LIGHT BIZ, LIGHT BUZZ AND THE STORY OF AN ANCIENT RADIATION

 

Space Station image of Earth at night - by courtesy of NASA
Space station inage of Earth at night – by courtesy of NASA

What direction is the world of artificial lighting taking? How are the professional communities coping with the new challenges of this charming and yet demanding matter? Are they striking the goal? And, in the end, what is this story of lighting about? Have a walk with me through the ultimate approaches and ancient premises of the complex dimension of Lighting.

 

IGNORANTIA LEGIS (NATURAE) NON EXCUSANT

To those who stand upon the wings of the Olimpus Legis, proclaiming that no ignorance is excused there, one would be willing to object instead that is the natural law that which doesn’t allow any ignorance. The thought arises from the incandescent discussions about the incomplete efficacy of the artificial lights so called efficient.

It thunders louder and louder, in fact, the voice arising from every corner of the Planet by the average citizen – the one not at all educated in matter of lighting or bio-compatiblity, but simply triggered by an ancestral selective instinct set on survival – who has to do with the new lighting technologies. “Selective” of the best and most favourable conditions for Life to thrive, and “survival”, because in the end preserving the favorable conditions for Life is the primary business that should interest us.

 

| View of the lighting texture in a metropolis at night |

 

In particular, in the eye of the storm this time has fallen the new generation of urban LED lights, super white and super bright, imposed by a legal obligation with a worldwide re-lamping plan – I’m picturing the huge lethal greenhouse gas cloud of carbon dioxide and acid components caused by an almost unstoppable volcanic activity near the end of the Permian era, which spread out so fast all over the planet to instantly wipe off the omnipotent dinosaurs.

Let’s be honest, the laws of Nature are more ancient than us, wiser and most safe because millions of times tested and adjusted on the actual preferences of Life. They are the powerful algorithm programmed inside the biological matter on Earth, all of it, homo sapiens included. And such is the law of natural light.

 

| 2001 A Space Odissey – shot from the scene “The Dawn of Man” |

Ashtags as many as you like:

#harmonic_vision Whole compendiums have been written on this subject.

#electromagnetic_perceptive_code encripted in the human DNA.

#equilibrium_of_the_complex_endocrine_mechanism The well known “circadian cycle” has been recently glorified as it was a fashion trend for reason of the Nobel Prize assigned to the scientists Hall-Rosbash-Young.

#health_of_the_ocular_organ the one that Goethe defines as the “solar eye”, with a charming comparison in his “Theory of colors“.

#physiological_reject_of_the_blue_component The macula lutea inside the eye bulb is a natural yellow-orange blue-shielding filter, evolved with the task to smooth the impact of intense light and also to allow a sharper vision, does it suggest anything to you? And therefore:

#advantage_of_the_yellow_light_for_the_optimal_perception_of_details The ocular spectrum sensitivity goes up to 100% with a light frequency set around 570nm/yellow and lowers down to 30% with a 470nm/blue: could it be that maybe we felt more comfortable and safe with the old dear sodium lamps in the streets at night?

#micro-glare Unbearable phenomenon and definitely regarded as harmful. We are surrounded by whole constellations of point sources, each one perfectly detectable in its naked glamorous brilliance, which stab into the eyes of the pedestrian or driver, even if they are directed to the horizon, placed at an unnatural close-up distance and emitting a luminosity that perhaps could be correct at the ground level, but really unacceptable from there upwards.

#sacred_right_for_the_natural_nocturnal_luminosity (nearly the darkness) and#human_physiology_for_the_nocturnal_vision At this rate will the retinal rods, those tiny little sensors engineered for a scotoscopic and crepuscular vision, disappear from the evolutive line of humans?

