We know it well. To live, people not only need air and water but light too. Whether natural or artificial, light influences us visually, in how we perceive the real world; emotionally, in how it influences our moods; and biologically, in how it directly affects our physiological functions.
Today’s philosophical thinking of Human Centric Lighting (HCL) – lighting at the service of humanity – stems precisely from this principle, and will be guiding the “lighting” sector for the coming years. Today more than ever, technology, architecture and design come together and integrate in favour of our health, without compromising on aesthetics.
The study of light has ancient roots indeed: architects and artists have long strived to shape natural light for their own needs, or they tried to reproduce it with artificial expedients. We can think of Rome’s Pantheon dating from the 2nd century AD, where the relationship between light and shadows is the result of the solution of the sole opening at the centre of its dome; or of the gothic cathedrals, penetrated by light through huge stained-glass windows, designed specially to convey the idea of transcendency. The artist Piero della Francesca, in his “Dream of Constantine” uses paint to apply a light that appears a neon of premature invention. And if the second half of the twentieth century saw the triumph of design applied to light, the most revolutionary period is certainly the contemporary one, due to – but not only to – the “discovery” of the colours that make up white light, the invention of particularly advanced systems of management, and the creation of new light sources, including LED and O-LED.
Buildings and homes are also containers of sensations and emotions. In designing them, great sensitivity and attention are required along with professional competence. Lighting design, which has made the study of lighting points its core business, has favoured the change of approach in the conception of interior and exterior spaces. The industrial design sector is currently undergoing the fastest evolution, given the huge variety of new lighting solutions that are coming through into the world of lighting. It all started as being aimed mainly at industrial/working environments and has moved forward to the first ergonomic studies at the workplace. Extended to domestic environments, today it also includes studies on urban lighting.
Until recently, lighting was simply about using complementary items such as table lamps, chandeliers hanging in the middle of rooms, ceiling lamps or, for the most daring, electrified cables equipped with spotlights that produced unsightly shadows and light-plays. Today, the buildings of the future, especially residential, are already with us: they are much more rational in the study of spatial layout, more versatile in allowing people to fully enjoy the environment, and more comfortable thanks to natural lighting that favours concentration and relaxation. Obviously without compromising on elegance and attractiveness.
But what has really changed in this millennium? Light points are increasingly responsive and on-demand. They succeed in varying the intensity and diffusion according to the environments and the time of day: only exactly where and exactly how much is needed, using latest-generation softwares that allow control over the light sources of all settings. New tests are experimenting with the uses of advanced control solutions such as sensors and apps for handheld devices that exploit wi-fi systems point lights and their sources. It is possible to program, or manually control, the lighting scenarios according to our biological needs: waking up, holding concentration, relaxing, sleeping phases.
Lighting today is increasingly more sustainable because the new furnishing elements hide a hi-tech soul. LED lighting, for example, has a high yield and lasts 120,000 hours compared to the 1,000 hours of incandescent bulbs. Among LED’s most revolutionary aspects is its ability to alter light colour according to ambient, and to thus arouse feelings of well-being and relaxation while favouring concentration.
Finally, lights are increasingly featuring more effects, thereby stepping into the world of art, with strong design content even when they incorporate traditional solutions. Professionals are increasingly entrusting allegorical messages to these lighting systems, as in the case of the Light Drop project designed by Rafael Morgan, which indicates that we should reflect on the natural resources of our planet: the light switch is a tap and the more it is opened, the more the light gushes out. This installation won third prize at the international Bright LED design contest.
For lighting designer Alessandra Miotto, the “latter twentieth century saw the triumph of design applied to light. The discovery of the composition of light and its colours, the invention of advanced management systems and the emergence of new lighting sources (LEDs and O-LEDs) have contributed to completely revolutionizing our way of working. The work of today’s lighting designer is no longer simply about functional or aesthetic choices. It must address increasingly complex considerations on how space is used in general. We are now also able to develop “tailor-made” projects, to reveal the identity of what we illuminate”.