Show me your light

Thomas Geuder
30. March 2016
This year, the Light+Building trade fair was a highlight, where there was much to discover. In the photograph: trade fair presence of XAL. (photo: Mathias Duerr)

Every two years, Light+Building in Frankfurt/Main is a true feast for lighting and technology freaks. Here you find what makes engineer’s and electrician’s heart leap with joy. This is all the more true because we are in a phase of change. The digital revolution, which has been pervading the society for years, now arrives in the building. All parties involved in building are called upon to develop further and to readjust. Accordingly, expectations on this year’s edition of Light+Building were high, not least because the Frankfurt trade fair company has proclaimed a motto, which focuses on the future the building industry can expect. «Where modern spaces come to life: digital – individual – networked» should demonstrate that a building will be used differently in the future. With healthy lighting, which adapts to the cycle of natural daylight (Human Centric Lighting), building automation, which automatically adapts to human needs (Smart Building), networking within an entire city (Smart City), and all that with (of course) top-quality design and high levels of energy efficiency. Put simply: «modern spaces». The six days of the trade fair should illustrate what this could look like in detail.

iGuzzini carried off visitors to the completely refurbished «Light Experience». (photo: Mathias Duerr)

One thing can be said in advance: Those who have visited the trade fair could return home with many good and important impressions. The exhibitors presented new ideas primarily in fields they master especially well. For example, in design: Italian companies like Artemide, iGuzzini, Viabizzuno, Reggiani, Flos or Davide Groppi have, as usual, presented real fireworks of shapes and colours. Additionally, iGuzzini put forward «Light Experience», some kind of dark room, where all important innovations were presented as a show to the amazed visitors. Numerous other manufacturers of design-oriented luminaires in Halls 1 and 3 also had a lot to offer. As one would expect, we saw refreshing ideas at the stands of Ingo Maurer and Ben Wirth, which once again subtly bring one’s own view of the topic of luminaire design into question. Sattler impressed with perfectly illuminated and reduced light rings, and we found another well-detailed light ring – yet without a gap – at Occhio. At the trade fair stand of major companies like Zumtobel, Osram (both firms in the Festhalle, as always) and Philips, the treasure box was well filled. British LED luminaire manufacturer acdc, which has belonged to the Zumtobel Group since last autumn, has been represented in the Festhalle for the first time.

Three dimmable LEDs are concealed inside the «Lucy» table luminaire. (photo: Mathias Duerr)

One or the other manufacturer with a rather technically oriented design vocabulary featured a rather unexpected eye-catcher as a breakaway for this year’s Light+Building, for example Erco with the «Lucy» table luminaire or Delta Light with the stylish «Butler» shade lamp conceived by French designer Erok Levy. It was also noticeable that many a manufacturer joined forces with the car industry in respect of design, engineering and technology, for example Occhio with Audi for the «Sintesi» luminaire concept or Artemide with Mercedes-Benz for «Ameluna». BMW has collaborated with Gira.

We discovered an elegant OLED solution at Buschfeld. (photo: Mathias Duerr)

 There was an almost philosophic atmosphere at nimbus, the LED pioneer from Stuttgart, who besides an intelligent swarm technology, where the luminaires communicating with one another automatically adjust proactively according to changing room situations, also presented the «Take-away light». Their «Roxxane Leggera CL» luminaire (CL stands for cable-free light) reverses one’s own understanding of artificial light, from permanently installed ceiling light or the individual floor lamp to mobile light, as in the bygone days of candlelight. This brings us to an unexpected discovery: Buschfeld, renowned for deliberately reduced luminaire design, presented the «o-light» luminaire system by designer Sebastian Herkner for their linear low voltage rails, where the rectangular modules infinitely move in circles and can even be taken off and re-attached at a different place. The special ting about it: the light of the module is provided by an OLED by LG (by the way, this is also the case for the Oviso luminaire family by Ribag). In terms of OLED, this was, however, the only true highlight we were able to discover at the trade fair. Most of the other manufacturers are currently in waiting – and we had expected a slightly higher spirit of research.

