SPOTS IN SLOTS
The popularity of slot lighting has grown in every
sector over the past decade or so, but it is retail that
has claimed the technique as its own. Both Armani and
Louis Vuitton use it in their stores around the world.
‘Once retailers get hold of something, it spreads
like wildfire,’ says Doug James of the Mindseye
lighting design consultancy, ‘but slot lighting has
much broader implications than that. It can be used
anywhere, I’ve even used it in residential buildings.
Kitchens often need that directional lighting but
designers don’t want to sacrifice those crisp lines, so
slot lighting is perfect.’
James’ confidence in light from slots means he has used
it in applications that run the gamut from galleries and
museums to hotels such as Nina Towers in Hong Kong,
where the clean, lines of the triple height lobby have
been emphasised, but there are pools of light where
This demonstrates one of the principal benefits of
slot lighting: its ability to create pools of light without
sacrificing the clean spaces that designers and architects
strive to achieve. ‘It is much more discreet than normal
lighting,’ says James. ‘It allows larger spaces between
lights and opens up the possibility of adding colour or
Essentially, there are two slot lighting techniques. One is
easier to implement for those beginning to experiment
with slots, but the thickness of the ceiling material is
apparent around the edges of the slot, creating a heavy
look. The other, more advanced, ‘knife-edge’ technique
creates a sleeker effect, making the ceiling appear as a
Although slot lighting is a simple way to achieve
orderly lighting, James admits there are some
common pitfalls that designers have fallen into in
the past. The most common problems occurs when
designers do not think about the geometry of the
slot and so it ends up being too narrow or too shallow.
The lights poke out of the ceiling and disrupt the
smooth lines of the installation.
Another common faux pas is to position the light
sources carelessly so they light the slot itself, bringing
unwanted attention to the technique. Changes in
the height and direction of the ceiling also present
obstacles, but good design can overcome them.
‘You need to get inside the contractor’s head and
work with the architect,’ says James. ‘If drawings
aren’t clear and it’s left to interpretation, you can find
yourself called out to site. With slots, it’s all down to
the design and the details, if you get the design right,
the rest will follow.’
Above: The spots-in-slots
technique adds drama and
‘contains’ the lighting at the
Gerber Mall in Germany.
See page 80 for more images.
Opposite: Narrowing the
thickness of the ceiling around
the slot will create a lighter,
more elegant effect