12. Jun 2017

London is about to throw a lot of money into the Thames.

Text: Joachim Ritter

At the risk of not being allowed to cross British borders in future, I simply cannot hold back my open and honest opinion, which many people will no doubt share anyway. The Brexit referendum was already a fiasco, but it seems we are in for an even greater fiasco if you look at what is being considered as the winning lighting schemes for London’s bridges over the Thames. Whoever dared to believe “it won’t be that bad” is in for a shock. The jury is destined to fail collectively when selecting “the winners”!

A few months ago, experts from the field pointed out that a lighting design competition involving significant prize money and focussing on a project of the calibre of London’s bridges over the Thames should not take place without including a representative number of qualified lighting designers in the jury. And yet all this advice achieved was to invite a few lighting professionals to take part in the preliminary review of the submissions. I am not sure if Speirs & Major, for example, had any influence on the jury’s decisions through their part as preliminary reviewers. To be honest, I can’t imagine it. It simply doesn’t fit into the philosophy of this worldrenowned practice to allow a river of the standing of the Thames to be so maltreated by light. And I also find it hard to believe that the shortlisted designs were selected from more than one hundred submissions from 20 different countries. If these are supposed to be typical of the status of the quality of lighting projects in this day and age, then we are taking a dramatic step backwards. I cannot believe that. This is an insult to the professional lighting design community and can only mean that some of the approaches taken have nothing to do with lighting design. On closer inspection of the submissions and the jury, I can only come to the conclusion that the outcome is due to ignorance as to how lighting design is defined. The results are not representative of good lighting design – which is pretty inconceivable when you consider that jury members apparently included the likes of James Turrell.

Perhaps the result of this competition is an indication of the fact that light festivals and light art can indeed hamper the development of good lighting solutions in the public realm. The results are to a large extent nothing more than a chance for the designers to draw attention to themselves and how versatile they can be with light. Some of the concepts submitted treat the architecture as if it were of secondary importance. That has little to do with lighting design.

The full version of the article can be found in  PLD No. 103  as well as in our  PLD magazine app  (iPad App Store).


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