NEVER MIND THE SCALLOPS
There was a time when scalloping was the thing. It blossomed and bosomed all over the
place. Reception walls were a bit of a favourite. It was one of those techniques born out of
tungsten halogen and often attempted by the amateur in search of lighting sophistication.
The results were frequently lumpen, the unqualified practitioner failing to realise that
a clean wall and uniform shaping were rather crucial to the whole effect. Instead they
lollopped their way unevenly over the surface, regardless of obstacles like doorways, exit
signs and the odd artwork.
That effect has now been largely replaced with a line of light emanating from some
concealed detail. Much more successful, though again it relies for its effect on professional
execution as much as any other lit element.
The point is that there seems to be a fashion in lighting as much as anything else, driven
for one thing by source technology – LEDs allow you to do lines of light very easily. But a
certain ennui is setting in as familiar themes, motifs, techniques and tropes keep cropping
up with tedious regularity. Office receptions with irregular slashes of light in the ceiling,
shopping malls with recessed circular cove lighting (invariably blue when not white),
suspended circles of light in the same environment, the inevitable backlit bar.
The standard of lighting in just about every environment has improved to an almost
breathtaking extent. It is not that these details are not consumately well-considered and
skilfully executed, but is there a danger of lighting falling into cliched techniques?
It is not particularly down to the lighting designer. It is down to budgets, developers
wanting to play safe with a certain acceptable look and even down to structural issues,
as one of our curators, BDP’s head of lighting Mark Ridler, observed when we discussed
the issue. ‘Retail architects, for example, like circles because they resolve “unhappy
geometries”,’ he says. ‘If you have elements coming together at 30 degrees, 40 degrees and
80 degrees there is no linear geometry that can resolve that. Or perhaps the QS brings a
budget that’s been cut and there’s a divorce between materiality and light.’
Admiring Kengo Kuma’s work, featured in the last issue, its virtue, says Ridler, is that
‘right from the concept, materiality, light and geometry are connected. It’s not “here’s a
site. What can we fit in?”, a jigsaw puzzle solution that’s commercially driven.’
Nicholas Grimshaw, who we feature in this issue, would agree. ‘Rather than design a
building and ask [lighting designers] to light it, you have to work with them from the
beginning of the concept, especially if lighting is a key issue.’
17 COMMENT LIGHTING MAGAZINE
VOLUME 48 • ISSUE 05 2016
ING LIGHT ING