26 June 2019

The new directions of lighting design: Euroluce

The lengthier rhythm of Euroluce, with its biennial cadence, is evident in the marking of new design trends. While the economic and political situation outside the Salone has changed a good deal over the last two years, and not necessarily for the better, a certain clarity shines through the lighting world.

For instance, the tendency to distinguish between decorative lighting, which is more sculptural and artistic (the installation is its apotheosis) and architectural lighting, which focuses, almost imperceptibly, on the quality of the environments, is becoming more apparent. More space is given over in the fairground pavilions to the first line of research, decorative lighting. There is a marked trend towards what one might define as design “à la Anastassiades”, given the obvious referencing of the great Anglo-Cypriot designer, with his balanced rods and spheres, pure lines and geometric shapes. Generally-speaking, it is clear that ceiling lights are no longer confined to being primary light sources, but have become articulated systems of markers that take over the ‘highest’ spaces of rooms (between around 210 centimetres and 300 centimetres), informing a new decorative alphabet and reprising the oft-forgotten ‘architectural dimension’.

Table and floor lamps, too, often harness the exclusive relationship between form and function, taking on novel symbolic values: the volumes, particularly those in glass, are no longer simply sophisticated shapes, but allude to other ‘content’. They are, therefore, not simply there for the purpose of providing light, but have ‘stories to tell’.

It is fair to say that a narrative component has incontrovertibly entered the world of lighting design.

Rediscovering the past

On the subject of ‘stories’, the lighting world is also looking back in time with relish. Past masterpieces – this edition featured cult objects, designed by Ignazio Gardella, Mario Bellini and André Ricard for example - have acquired true totemic value. Equally, lessons from the past have become formal paradigms for new applications: lighting appliances are often nostalgic in tone, with containers with overtones of yesteryear paradoxically created around increasingly revolutionary light sources.

Not everything harnesses such direct references. Sophisticated decorative approaches also draw on the ambiances of the past, ideal for banishing the contemporary fear of empty space, with the great Murano multi-arm chandelier making a powerful comeback, sometimes ‘inhabited’ by butterflies, tulips or fantastic creatures of all sorts and kinds.

Surrounded by nature

Allusions to nature undoubtedly formed a dominant trend at Euroluce 2019, with the plant world directly referenced with analogies between lighting distribution circuits and the horizontal and vertical growth of tree branches, complete with tubers and (luminous) bugs. Even the seabed, with underwater plants and mysterious spiky fish, became a source of inspiration for increasingly evocative atmospheric lighting. Equally, moving away from botany to mineralogy, precious stones and raw crystals were used to allude to the neo-primitivism that is already an acknowledged furnishing trend, even more effective when channelled by glass and light. Basically, nature was being narrated at Euroluce contemporaneously with Broken Nature, the title of the XXII edition of the Triennale di Milano, but in a much more poetic and positive vein.

Less efficiency and more magic

We shouldn’t imagine, however, that the huge wave of innovations born of research into applications for LED lighting has ground to a halt. The miniaturisation of sources has led to the creation of formally minimalistic objects (arched or round, pure geometric shapes in any case) that nevertheless achieve an impressive evocative glow (and performance). The ‘quality’ of light is certainly a major factor (how distant those 500 Watt halogen light bulbs now seem!!!), along with, in many cases, a general focus on environmental comfort (especially in the contract field), with sound absorption systems (and/or sound diffusion systems) built into the appliances.

Another technologically advanced research strand is geared to overcoming our subservience to light bulbs fed by electric circuits, connected to walls or ceilings, replacing them with appliances powered by high efficiency, long life batteries. Not just, as has been observed for some time, portable ‘table candles’, but actual wire-less lamps, even floor lamps, vanquishing the last ‘taboo’ of lighting design.

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