Text: Brad Koerner

05. May 2010

Less or Else is Becoming a Bore
Creating a sustainable and innovative future for Lighting Design

Is it possible in this age of media facades, coloured dynamic lighting and information overflow to make do with simpler more sustainable concepts? Of course it is! Perhaps it is the idea of Less is More that appeals to us right now. Creativity on the part of the designer is what is required.

Architectural lighting is poised for a dramatic transition into innovative new applications and approaches to sustainability. To summarize this transition, let’s look at architectural history through the lens of Mies van der Rohe’s famous quip “less is more”: More is more: classical architecture in an age with limited technical and material capability. Less is more: modern architecture responding to the abundance of the industrial age. Less is a bore: post-modern architecture seeking to reconcile minimalism with a consumer society.
Less or else: the struggle to develop “sustainable” strategies using pre-existing paradigms and technologies. Let’s propose a new strategy:
More for less: finding a guilt-free, sustainable lifestyle as culturally rich and pleasurable as any previous trend. It is quite apparent that the lighting design community is tiring of stuffing decades-old technologies and lighting paradigms into the limited metric of ever-decreasing watts per square foot or meter. Lighting designers are hungry for new technologies, new fixture applications and new opportunities to work with architects to develop creative new design approaches. If we want to find the pleasure inherently possible in living sustainably, then we need to change broader attitudes in the design profession. This requires an approach far more complex then simply forcing down allowed watts per square foot.

Accepting random variability and darkness as wonderful things
Encouraged by various sustainable design initiatives, architectural technology is moving from the tectonics based “isolated shelter: humans versus nature” approach toward an approach that considers buildings as living, dynamic organisms, constantly exchanging energy and resources with their surrounding ecosystems. Therefore, designers of buildings need to move beyond their constant drive to create interior environmental stasis and pervasive homogeneity of light and air: They need to explore and exploit natural patterns of variability. In lighting, this means ignoring decades old “best practices” routed in fixed equipment that was either on/off, with fixed outputs, without any functionality for accommodating change, and instead exploring more naturally derived patterns of light and shadow, variable colour palettes, visual patterns, and other forms of dynamic change. Darkness is wonderful: it helps people see the light. Designers must learn to not be so scared of it. And variability keeps a space alive, long after the design and construction process has ended. […]
The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 71

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