The three big trends in light fittings are
miniaturisation, intelligence and purer forms,
reports Ray Molony from Frankfurt
WORDS: Ray Molony
PICTURES: As credited
The global lighting industry gathered under crisp blue skies in Frankfurt last month with what many regarded as a pivotal edition of Light + Building, the world’s largest lighting exhibition. In the Irish bar haunts around the
Hauptbahnhof and the expense-account Italian
restaurants in the city centre, executives – harking
back to a real or imagined golden age – fretted that the
business had lost its mojo. Where’s our showstopper,
our iPhone, our Tesla Model S? they demanded.
LEDs wrote cheques, so the story goes, that the
industry hasn’t honoured.
Seasoned Frankfurt hands know the Pinot Grigio-fuelled angst is simply a biennial ritual. After all, no
one looks stupid for asking ‘where’s the innovation?’
But lighting manufacturers, by and large, don’t do
showstoppers – and never have done. It’s an iterative
business after all, making wrappers for light sources.
Evolution not revolution.
However, step back a bit, allow yourself a horizon
that’s a little longer than two years, and there’s much
to admire. For a start, thanks to advances in optics
and ever more powerful LED arrays, light fittings
have shrunk in the wash. Today, integrating light into
architecture is no longer the frustrating tears-before-
bedtime project it once was.
The big story at Frankfurt, however, was always going
to be ‘intelligent lighting’. Luminaires connected to the
internet can do all sorts of cool and crazy stuff. Osram,
for instance, unveiled a street light which can find you
a parking space. Streetlight 11 has an integral camera
and what the company calls a ‘data transmission
module’, allowing it to detect free parking spaces and
communicate this information to drivers. So there.
Elsewhere there were light fittings which could
monitor the levels in nearby waste bins, predict ▼
Opposite, clockwise from top left: Michele De Lucchi’s Ipno for Artemide;
Blush by Amsterdam-based studio Formafantasma for Flos; Mito by Occhio,
designed by founder Axel Meise; Philippe Starck’s Bon Jour Versailles for Flos