Tag Archive: lighting technology and controls

  1. Meet the Makers: Motion Exposure Photographer Stephen Orlando

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    In this Meet the Makers blog series, we will feature an artist that, quite simply, makes something. Drawing inspiration from custom works handcrafted in various media, we travel beyond the pieces by diving into the minds of the creative makers themselves.

    Today, we feature our interview with Stephen Orlando, a photographer who captures motion through time and space in a single photograph. Orlando combines LED lighting with custom color patterns and long exposure technique to tell a story of movement. He captures these landscapes near his home town in Waterloo, Ontario Canada.


    GPI Design: What (3) words best describe your work?

    Stephen Orlando: Motion – Light – Information

    GPI: What compels you to create with this particular medium?

    Orlando: I love using long exposure photography to show things that are otherwise unseen. I like the combination of technology and art that can be used in light painting photography. My background is in aerodynamics and I see a lot of similarities between my photography and the streamlines I use to analyze fluid flow. I see my photography as half art and half visualization of data. Whenever I setup a shoot, I not only try to make the result aesthetically pleasing but also to show how objects move and tell the story of movement.


    GPI: What is your biggest constraint in the creative process?

    Orlando: The biggest constraint in my photography is light! I’ve done a lot of long exposure photos of LED lights attached to moving canoe and kayak paddles. They are all single exposures and need to be taken at a very specific time of day for proper exposure. I’m constantly balancing the intensity of the LED lights and the ambient lighting conditions. Most of the time the window where ambient lighting conditions are perfect is only 20 minutes. There’s a lot of preparation for that 20 minutes of shooting.


    GPI: What would your 5 year old former self say about your work now? And what do you hope your future 90 year old self will say about your current work?

    Orlando: My 5 year self would like the cool colors in my photos and be excited about all the cool canoe trips that I’ll be going on in the future. I hope my 90 year old self will be proud that I’ve developed a unique body of work that will be remembered for years to come.


    GPI: What other maker would you most like to collaborate with?

    Orlando: I really admire the photography of Darren Pearson, and Eric Pare. We all use light painting in very different ways and I would love to work with either of them in the future.

    GPI: What do you think the future of creation/creativity holds (for you, and the artistic world as a whole)?

    Orlando: I’m planning on doing more photography where I delve even deeper into the technical side of the LED lights. I want to start photographing lights that are changing dynamically based on inputs from their surroundings. I can see other artists incorporating connectivity into their art more and more.


    GPI: What does your work space look like right now? Send us a selfie of you in your creative arena!



    Many thanks to Stephen Orlando for the insight into his craft. Stay tuned to our next Meet the Makers interview coming up in two weeks! The interviews will publish every other Tuesday throughout the remainder of the year, focusing on a wide variety of makers, which has us truly redefining what it means to create.

     View this maker’s work: Motion Exposure

  2. Thursday Salute to Originals: Living Lighting

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    As designers, we’re constantly looking for new ways to revamp and advance our creations. Sometimes that means implementing a new material or new technology. But sometimes, the key to advancing a design is pure science.

    It’s no secret that light comes from a number of sources that use both natural and artificial processes in order to emit illumination (think sun, fire, light bulbs, solar power, etc.). And when it comes to lighting design in particular, it’s pretty typical to use an electrical plug and outlet to power the fixture. But what about some of the illumination processes that we aren’t so familiar with? What about powering lighting with living organisms?

    underwater image of jellyfishes

    Bioluminescence is the emission of light from living organisms. Occurring in a number of different creatures (including things like marine life, fireflies, fungi, and other microorganisms), a chemical reaction occurs within the organism causing a burst of energy which is released in the form of light.

    As crazy/cool as that concept sounds, it’s no wonder designers have become interested in this concept and tried to harness the powers of light emitted by living organisms.  Teresa Van Dongen, a designer based out of Amsterdam with a background in both design and biology, designed a light fixture called Ambio where she experimented with bioluminescent algae and photobacterium as the sole source of illumination for her lamp.

    Ambio, bacterial lamp by Teresa van Dongen from Teresa van Dongen on Vimeo.

