Fontana Arte "Equatore" by Gabriele and Oscar Buratti

The subtle difference

Light + Building recently closed its doors to the public in Frankfurt/Main. Which topics are people still talking about? Here is Stylepark’s retrospective overview of the fair.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 4/3/2018

The age of inefficient light bulbs is thankfully over – save from a last flare-up of vintage bulbs in hip cafés and bars. LEDs and OLEDs are the energy-saving and versatile luminaires of the day. At Light + Building in Frankfurt, many luminaire manufacturers went another step further, with their professed design goal now being the invisible light source. Fontana Arte’s “Equatore” is a re-interpretation of the traditional glass-shade model. It eschews the illuminant thus far accommodated in the diffuser and emits light via two glowing LED disks. Indirect surface lighting subtly framed in metal and glass was ubiquitous at the world's leading trade fair for lighting and building services technology. The atmosphere at many of the stands was correspondingly pleasant. For example at that of Vibia, where the soft lighting designs by Stefan Diez, Antoni Arola, Arik Levy, Note Design Studio and Lievore Altherr were staged using light wood. It was above all “Guise” by Stefan Diez that almost magically drew visitor’s index fingers towards it: Manufactured using borosilicate glass and with delicate rows of LEDs, it produces a pure, shadow-free light when positioned both horizontally and vertically, with the light being emitted outwards via a structure engraved in the glass. Its activation is also invisible: A sensor activates the function when the object is approached, thus eliminating the need to touch it. The formula freeing illuminants from clunky switches or undesirable fingerprints on the glass is called “touchless control.” Occhio also harnesses this advance towards elegance and lightness with its continuously variable circular LED pendant light “Mito sospeso,” now available in further premium hues such as rose gold, bronze and matte gold. Optimized Bluetooth control now allows users to operate the lighting in their smart homes via apps or “air” controller systems without the need to get off the couch. Many manufacturers didn’t want to pass up the additional convenience – such as Shade with the filigree pendant luminaire “The Orb.”

Artemide "Gople Lamp" by BIG Bjarke Ingels Group
Shade "The Orb" by Øivind Alexander Slaatto

Light and airy

While restrained and diffuse lighting spread through the fair space, the luminaires on show were extremely delicate to the eye, for example the fiberglass and aluminum light object “Luce Volante” by Ingo Maurer, floating through the air like a panel of fabric, or “Blow me up” by the same manufacturer, an inflatable, cigar-shaped piece. The lightweight lamp, originally produced only in a silver version, is now also available in blue, green and purple. There was also a boom in glass lamps at the fair, whether as pastel floor lamps with an exquisite stand in gold or brass, such as the model “Phenomena” by Bomma, as slender wall lamps such as “Ripls” by Louis Poulsen, or as suspended luminaires in matte white with an ombre color gradient, as in the case of Artemide’s “Gople Lamp.” Everywhere the trend was towards soft, glare-free lighting with an almost transparent silhouette. “Diphy_S” by Linea Light pursues this objective especially consistently: Its finely engraved acrylic glass spreads the light evenly outwards from a central LED strip. While all these delicate luminaires appear extremely restrained when switched off, their true nature is revealed when activated. The paradigm-shifting “Gople Lamp” for example utilizes a patented RWB system (red-white-blue) allowing users to control light quality and color. This is said to have a positive effect on humans and plants. With all this lightness and transparency everywhere even paper lanterns made from fabric and rice paper made a comeback. This was certainly the case at the stand of Davide Groppi, where the large pendant light “Moon” from 2005 was showcased, Anthony Dickens showed the Paper Lamp "Tekio" at the booth by Santa & Cole and Japanese label Suzusan, where fabric luminaires unusually shaped by folding, binding, knotting and sewing using the “Shibori technique” created a relaxing atmosphere. Sarah Dehandschutter joined the calmy ambience and stretched textile tightly over a metal frame for "IIII.03".

Vibia "Guise" by Stefan Diez
Linea Light Group "Diphy_S"

Rigorous lines, soft light

Even in those cases where higher visibility was desired, producers rarely employed brighter colors. The colorful table lamps “Dipping Light” by Marset, with their glass spheres having been repeatedly dipped into liquid paint, were a welcome exception. Instead, the exhibitors showed a preference for geometric structures. David Abad’s LED light panels, for instance, form part of a sculptural structure inspired by the works of one of the leading artists of Classical Modernism, Piet Mondrian. Arik Levy’s wall lamps “Structural” and floor lamp “Sticks” bring clear lines into the space. The luminous rods of the pendant luminaire “Palito Mikado” by Sattler are crossed in a fashion reminiscent of the familiar dexterity game. Meanwhile, Artemide draws the perfect circle with “Discovery,” a light sculpture with a glowing surface that may be hung freely in the space.

