Light graphics as a design to perceive space
The arrangement of the light emitters generates luminance patterns in the space at the same time as it illuminates it, defining a compositional imprint. This graphic generated by its own light allows us to communicate a space, furnish identity, or convey content by turning the emitter into the owner of the rhythm and protagonist, forging an indivisible or individual relationship between object/light/space.
Establishing luminous sparkles in a space focuses our attention on them as a counterpoint to the light they emit on the place. The composition they fashion is the main character in the architectural event, a powerful tool for communication and spatial organization.
In 2006, in partnership with B720 Arquitectos we won the competition for Torico Square in Teruel, the city’s largest square and which for the most part was a paving project. The approach was to convey the historical path of the water that ran down the square’s slope to the underground tanks, now turned into a museum, through flowing luminescent inlays and showing people that the water tank was underground, where the inlays were arranged. It was a bold architectural intervention in which light took center stage by capitalizing on the message.
Lines or points, so often used in lighting layout, achieve greater expressive power when designed in harmony with the space or as a whole.
In 1998, in the project for the public areas of the NH Tango Hotel in Buenos Aires, the composition of the downlights was planned as a whole, generating curves in the ceiling around the origin of the façade curve. Likewise, in the Eurobuilding Hotel in Madrid in 2002, the downlight rhythms intertwined the rooms in the public areas to identify them as a single space. This was followed by the Porta Fira Hotel project in Barcelona where the downlights in three dimensions were broken up or clustered to accentuate the areas of the hotel to which the customer or user was to be steered.
The compositional resource used through the arrangement of points in previous projects evolved in Torico Square to the line, a chromatic element not intended to furnish the site with levels but rather only with the mindset of conveying a message, content with its rhythmic brightness, a light to be observed.
From the start of this design process, Dan Flavin, the master of artistic repetition with light and color, influenced and inspired us with his fluorescent tube installations.
The lighting line approach reached its highest expression in the project for the DHUB Design Center in Barcelona begun in 2011, in which the whole museum is made through linear lighting elements or rails. The lighting concept arose from the chromatic vector as a mechanism of attraction, expanding across several implementations and cadences with the goal of captivating the new museum’s audience by conveying a rhythmic code of light and color.
The repetition of the lighting elements harnessing RGBW technology made it possible to illuminate the room with uniform white light while also bringing out the content of the temporary events taking place through color.
Outside the museum, in a reinterpretation of the Torico Square intervention, the concept turned into an experience with the creation of the “BruumRuum” light art where the interaction with people through urban microphones operated on a graphic light pattern inspired by sound to generate a positive impact.
This ability to create light installations afforded by the composition of points and lines is accentuated in spaces with depth or perspective, making them into places of compositional opportunity as is the case of stairwells.
In the Ohla Barcelona Hotel in 2011, we had the chance to experiment with the repetition of lighting elements in its stairwell. We were surprised to see how perspective improved the composition of the unpretentious point luminaires which sought to match the installation on the outside wall.
In the chain’s next hotel, Ohla Eixample in 2016, we worked on reiteration in the stairwell by exploring perspective and adding the dimension of color, red, since the staircase was the heart of the hotel. This time round we chose to use linear LED lighting fixtures, inexpensive and widely available on the market, which were better integrated into the staircase’s geometric design. The outcome was the creation of a light art piece, Stairs to H@ll, where viewing it generated astonishment and a new perception of the staircase concept.
Inspired by the power and message conveyed by compositions with lines of light, we further explored designing modular elements to simplify their adaptation and application. This is the case of the bespoke product created for the Water of Life temporary exhibition at Expo Zaragoza 2008, in which the sum of luminous linear modules, carrying light along their entire length, form a large circular chandelier that symbolized a waterfall and aimed to raise awareness of water as a source of life.
In a later assignment at the Gran Casino Costa Brava project in Lloret de Mar in 2010, we used a grid of color-changing luminaires with pixel-by-pixel control to create a permeable façade that formed a low-resolution chromatic skin to grab visitors’ attention with its moving light effects.
After exploring lighting composition in linear or point mode for 25 years, in 2019 we were commissioned to design a linear lighting system that would enable each user to create their own composition and could be tailored to a range of spaces and applications. Used to dealing with linear or point arrangements conceptually separated in each project, we discovered that the sum of both in the same product layout enriches the combination and its functionality. It also brings a feeling of calm to the design as both items are balanced; like light and shadow, one needs the other to reveal itself. Thus, Libera for iGuzzini came about in 2023, a modular lighting system in which the linear line is as significant as its point of union, origin or end, offering the freedom to compose with light wherever it is required.
From an agnostic perspective, the paths of design are inscrutable and, project by project, we are deciphering and experimenting to then synthesize into something new. What seems obvious or what might work calls for daring to become concrete and to be balanced, functional, and esthetic.