    But her design wasn’t as simple as putting organisms into a glass container and asking them to illuminate. As Van Dongen explains,  when the light fixture remained static, no light was emitted from the different types of bioluminescent bacteria contained within the lamp. In order for the fixture to consistently emit light, the fixture had to be in motion for the artificial seawater and bacteria to mix, creating the electrical discharge.


    Though the bioluminescent bacteria can only survive a few days within the lamp, we’re glad it did not discourage Van Dongen  from figuring out a way harness living lighting and to achieve her design intent. So we happily shine the light onto this week’s Thursday Salute, as once again science and art combine forces to create new and innovative lighting design!

    Credits: Wired, Teresa Van Dongen

  3. Thursday Salute to Originals: Claymation Lights Up!

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    As designers in the architectural realm, we appreciate the intensity of work derived from other creative artists such as film directors or photographers.  Of particular interest to our team are those creators whose accomplishments combine art and an extensive knowledge of lighting techniques.

    Stop motion animation is a technique that physically manipulates objects in a series of still photographs  to create the appearance of movement.  It is an advanced art form that takes preparation and strategy to calculate the effect of the atmosphere required for the purpose of the piece. Each shot is a still that requires perfect and even lighting to create the scene; precise positioning of the physical object and the different types of light sources are absolutely essential to its success.  By manipulating the three main light source –  key lights, fill lights, and back lights – the effects of softness, definition, darkness, brightness, shadow and contrast  help to set the scene.

    In Claymation, one type of stop motion animation, these lighting techniques are used while clay sculptures are moved ever so slightly in each shot to create the illusion of fluid movement. In order to catch a glimpse of light sources and clay sculptures working together harmoniously in full Claymation, view the excerpt from Head Over Heels by Timothy Reckart. The piece shows an ingenious command of raw artistic ability fused with lighting techniques to distinguish time, mood, and place.

    Reckart communicates the value of these lighting techniques by creating the scene, and setting a mood of each character, all within one of the most laborious and fickle of visual media. So for this Thursday Salute, we tip our hats to the process of Claymation, and Reckart for his prowess in this artistic genre. When you boil it down to its simplest ingredients, it really is remarkable how mud, water, and light can be creatively combined into refined animated entertainment!

    Sources: Timothy Reckert

  4. Thursday Salute to Originals: Not Michelangelo’s Kind of Mural

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    Europe has no shortage of stunning churches and chapels. With massive vaulted ceilings, meticulous architectural details, and incredibly intricate life-like murals adorning the walls and ceilings, it’s no wonder these buildings draw admirers from all over the world. But as if there wasn’t already enough reason to look up, one artist has used technology to give these antiquated beauties a psychedelic facelift that is sure to have you tilting your head towards the ceiling.


    Artist Miguel Chevalier has created a vivid and ever-changing “mural” on the vaulted ceiling of the Durham Cathedral in England. Using virtual interweaving meshes of projected light, the vaulted ceiling becomes a canvas for a dazzling morphing and twisting light show triggered by programming cues and visitor movement. (No, this certainly is not Michelangelo’s kind of fresco!).


    The ceiling looks alive as the webs form, deform, and then reform again. Perception of the architecture and the space are distorted as the structure seemingly ripples in tandem with the shifting colors, shapes, and sizes of the light waves.


    The still images are quite captivating in their own right. But watch the video and you’ll be fully entranced in the psychedelic morphing of these vibrant meshes of light.

    Though very different from traditional murals like that of the Sistine Chapel, Chevalier’s light paintings prove that modern technology can intrigue, complement, and enhance architecture just as beautifully as antiquated art. And that alone deserves our Thursday Salute! Though it’s clearly way beyond his time, we can’t help but hypothesize how different the Sistine Chapel may have been if Michelangelo worked with light as his medium instead of paint.

    Image Credits: designboom

  5. Thursday Salute to Originals: Lite-Brite Reloaded

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    Each generation has toys that they call their own. Some are fads, only popular for a short period. But others have stood the test of time – think Slinky, yo-yos, Barbie dolls. One toy that has managed to bridge the gap between generations (and continues to captivate anyone with an eye for color and light like a moth to a flame) is the Lite-Brite.