 

| A natural starry night |

The misurnderstanding is neither invincible nor excusable (going on echoing the legislator’s proclaims) because nowadays the means to acquire information along with the pressing action of alert carried out by some lighting professional associations and by the scientific community with its indisputable evidences, they are so many and of such kind as to make the knowledge inevitable. No more excuses, then. Especially for the architecture world, which seems to literally turn a deaf ear to the matter (in Italian we use to say “merchant’s ears”, ironically a bit more suitable here) in front of the urge to consider the lighting as a crucial factor in the process of creation of whatever space may be thought for a human being, and not a mere accessory to mindlessly entrust to the care of an electrician.

 

WHO’S STOLEN THE MILKY WAY?

It was that the banner of a famous crusade against lighting pollution promoted by the Italian iGuzzini Illuminazione, the one with the funny owl wearing sunglasses and the werewolf agonizing under the artificial light. It awakened the consciences to the fact that something was inexorably changed: the nocturnal obscurity, the one we have experienced for millions of years, didn’t exist anymore. Simon & Garfunkel now would sing “Goodbye darkness, my old friend…”

 

| Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia “The Spirit of the Lake” – photo by Kris Williams |

Certainly the game has changed, social progress is a trend with a steady growth, voracious of spaces and time, which has savagely conquered the night in the atomic fraction of a second – calculated in cosmic terms, of course.

And so, yeah! let’s parade more and more light, more muscular, a massive attack of extreme lights conquering every corner of the Planet (it’d be interesting to map the remaining virgin zones), a genuine Las Vegas Syndrome, a game of hazard pulled beyond the limit of common sense…

 

| A view of Las Vegas |

Thank god here comes the LED, performing and cost-effective. Above all cost-effective. Well, such a good business in these days! It is clear even to the stones (and the bats, and the oaks, and the moths) that the attention of the legislator in matter of artificial light is now keen on the coin more than the protection of the environment or the bio-compatibility talk – on the other hand, with all the kilotons of energy burst out every day what else can we do?

 

| A HONG KONG night |

One would instead naively ask if and where resides the authentic human advantage in this bombastic process of lighting efficiency, and what kind of efficiency could possibly be considered a priority if not first compared in holistic terms to an adequate psycho-physical wellness for the human being and his living environment.

 

“FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION”, Louis Sullivan. Or so it should be.

| Glowing Amanita Muscarias in the wood |

Luckly the first promising signs of turning arrives.

In fact, walking this year through the prestigious international fairs such as Light+Building, it was noticed that more than one company is leaving behind the sensationalism of the technological device in itself – narcissus outside and with a super-hero light inside – to step into the more sober path of the “form that follows the function”.

It’s been stimulating and encouraging to meet those who are beginning to act seriously in this direction. For example the american SORAA inc., undiscussed leader of the very first full spectrum lighting technology, eye-approved and color-proof, developed by its founder and Nobel Prize Prof. Nakamura – in their exhibition space one could breath more with the eyes than with the lungs. The German WALDMANN GmbH that since a while has been experimenting and engineering with scientific precision biodynamic systems of lighting – from them I heard for the first time talking about the holistic vision of Lighting Design. Or the LG DISPLAY that with the brand Luxflex proposes the technology of OLED, extremely versatile for the architectural application, and with that exquisite character of anti-glare smoothness – finally we can touch barehands what for decades could only be stared at in sci-fi. And many other more incubators of innovation in this direction surely have not skipped the eye of those professionals who are sensitive to quality.

 

| Seb Janiak, PHOTON 03, 2012, chromogenic print. By courtesy of the author |

 

Here we are, after turning, dismounting and remounting this toy of photons, now we realise that something smart can be done with it, and maybe it’d be better to use it with wisdom and precaution: no more”light at the service of man” but “man in line with the principles of light”. The difference is unmeasurable.

Anyway, as it often happens in the world of economy, the ignorant inflation of knowledge is always lurking. We discussed it at one of the unmissable cocktail party offered in that occasion by SORAA at the end of the day. Between a sip of beer and a laughter, someone was playfully commenting that for example the word “bio-dynamic” is comparable to the teen-age sex: everybody talks about it, nobody knows exactly what it is, but since everybody thinks all are doing it, they say they are doing it too. Risks of the progress ;-).

