghose says he is noticing a number of trends. “We will see increased options using LED-based technologies for direct lighting and the arrival of the micro-fluorescent lamp. These technologies will improve the energy efficiency of installations.”

In addition, he believes a greater investment in lighting control technology will help minimise the wastage of light in spaces where people are not continuously present. “Lighting will also gradually begin to move away from using point sources directed at surfaces to luminous materials that form the surfaces,” adds Ghose.

As with most sectors of Dubai’s construction industry, ever-decreasing project schedules – coupled with the sheer number of large-scale projects – is stretching lighting designers to their limits.

“One of the factors that working in Dubai imposes on us is the compressed time frame for delivering projects,” says Ghose. “We are already facing situations where we have to advise some prospective clients of our inability to undertake the work unless reasonable time is made available for us to deliver them at the high expectation levels.”

Another international lighting architect to have recently picked up a major contract in the UAE is Speirs and Major Associates. The UK-based firm is no stranger to the Gulf market: In 2000, Speirs and Major won the Award of Distinction at the International Illumination Design Awards for the external lighting design of the Burj Al Arab. Now the firm has picked up the lighting design for Aldar Properties’ Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi, as part of the beachfront development’s US $2.7 billion (AED10 billion) infrastructure budget.

Speirs and Major’s contract is for a project-wide strategic lighting masterplan and lighting concepts for all public areas within the development, including parks, canals, pedestrian walkways and footbridges. “The Al Raha Beach project will allow exciting and unique lighting opportunities, creating an attractive and varied series of lit environments for relaxation and entertainment in the evenings,” says Jonathan Speirs, a principal at Speirs and Major.

“This will be the first major development in the UAE that will have a project-wide integrated lighting strategy from the very outset.” A lighting masterplan will be approved and implemented at the infrastructure stage of the Al Raha project, enabling Speirs and Major to incorporate exterior lighting within all precincts. The project’s design process began in August 2006 and construction is due to be completed by July 2009.

Alongside ever-decreasing project schedules, lighting designers must ensure that the products they specify are capable of withstanding the harsh Gulf climate. “It’s a very arduous environment, not just because of the heat but also the moisture in the air and the saline environment,” says Nathan Savage, senior designer, dpa lighting, Dubai. “If you’re putting lighting outside in high temperatures on the face of the building then the lighting equipment has to be fit for purpose.”

One of the latest outdoor lighting products from Dubai-based Martin Professional that aims to meet these climatic challenges is the Exterior 1200. Launched by Martin Professional last month and designed for high-rise buildings, the Exterior 1200 features an efficient 1200W metal halide lamp with a strong optical performance. “The Exterior 1200 is designed to operate in a harsh, weather-beaten environment,” explains Karim Abdel Massih, product and application manager, Martin Professional Middle East.

“An efficient cooling system ensures the luminaire is reliable in even the hottest climates. It is also suitable for marine and saline environments such as cruise ships and bridges, and has been wind tunnel tested – an important factor for tower installations,” he adds.

The Exterior 1200 also offers full colour mixing – the CMY (cyan, magenta, and yellow) system blends the primary colours to achieve a full spectrum of colours. These colours vary in hue and saturation and can be programmed to shift smoothly from shade to shade to create dynamic architectural effects. “The intensity control is 0-100% for easy balance of brightness allowing buildings and landscapes to respond intelligently to the availability of natural light,” adds Massih.

The Gulf region’s rapidly expanding commercial, retail and residential developments are creating an ongoing demand for sophisticated lighting techniques. The proliferation of mega projects in particular are keeping lighting designers and manufactures on their toes as they are challenged to find creative yet practical lighting solutions. As well as finding ways to illuminate vast surface areas, bright sparks within the lighting industry have to design products that can withstand soaring temperatures, high humidity levels and a corrosive saline atmosphere.

All change as Ski Dubai shines out into the night sky

A ski slope built in the middle of a desert is unlikely to need much to make it stand out from the crowd. But that’s exactly what Martin Professional aimed for when it designed the exterior lighting for the structure of Ski Dubai, in collaboration with Francis Krahe.

The structure of the ski slope’s 22,500m2 outer metal façade is outlined in a strip of decorative colour changing light from approximately 370 Martin Architectural full colour mixing Cyclo IP65 luminaires.

Fully weatherproofed, the Cyclo IP65 is an RGB T5 fluorescent colour changer capable of generating nearly all colours or white light of any colour temperature. It is controlled via a Martin PC-based ProScenium control system.

Offering views of Ski Dubai, the Kempinski Hotel at Mall of the Emirates is another exterior lighting project undertaken by Martin Professional. The domes of the hotel glow in changing colour shades using Martin Architectural CMY colour-changing Exterior series fixtures.

Since the hotel’s domes sit at various levels and the luminaires are spaced at distances too great and impractical for standard DMX lighting cable, Martin Professional proposed a wireless control solution using the Martin Wireless DMX 512 device.

Located outdoors, two WDMX transmitters communicate with five WDMX receivers. All devices are protected from sun, water and corrosion by box covers.||**||

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