    Marketing for the Lite-Brite and its simplistic light box design and glowing colored pegs began in 1967. But here in 2015, its popularity is still quite significant, with many adults remembering the toy with a sense of nostalgia.  Capitalizing on the evocation of these memories and the unforgettable visuals created with the toy, Hero Design, based in San Francisco, expanded upon the idea of the Lite-Brite and developed their art piece, Everbright.

    Everbright from Hero Design on Vimeo.

    Approximately 42 times the size of a standard Lite-Brite, Everbright consists of 464 LED dials (the “pegs”) that illuminate and change color when turned. Formatted in the similar honeycomb arrangement as the traditional toy, there are nearly endless visuals that can be created on this canvas. And after the user has completed their masterpiece, a single click of a button returns the board to a blank canvas (much easier than the tedious task of plucking out each individual peg from the black screen!).

    For merging cutting edge technology with a nostalgic concept, we salute Hero Design. And for not only serving as the muse for this artistic reworking, but for also inspiring generations of creatives, we salute Lite-Brite as well. Thanks for lighting up our imaginations and childhood memories, one peg at a time!

    Image Credits: TV Guy

  6. Impactful Entry Space: Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

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    In this Impactful Entry Space blog series, we will feature a designer or artist that has created an attention-grabbing design for the main lobby space of a building. Drawing inspiration from completed entry spaces around the world, we travel beyond the image by diving into the design process and concepts behind it.

    Today, we feature our interview with Gary Thornton of Neo Light Design about the lobby design of the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.


    GPI Design: What did the lobby space mean to the building as a whole?

    Gary Thornton: The Main Lobby’s impressive double height central space serves as a welcome entrance portal and space to the Flagship property for Four Seasons, as well as providing a physical link to adjacent areas.  The central lobby feeds to the grand reception desk, waiting areas, and break out seating areas for relaxing near the bar.  A central space providing a plethora of options for the guests.


    GPI: What were your functional and conceptual goals for the lobby?

    Thornton: The lighting was designed to complement both the architecture and the interior design, as well as the overall client vision.  This included the expected standard of a Flagship property for the Four Seasons hotel group as the operator.

    Simply put, it was to set the standards for luxury hotels in the city and the world.

    Careful consideration was taken with the detailing to ensure that our lighting was incorporated into various elements of the architecture and interior design.  Hidden light sources were heavily used so that you see the lit effect, and not the light fixtures themselves.

    In a double volume height space maintenance of a busy hotel was always going to be difficult and inconvenient.  LED and long life efficient light sources were used to ensure that this would be kept to a minimum over the coming years and would reduce any impact on the running of the hotel.

    In particularly awkward spaces fibre optic light sources were utilised to provide the illumination at high level to reduce any potential maintenance issues here.


    GPI: How did you use specific design tools (such as color, form, materiality, lighting) to create the space?

    Thornton: Significant sculptural artworks suspended above the reception and within the centre of the space are carefully lit to bring them to life, highlighting their forms to create depth and interest in the large volume.

    A warm white colour temperature was generally used throughout the lobby during the day, with the low voltage AR111 lamp sources warming slightly towards 2700K as they were dimmed on the control system for a more intimate feel during the evening and night.

    Large metal screens that help form part of the hotel’s identity are made up of 50,000 individual pieces and lit with both in-ground uplights and downlights to add sparkle and drama.

    The screens on the raised platforms that flank either side of the lobby space are lit using linear LED lights hidden within the form that shimmer as you walk through, helping to create the feeling of privacy to the seating areas below.

    High efficiency cold cathode is concealed in coves to create an overall softness to the lighting with high output lamps on a timed scene set system being used to then focus on art and various other features within the space.


    GPI: What was the biggest constraint in turning this design into a reality?

    Thornton: One of the biggest hurdles was ensuring that we were compliant with all of the local codes and varying regulations that are present within Canada.  There was a lot of initial concern over which regulations were the exact requirements to be followed, ranging from Canadian (national), through to Ontario (provincial), Toronto (city), or Yorkville (district).  National codes set the minimum values for some aspects, whilst some others are superseded at district level.

