Lighting is the ultimate design effect. Paradoxically, though, the best interior lighting effect is not even perceived. Because light is all around us, it is often taken for granted, as the great Nasrudin pointed out: The moon is more important than the sun, because it’s light during the day anyway. But we still need lighting specialists, as Robert La Bua finds out.
The concept of lighting design as a tool in a larger interior design plan is a relatively new phenomenon that has enjoyed strong growth thanks to recent scientific advances in the production of artificial light. A century ago, a crystal chandelier in the centre of the room was considered the non plus ultra of electric light fixtures; that chandelier was itself a technological advancement over the candle-holding predecessor from which its name is derived. Today, numerous lighting options exist from a variety of sources. The formerly omnipresent and comparatively inefficient incandescent bulb is being replaced by light produced from fluorescent, lightemitting diodes (LED), and high-intensity discharge (HID) sources. As in every other aspect of design, new technology is spurring creativity on the field.
One of Switzerland’s leading companies in its field, Zurich-based d’lite lichtdesign adroitly embraces the latest possibilities in lighting design. It has realised a number of notable projects around the country with an artistic flair to complement the functionality of lighting needs, as shown to great effect in the implementation of Christoph T. Hunziker’s brilliantly original lighting design for Zurich’s Leutschenpark. Other d’lite lichtdesign projects include everything from highway viaducts to public swimming pools and museum buildings.
Perhaps it is the play of Alpine colours and light that encourages thinkers to see lighting in new ways. Switzerland’s neighbour to the east is a surprising locus for research and development of new techniques in lighting design. As any visitor to Lobmayr’s dazzling Kärntner Straße showroom in Vienna can tell you, the Austrians have known a thing or two about lighting for a long time. The interest in lighting continues today in the quietly innovative Tyrol region, where just outside Innsbruck lies the modest headquarters of one of the world’s leading light design companies, Bartenbach Lichtlabor. A round building constructed with maximum thought to natural daylight, the Bartenbach Lichtlabor headquarters is itself a prime example of the use of light in the most energy-efficient manner possible. For both natural and artificial light applications, the company undertakes extensive research before applying it to the clients’ needs; sometimes it invents research tools for its own use. A white dome sitting at one end of an expansive room enables Bartenbach Lichtlabor to replicate the daylight at any given time of day on any point on Earth. This artificial sky, six metres in diameter, allows for viewing three-dimensional models of buildings to observe the effects and results of exterior lighting strategies in ways not possible in digital simulation.
One of Bartenbach’s most ambitious projects was a plan to use large heliostats (turning mirrors) to ref lect winter sunlight into the Alpine town of Rattenberg, where the nearby Rat Mountain blocks direct sunlight in the coldest months of the year. With its artificial sky, Bartenbach Lichtlabor has been able to take on some very large projects ranging from imposing edifices making statements of power to sacred buildings where lighting must be particularly sensitive to the spirituality of the venue. From the intimate public rooms of Zurich’s stunning Widder Hotel to the Roche Convention Center in Buonas (ZG) and the even larger Basel Trade Fair, Bartenbach Lichtlabor has a wellestablished presence in Switzerland – though, as is the case with welldesigned lighting systems, you may not have even noticed.
Article by Robert La Bua