Light is not always the same: this becomes all the more apparent with the latest LED generation by Soraa. (photo: Mathias Duerr)

One of the more recent issues planners direct at manufacturers is the light quality of LEDs. Even though some producers address the topic of «Human Centric Light», that is the change of the light colour according to the course of natural daylight, which the trade fair company declared as key topic, many of them were not able to provide satisfactory information regarding colour reproduction and even less regarding flickering. Light simply isn’t always the same, and so our guide Michael Rohde (L-Plan Lighting Design) pointed out during his tours of the trade fair that many luminaires quiver in a way that is not visible for the human eye, but noticeable for a measuring device. The flickering is not just a matter of the slow motion transfer from the football stadium, but also of the effects on our health. Soraa from California (co-founded by Shuji Nakamura, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for the development of the blue LED) has taught as a great deal about this subject as well as about improved colour reproduction. Their LEDs are not only «flicker-free» but have an additional purple tinge, which considerably enhances colour reproduction and thus the light quality. This was unique at this year’s Light+Building!

 By the way, a very practical and elegant solution attracted our attention at JUNG: the company from Schalksmühle is renowned for their elegant LS 990 switches, which has also been available in original Le Corbusier colours since Light + Building 2014. This series has been consistently developed further into the «LS zero» series as flush variant. This is made possible by a special attachment on the flush-mounted box, which can be plastered or smoothed over. This is reduction consistently thought through to the end.

In the technology halls, visitors could get an idea of the future «Smart Building». In the photo: Digitalstrom. (photo: Markus Bachmann)

Another important part of the trade fair motto was networking, that is «Smart Building». Here, several communication technologies, both as hardware and as software, are still circulating. KNX (popular among technicians) or ZigBee (rather favoured by luminaire manufacturers), as well as DALI are the most common technologies. However, many firms still go their own way - without really being «smart». Thereby it is not actually a question of which standard or technology will become prevalent in the future. It’s more important that intersections are open and everyone can and may interact with everyone else. We have, after all, discovered two networkers, who promise highest levels of individuality: The start-up company mozaiq (a joint venture between ABB, Bosch and Cisco Systems) promises an easy to operate, cloud-based software system, which can be operated with the end customer’s hardware - manufacturer- and system-independent. The company Digitalstrom from Switzerland, which we already know since the last Light+Building, offers something similar and provides both the software and the hardware. The special feature: the communication between the components in the smarten network takes place via existing power lines, with a central unit in the fuse box; additional cabling is not necessary. This is particularly interesting for refurbishment projects in existing buildings or as cable-saving solution in new construction. That way, components in a Smart Building can be freely and individually orchestrated. This is – we think – the only way how the Smart Building can really come true in the future.

6 trade fair days, 16 exciting Guided Tours (during the day and in the evening) with more than 700 happy participants from 32 countries, about 50 kilometres walked per member of the editorial team – this is the summary of our Light+Building 2016. Furthermore, Messe Frankfurt reports 2,589 exhibitors from 55 countries on an exhibition area of 248,500 square metres and about 216,000 professional visitors. We are looking forward – according to expectations - to 2018!

The start-up company mozaiq shows how networking in a building, which is similarly easy to operate as a smartphone, can be laid out. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
«Light is colour» was not only the motto of XAL, but could be found as «Human Centric Light» at many other manufacturers, … (photo: Mathias Duerr)
… for example at Es-System. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
Poetic or philosophic, depending on the point of view: mobile light at nimbus. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
nimbus was again represented with a second booth, where the swarm intelligence of light was demonstrated by means of an elaborate architectural model. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
Cooledge presented really large luminous displays. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
Our guide Birgit Walter (2nd from right) immediately gathered several students around her, here at acdc. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
Familiar and brand new products could be admired at the stand of luminaire poet Ingo Maurer. (photograph: Mathias Duerr)
The LED line by LED Linear allows versatile applications. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
Without any light and yet practical and elegant: flush switches by JUNG, also available as recessed version. (photo: Mathias Duerr)
The World-Architects trade fair team thanks all participants of the Guided Tours and Luminale Tours, the guides and Messe Frankfurt (from left to right): Mathias Duerr, Julia Heil, Thomas Geuder, Peter Petz, Martin Bosshart, Renato Turri and (not in the picture) Sabina Marreiros. (photo: Mathias Duerr)

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