    With a limited budget for light fixtures that was further value-engineered, we worked extremely hard to ensure that we complied with all of the necessary documentation without comprising on the design.

    Being able to meet and sign off all of these requirements was a huge milestone for us as the responsible consultant, and for Four Seasons to ensure that the hotel could open on time.


    GPI: What makes this space impactful?

    Thornton: The fact that it is just the first impression of the wider guest experience.  The lobby serves a stunning welcome point, yet offers multiple functions subtly linked together.  Carefully considered aspects of the interior design are brought to life with specially focussed lighting, and an automated scene set system ensures that the hotel looks as good as possible at all times.  The lighting gradually shifts throughout the day from a bright and airy space to read a newspaper in the morning to a more intimate and ambient space to meet for drinks or dinner.

    The lighting extends out from the lobby throughout the rest of the public areas and guestrooms in a similar manner, linking areas and bringing people on a journey through the hotel.

    Overall the lighting is a subtle yet important element of the hotel and helps to create the feeling of stylish sophistication that the hotel delivers.


    Many thanks to Gary for sharing the inspiration for this lobby design.. Stay tuned to our next Impactful Entry Space interview coming up in two weeks. For more visual inspiration, follow our Impactful Entry Space board on Pinterest.

    Image credits: Jim Byers Travel, Yahoo, Neo Light Design

  7. Thursday Salute to Originals: When Crinkles Spur Creation

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    In architecture, crumpled pieces of paper have strong connotations that bring divisive opinions on Frank Gehry’s process of designing sculptural buildings. Critics take offense to the hands-off approach that places greater importance on form rather than function. Proponents of this type of process tout it as quintessentially postmodern and reflective of current technology. Whatever your stance on Gehry’s process, it’s probably a strong one. So whenever we see paper-crumpling used as a design inspiration, it piques our interest. And this time it comes in the form of a topic close to our heart… lighting design.


    The ethereal Proplamp is shaped like a crumpled piece of paper and is made from biodegradable nonwoven material. Users can change its shape, much like pruning a bouquet of flowers or tailoring an outfit.  The interaction is organic and completely dependent on the user’s intervention; creation is made accessible to the masses rather than the lone mastermind behind the design.

    [proplamp by margje teeuwen & erwin zwiers from Product Margje on Vimeo]

    Proplamp was developed in collaboration between Amsterdam-based designers Margje Teeuwen and Erwin Zwiers. Margje studied architecture but broke out of the mold by shifting her focus to emotional paintings of free flowing shapes. Erwin devoted his studies to furniture and product design, bringing a strong interest in materials. Proplamp was born as their paths crossed, described as a joining of “the feminine emotional research about paper shape and the masculine attitude of experimentation with new materials” (as quoted by LeFilRouge).



    Unlike a Gehry building which most experience from photographs alone, the lamp is at a scale accessible for the general public to add to their homes and work environments. Our biggest conundrum is finding a place to hang this lamp in our office that allows us to reach it for frequent editing – which, knowing the vast personalities and design philosophies of this team, will be essential as casual-turned-intense-debates about its shape are sure to ensue!  So for spurring conversation and creative intervention (and for highlighting our newfound need for a custom engineered conference table to hold the weight of our entire team as we debate over the lamp’s shape!), we salute the creators of Proplamp. Happy crumpling everyone!

    Image credits: Sam in Stul via LeFilRouge

  8. Thursday Salute to Originals: Time Slice Photos

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    Creating distinct renditions of our built environment both at specific moments and over periods of time, photography and timelapse video have a special place in the showcasing of architecture. Typically regarded as separate entities, still imagery and motion pictures document the world in completely different formats, each interpreting the subject and its facets in a unique manner.

    What happens when the defining elements of these two media – capturing a single, still moment vs. capturing a series of moments in motion – are combined? A visual hybrid is born, redefining our perception of architecture and the progression of time.