Buschfeld showed that geometric structures in lighting design don’t need to be two-dimensional with the expansive light object “Freestyler.” In Lucie Koldova’s series “Jack O’Lantern” for Brokis, thin metal profiles hold a matte glass orb. At Zero, we witnessed the light cage “Hoop” gaining a playful character in new soft color tones of blue, orange and white. combined three current trends in lighting design in one luminaire: “Reflex2,” a further development of a previous model, sees the filigree cube shape combined with an invisible light source, plus regulation via Bluetooth technology. The geometric structure is illuminated via LED boards and a prismatic reflector surface and features tunable white technology from pure to warm white. It can be regulated via app. In the context of all of these straight lines, the floral design of porcelain wall lamp “Spilla,” the product of a collaboration between Sattler and Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg, appeared almost inordinately quaint.

Vibia "Sticks" by Arik Levy
Brokis "Jack o'Lantern" by Lucie Koldová
Davide Groppi "Moon"
Suzusan "Shizuku Pendant Lamp"

Dynamic control

A pleasantly decorative note could be found in the sphere of acoustic lighting with two products on view at the stand of Light + Building newbie Buzzispace, namely the “Buzzihat” by Alain Gilles and “BuzziPleat LED” by 13&9 Design luminaires. Rather more functionally oriented, but no less interesting, were “Farel” by Diego Sferrazza, who pulled a felt hood over the table for Luceplan, and the sound-absorbing “Lighting Pad” by Nimbus, with its fleece surface and accent lights that may be flexibly positioned. Komot’s design “Kos” got things moving – its pendulums may be moved up and down by gentle tugging, while the luminaire is activated by tapping lightly on the light orb made of opaline glass. Thanks to its interactive potential, the model on Komot’s stand enjoyed great popularity. The battery-powered pendant lamp “Pong” by Nyta may be adjusted without the need for sophisticated mechanics: It may be draped around all kinds of braces or hooks like a piece of rope. While “Pong” and “Kos” require hands-on interaction, the movement in “Caveau” by Icone Luce is triggered at the push of a button. Via an app, users can fold down the cover of the circular luminaire from the wall as far as they wish. Depending on how far it is opened, the light intensity changes. In addition, the light color may also be altered. The name of the effect allowing users to change the light color and temperature, which this year was offered for the first time by a range of lighting manufacturers, is “tunable white technology.” In contrast, the anticipated wave of human-centric lighting devices failed to materialize at the fair. Biodynamic lighting solutions were few and far between in the halls, save for individual examples on offer at the stands of Waldmann, LedsC4 and Heavn.

Icone Luce "Caveau"
Komot "Kos" by Konrad Weinhuber

“Plug&Light,” the product resulting from a cooperation between manufacturers Insta, Jung, Gira and Brumberg, provided with the Designer Tobias Link new perspectives by combining a light socket and a luminaire on the basis of a magnetic insert. The manufacturers created a standardized interface for the lighting units that can be individually connected. Flexibility was also on offer when it came to small table lamps. Davide Groppi (“Tetatet Flûte”), Artemide (“Come together”), Ingo Maurer (“Koyoo”) and Tobias Grau (“Salt and Pepper”) all showcased portable battery-powered luminaires. Conveniently eschewing the need for cables, these lamps cut a fine figure at al fresco dinners. If a little more light is called for under the starry skies, the lantern “Ambient Cocoon” by Gloster may be carried into the garden. Its designer Henrik Pedersen was inspired by the structure of a silk cocoon. Meanwhile, Dexter’s aluminum and stainless-steel lamp “Valencia” would make a grand appearance on any terrace. Thanks to Bluetooth technology it may be dimmed as users recline on a lounger. Lawns can now be illuminated with the organic “Glass” luminaires by Kreon, and the Belgian manufacturer’s recessed luminaires “Kreon Side” provide accents for building façades. For a variable focus we recommend a peek at “Nanoled Frame” by Simes, which puts niches of all kinds at center stage.

Davide Groppi "Tetatet Flûte"
Gloster "Ambient Cocoon" by Henrik Pedersen
Buzzispace "Buzzihat" by Alain Gilles