 

| Artistic interpretation of the light spectrum |

Regarding the concept that the form shoud follows the function, who like me have the privilege to have an eye on both the architectural and entertainment lighting, may agree that this last one is one step ahead. Since ever, in fact, the process of technological innovation there takes place on the table of function, around which sit together the professional LDs with their specialized experience and with a vision of that something more, manufactures and developers who listen, take notes and turn the creativity on, but most important all full-focused on the behaviour of light and the aim to hit (a near perfection light and… spectacular!)

Maybe that’s the reason why an architect – of those still convinced that light is a decoration, a way to prevent from falling on the floor or worst a trend – going through the hallways of a fair like Prolight+Sound is overwhelmed by the extraordinary vision of the show behind the show, where super intelligent profiles other than futuristic LEDwalls or real-time tracking systems, allow him to see the light maybe for the first time in its essence and potentiality, and therefore to fall in love with it. Due to say that finishings and shapes are getting more and more appealing, for these engines of light born in the end for the art of entertainment. But how damn well they do it!

 

The PRG show probe at Prolight+Sound 2018 |

 

It was inevitable for them the quantum leap into the architainment dimension: thanks to a different approach, a perfect management of the technique (best sources + more efficient lenses + color control) along with a coherent target, some companies have been able to give birth to genius products capable of artistic performances unimaginable before in the architectural contest.

Take for example CLAYPAKY-OSRAM‘s GlowUp, a smart wireless busket of light, or the K-EYE with its multichip LED (Red, Green, Blue, Amber, Cyan, Lime); ETC that pioneered the use of the Luxeon multichip LED featuring even seven colors (red, lime, amber, green, cyan, blue, indigo), first in their SourceFour fixtures and then in their architectural lines; ROBE, that has almost paired its entertainment technology with the ANOLIS architectural line; or ARRI with its SKY-PANEL, born for the cinema (see “The Last Jedi”), entertainment and, why not, also suitable for spectacular architectural design. Finally, architecture what a show!

 

| Perth Council House |

If it’s true that having fun and nurturing the imagination is the winning choice to keep healthy in mens et in corpore… then, hurray for the light that makes us feel happy.

 

STELLA MATER

A simple fact, at the end of the fair, emerges spontaneous…

 

| The Sun on the Earth horizon from the Apollo 11- by courtesy of NASA |

 

The light that gave us birth and has fed us since our very beginning is an ancient electromagnetic radiation, by-product the of the forced nuclear fusion of helium and deuterium (at the third phase of the complete reaction cycle), fiercely expelled out in space by a star classified as “yellow dwarf”, spectral class G2 V, around 4.6 billion year old, with a superficial temperature of 6000°C and a photosphere deep almost 400 km; a star that generated and still holds together a multi orbital system of planets including our Earth, where around 3.5 billion years ago some forms of life took shape and began a slow and precise process of genetic writing of a behavioural code to adapt and survive within the hosting environment, ruled by the primary triad water | air | light, a code we human beings have inherited in the evolutive line whose complex dogma we are not granted to embrace completely in our understanding, but have designed the wonderful biological machine that allows our functioning right in this moment.

 

| NASA’s Parker Solar Probe the first humancrafted machine that will touch the Sun – by courtesy of NASA |

Indeed, this photonic radiation is the founding principle of Life itself, human and of the entire living community here on Earth, a powerful substance that ensures and rules its prosecution.

Well, with such a serious matter it’s better not playing the omnipotent dinosaurs.

May the eye of the ordinary man be more and more thoughtful and critical, may he take back its primordial sensitivity and demand with no compromise the quality and the beauty of lighting as well as responsible planning and professional competence, to be able to finally tell himself the difference and make the difference for his own Life.

SALUS POPULI SUPREMA LEX ESTO (Cicerone, De Leg., IV).

Patrizia De Masi Architect + Lighting Designer