    Photos of building facades at sunset may seem like a dime a dozen, but the work of photographer Richard Silver is different. Silver’s “Time Slice Global” series depicts changing daylight at world famous landmarks, composed of slices taken at different points in the day and stitched together into a single image. Not only do the images show the shifting day to night patterns of the sky, but also how the architecture fluctuates over time; crowds gather or dissipate and internal lighting becomes more or less apparent depending on the position of the sun.





    In essence, Silver’s images present the experience of viewing both a still image and a timelapse video at once, a phenomenon he calls “altered visual context”. We salute Richard Silver for merging those two media into a new expression that can bend time and ultimately create a new lens through which to view our built environment.

    (And speaking of capturing moving moments…if you’re in the mood for time lapse in the traditional sense, try checking out the videos of our latest installs.)

    Image credits: Richard Silver

  9. Thursday Salute to Originals: Water Projections

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    As buildings envelopes are intended to be impermeable objects withstanding natural forces, our environment is typically constructed to tightly defend against weather. We seal against moisture in every means possible – from flashing to pitched roofs to storm drains. When water is embraced as a medium for architecture, rather than a force to be withstood, it can entirely shift the meaning of space.

    In the Minamo installation, the team at Torafu Architects creates an intimate interior space to “let the water in”. Reflected liquid patterns grace the curved walls, shifting subtly like the motion of the sea. Color is introduced at times, opening up the possibility of the water to carry a sense of materiality.

    There is little written about the execution of Minamo project, but that only enhances the mystery. The images convey of a sensation of being wrapped in light or hovering underneath the surface of water, forming compositions reminiscent of surrealist art.

    This Thursday, we salute this team of architects for boldly flipping convention to stretch the limits of how water and space can interact. Next time it’s raining or snowing, think about how you can embrace that force as opposed to quickly running for shelter!

    Video credit: Torafu Architects via YouTube

    Image credits: Torafu Architects

  10. Thursday Salute to Originals: Simulated Lightning (Harnessing Mother Nature’s Fireworks)

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    As we’ve been scouring our favorite design blogs and websites lately, we’ve begun to notice an emerging trend making its way into art and installations. Not a specific material or design motif, but rather a more intangible and seemingly unharnessable energy. A natural phenomenon in itself, it seems to have not only caught the eye of the design world, but is now being replicated and emulated in various forms inspired by its inherent striking beauty – both literally and figuratively. And that phenomenon/trend is (drum roll please)… lightning.

    Simulated Electrical Storm at “Giant Serpentine Pavilion”

    One of our favorite examples of lightning-inspired art is the Giant Serpentine Pavilion produced through a collaboration of architect Sou Fujimoto and United Visual Artists. Assembled from hundreds of interlocking steel poles and latticed metal, the structure covers 3800 sq. ft. in an intricately dense, yet openly geometric structure. But while the form and patterns created by the structure are interesting enough in and of itself, the pavilion really comes alive when the lights go down, allowing the thousands of embedded LEDs to pulsate and scatter like bolts of lightning streaking through the night sky. The intermittent and randomized flashing makes this structure seem as if it encapsulates an electrical storm itself, even though the effect is completely simulated.

    Sou Fujimoto Serpentine Pavilion Intervention from United Visual Artists on Vimeo.

    Simulated Lightning at “Incandescent Cloud” Installation

    Another one of our favorites is the incandescent CLOUD by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett. Using thousands of light bulbs – over 6,000 in fact – activated and deactivated by traditional pull strings tugged by visitors within the exhibit, a randomized flashing effect is created. Not only is this installation interactive, allowing patrons to harness the power of the “lightning” by turning off and on various light bulbs at random intervals, but it allows what would normally be a static installation to breathe new life with every passing patron and crowd. There is no pre-programmed timing or sequence of flashes; the installation ebbs and flows with the visitors; the flashes of illumination are organic, much like natural lightning.

    CLOUD: An Interactive Sculpture Made from 6,000 Light Bulbs from Caitlind r.c. Brown on Vimeo.

    For us, in both of these projects, the most intriguing element is just how authentic this simulated lightning appears. Different structures, different light sources, different forms of control and modes of operation in each, yet both applications elicit and provoke a similar appearance and experience, making you feels as if you are actually watching Mother Nature put on her famous fireworks show.