DUBAI. Fagerhult in association with APID has held an event at the city’s trendiest places, Intersect by Lexus. This unique event brought together architects, interior designers and lighting industry professionals to discuss the phenomena of light. Conversation was kindled by Henrik Clausen, the Director of Fagerhult Lighting Academy. Henrik spoke of the human aspect of light. “Light makes us recognise each other as living beings,” Clausen said. His talk called for deeper understanding of the effect of light in any environment on personal wellbeing. This visionary approach supported by the academic research in Denmark results in adoption of new standards by manufacturing and consulting community and novel methods of controlling light.
Maestro Mario Nanni, artist of light and founder of Viabizzuno, legendary architectural lighting firm. He presented his eight rules of light in 2010 in Milan. They are only eight but they are eternal. We have been since keen on finding them in English, but in vain. Here is our endeavour to interpret them.
Rule 1. Absence of Presence
Presence of light, yet absence of a vehicle of light. Magic of emotion and no evidence of a source of light. Transcendence of an object as its surface is washed with the light from a hidden spring.
Rule 2. Light where needed
Chemistry of light: we see in an environment with little light, with almost no light. Just right amount of light allows us to catch expressions, sensations and attention. Light and the only light. Where needed.
Rule 3. The thickness of light
To have thickness is to have volume, to have volume is to create a shadow. The shadow brings out the light, the latter generates volume and defines the space. This light discovers and reads architecture. Light and materia accompany each other.
Rule 4. Light is a construction material
A project is not only a material, it is also a light. Architecture is a projection of light. Too often light is a corrective measure to hide or improve something that has already taken a shape. The light that is invisible yet sensible becomes a material, hence it is necessary to build with light.
Rule 5. Praise the shadow
The dimmer the light, the more powerful it is. Architectural form is born on the border between light and darkness. Positive and negative, the shade empties the light and fills it in. There is no need to use a lot of light to emphasise the object — the shadow will do it.
Rule 6. Moving light
Light follows the rhythm of the Sun, bringing up accents of architecture, its symbols and narrative of the city and its protagonists. The story unfolds. Like in case with Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Variable Image Lamp — VIL — projects blocks of light transforming the surface it hits, changing the boundaries and the depth of the façade itself.
Rule 7. The light creates colour
No object retains constant colour during the day. Darkness washes colours away, because colour is the light. Light gives all its tones, and therefore it is a necessary tool in a lighting designer’s box.
Rule 8. Emotion undescribed
The undescribed emotion of nothing is a powerful feeling, a pleasant sensation experienced in the moment when light wraps the space all around without manifesting itself. The meaning of things is evoked and subtle magic is done. No special effects are needed to light up the sculpture of Sleeping Hermaphroditus. Voluptuous forms need no accent; instead the light must follow a spectator’s glance.
Original text can be found on SpazioFMGperl’architettura. None of us speaks Italian, but we speak the language of light, so in part this translation of Mario Nanni’s Rules could be considered free. Should any of our readers find a proper English version, we would be happy to post on Light Intelligence.
Photo of Borghese’ Sleeping Hermaphroditus credit: Marie-Lan Nguen
We met with Michel Zayat, a prominent architect and artist, in a cosy art nouveau interior of Cafe Belge in DIFC to talk about architecture and light. Michel lives and works in Dubai, UAE, has an exciting history in his home Damascus, Syria. There together with his wife and a friend of his life, Salma, they run a famous designer store Yabe and Yamo. He taught arts and architecture at Damascus University, worked in Rome, Italy. Geography of Zayat’s projects is as vast as the Middle East: from UAE to Jordan, and to Saudi Arabia, and spread onto Algeria, North Africa. Michel’s father, Elias Zayat, is one of the most famous Syrian artists, and our conversation veers to paintings.
Nikita Che: “Is there a parallel between a light on a canvas, and in the panes of a building?”
Michel Zayat: “A painting emits light. Masterfully schemed onto the canvas, it pours out and captures the observer. He is caught! He is inside the plot. Remember Caravaggio ‘Calling of St. Matthew?’ No visible source of light, yet it penetrates the room and spills beyond the canvas. A candle, a shade on a protagonist’s face, a window, all play their role in shining the light from the painting.
“These elaborate techniques may as well be used in 3D spaces. Habitually we are all about lighting fixtures when we talk about light in architecture. Though arsenal of an architect is as wide as an artist’s. Colour, daylight, geometry and orientation of the room, shadows, you name it! How to get maximum light in a classroom, and decrease heat and glare? Locate it in the North of a building. “It is a pity that many architects and their clients have lost the sense of a daylight. We forgot how to make use of it, and all we do is fighting it.”
NC: “Any good examples?”
MZ: “Index Tower in Dubai is probably one of the few.”
NC: “What makes good artificial light?”
MZ: “Imagine a castle. Its dungeon would be lit with torches fixed on the walls of a passage. Scars dimmed light, barely enough for a poor prisoner to find his surroundings. Now fly up high to the tower where a beautiful princess reads romances, an elaborate chandelier with hundreds of candles lights her pages. Light follows the function of a room, and often creates this very function. Few of us now live in castles, but can easily turn their living room in a disco. A good architect, conscious about lighting matters would always give a client an option to select between layers of light.”
NC: “What is the role of a luminaire in this?”
MZ: “The choice is always dictated by client’s experience, his background, knowledge, vision. Unfortunately often it becomes shopping for clothes, and individual taste comes on the foreground. Like one is choosing a shirt.”
NC: “Can a lighting designer help?”
MZ: “I have never properly worked with a lighting designer. The nature of your projects defines the necessity to employ a designer. A hospital needs lighting designer, a school, a museum does. Hotel lobbies, restaurants are spaces where architects intuition sets the light. Occasionally lighting suppliers come into the picture and offer their scheme. I would not call it a good thing at all. A supplier would bring commercial note into the selection.”
NC: “Have you designed your own luminaires?”
MZ: “I have! Creating a lighting fixture is a sculpture for me. Light then becomes a material, like steel, marble, mother pearl. One object is especially dear for me — Corn. It is from my childhood, when street merchants used to sell corn from an immense wide halleh dara, a shallow pot. Made of thick copper, and sanded and fumed from inside to rid off toxic corrosion, the pot was always heated by fire and kept the water hot. It took one large ball of copper and a patient craftsman with a hammer to make such a flat large object.
“My Corns were not that thick and we painted them pink, white and black from inside. The idea was to bring light in memories. One day you will see them in Dubai.”
NC: “Which materials do you use?”
MZ: “My favorite trinity: wood, metal and plastic. Plastic is a modern boisterous antagonist of the former two. They have been around for centuries, and then came plastic and disrupted.”
NC: “What is the light source you used in your luminaires?”
MZ: “I love that simple bulb in the middle of the a fixture. It becomes a focal point. That bulb and a socket base, a machine that transforms the power of electricity into light. The bulb is a simple and genius invention.”
“A candle lights a room, a bulb lights a room, everything extra is non essential. Nothing could replace an incandescent lamp, and it is such a shame it is banned now. I ask myself: a generation that would grow without the bulb, which symbol would they use when a bright idea strikes them!?” (laughs)