At the 2011 Professional Lighting Design Conference in Madrid, architect and lighting expert Thomas Schielke gave a detailed lecture entitled "Luminous walls: From stained glass windows via modernist wallwashing to pixelated planes". For those who were unable to attend the enlightening speech, Schielke details the finer points here...
Luminous walls: From stained glass windows via modernist wallwashing to pixelated planes Abstract
Luminous walls belong to the essential repertoire of qualitative lighting design. With light, spaces can be defined and reinterpreted. Illuminated walls allow us to provide orientation and to perceive the form and dimension of space. Further, their glow and play of brilliants could bestow a space with an impressing scenography. The lecture by Thomas Schielke at the Professional Lighting Design Convention in Madrid revealed a timeline to explain different lighting approaches: From backlit stained glass windows for spiritual enlightenment in the gothic period to modernist uniform wallwashing. Contemporary examples opened the view for pixelated colour changing planes based on LED and OLED technology. The talk with an overview of international projects covered lighting methods and techniques for luminous walls and their visual appearance for interior spaces. With a perception-orientated design
perspective the architect could use vertical illuminance to create bright spaces and thereby also contribute to sustainable lighting solutions.
Daylight: Mashrabiya and Shoji for filtering sunlight
Diaphanous stained glass walls created colourful fields in gothic architecture. In contrast to Romanesque art with small to midsize windows the gothic churches with their stone skeleton pioneered the application of enormous glass walls. Religious stories were arranged over several windows to achieve a dynamic imagery. Sites with strong sunlight developed fascinating details with stone and paper to achieve a glare shield for looking through luminous planes. In Islamic architecture, the Jali presents an example of a stone latticed screen based on traditional calligraphy and ornaments. The Mashrabiya would be the Arabic equivalent of a wooden latticework. In contrast, the Shoji doors with their translucent paper form a classical Japanese component to balance the contrast of a bright exterior and darker interior.
Wallwashing: Luminous walls as formgivers for architecture
Modernism with its redefinition of the plane, which was intellectually developed e.g. by Theo van Doesburg, El Lissitzky and Mies van der Rohe, led to a new way of illumination. Walls were set up as uniform luminous screens. The German Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona, is probably the first example for an electrical backlit translucent glass wall. For the later 860-880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe continued his pursuit for backlit walls before he realised in collaboration with Richard Kelly the uniformly wallwashed lobby for the Seagram Building in New York. Later, the uniform wallwashing was turned into a standard element for museum lighting to render the architecture, as well as, illuminating the artwork. From a perceptive point of view, lighting walls is an efficient
instrument for creating an impression of a bright environment due to people's directed forward gaze and the high reflectance of mainly white walls.
Dynamic pixel planes: Aestheticization of LED pixels
The desire to dynamically control daylight was addressed by Jean Nouvel with a façade pattern of mechanical irises on the façade of L´Institut du Monde. With the development of LEDs, lighting designers were able to pick up the concept of dynamic light pixels for interior spaces. The first installations by artists and designers showed the purely technical looking LED in rectangular patterns. Primary colours generated by RGB technology dominated the atmosphere and led to intense colour contrasts due to the high saturation. Adding sensors enabled interactive installations like the memory wall in the Hotel Puerto America in Madrid. LED wallpaper concepts reflect the ambition of lighting designers to enclose our living rooms with dynamic LED pixels. The combination of LED or OLED walls with video screen technology has brought high resolution images into our environment raising the question as to if we are more interested in luminous walls, LED pixels or dynamic imagery.
View supporting lecture slides here.
Professional Lighting Design Convention
Editorial , London
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