Text: Chris Lowe, Philip Rafael

15. Aug 2013

The Dark Art


During the last few years, there have been a number of independent voices within the lighting design profession who have encouraged the use of darkness as a positive facet of lighting design. These independent voices attempt to redefine our understanding of light and darkness, presenting new lighting design philosophies and innovative technical methods that are inclusive of light, darkness and shadow.

From this background, The Dark Art group has emerged as a movement which has provoked a growing online discussion where professionals from many different backgrounds gather to develop and exchange ideas. The group, which is headed by Philip Rafael and Chris Lowe, has grown significantly in the last two years and now numbers 400 members worldwide.

This year, in anticipation of creating a consensus concerning the positive aspects of darkness, The Dark Art will host an open discussion with a panel of invited guests at PLDC 2013 in Copenhagen. The PLDC committee has offered The Dark Art a double slot session within the conference programme on 2. November at 16.45 to be chaired by Philip Rafael and Chris Lowe.

Guests on the panel include Eduardo Gonçalves, Edward Bartholomew, Paulina Villalobos, Koert Vermeulen and Christopher ‘Kit’ Cuttle. During the discussion, the panellists will have an opportunity to communicate their respective opinions on darkness in the form of a concise opening statement. This will be followed by an open moderated discussion with the panel members and the audience, and concluded with an assimilation of concepts encapsulated in the form of a manifesto. The Dark Art also plans to provide a vision of the ‘next-steps’ to open the possibility of further development on various platforms and further meetings to wider audiences on this topic.

Philip Rafael is an active lighting designer and Associate Director for the Shanghai-based consultancy, Studio Illumine. He commits a significant amount of his spare time to developing the lighting design profession through article publications, lectures, teaching engagements and international seminars. Alongside The Dark Art activities, he was recently appointed Director for Sustainability of the PLDA, where his primary objective is to move away from a sole focus on energy efficiency and to humanise sustainability through the concept of Sustainable Development.

Following an early interest in architecture, Chris Lowe was drawn to the lighting profession because of its refreshing balance of art and science. Since joining the multi-disciplinary design practice BDP, he has worked on a wide range of large-scale projects. Along with co-authoring articles for PLD magazine, Chris has presented at Euroluce, guest lectured at IED Madrid, and been involved in award-winning projects such as Guerrilla Lighting. Chris was recently appointed head of the BDP lighting team in the Manchester studio.

Together, Philip and Chris co-founded The Dark Art in 2011 and were shortlisted for the Professional Lighting Design Recognition Award as ‘Best Newcomer’ that same year. Edward Bartholomew is recognised as an early thought leader within the international darkness movement. From his first publications in 2003 he has given voice to the utility and beauty of designed darkness in his writings and talks. Edward supports a holistic approach to design that is based on composed luminance including darkness.

Eduardo Gonçalves is currently finishing his PhD in “Adaptive Lighting as an Approach to Urban Lighting Design”. Through his work, Eduardo attempts to understand the thresholds of lighting and darkness that allow users to maintain their sense of security, visual comfort and orientation in night-time urban spaces, by considering adaptive lighting.

Paulina Villalobos grew up in the Atacama Desert and therefore has a strong personal relationship with clear, dark and star-rich night skies. After gaining experience in Germany, Japan and Sweden she returned to Chile to set up the design practice DIAV. Paulina is the founder of Noche Zero, a movement whose goal it is to create a broader awareness of light pollution and the importance of dark skies, and to enhance communication between the experts in the field.

Christopher ‘Kit” Cuttle has a vast experience in lighting research and consultancy and is currently a visiting lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology. Kit has made important contributions to the lighting community through his books and research papers. Kit’s most significant contribution is possibly his work on Perceived Adequacy of Illumination (PAI) where he proposes a radical change in indoor lighting standards where Mean Room Surface Exitance (MRSE) would be the specified lighting criteria.

Koert Vermeulen is a lighting designer working in stage, event and architectural lighting. He is the owner and director of the design practice ACT in Brussels, and he and his team work on projects in all parts of the world. In all his work he shows immense sensitivity towards the use of darkness for effect. […]


These panellists summarise their main ideas on the topic of darkness and its role and significance as a design tool in PLD No. 89.
And our PLD magazine app (iPad App Store) contains a media-enhanced version.

My opinion:

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