It took 10 halls – plus forum, agora, galleria and open area – to accommodate the 2,458 exhibitors (an increase of seven per cent over 2012) taking part in Light + Building 2014, which ran from March 30 to April 4 at Messe Frankfurt. Though organizers of the biennial exhibition had feared that a strike by Lufthansa airlines might cause some people to stay away, visitors numbered 211,000, up from 195,582 in 2012. I was among that number, attending the show for the very first time. I can honestly say that by the end of my three-day exploration, I had never felt more dazzled.
Light + Building, with energy efficiency as its main theme, is the world’s largest trade fair for lighting and building services technology – representing everything from LED technology to intelligent electricity usage with smart metering and grids. What I marvelled at included a presentation by Philips Lighting (taking over the entire forum building), demonstrating how its new LED lighting systems connect people, places and devices in homes, at work and in cities across the world; the Graft high-temperature luminaire by Zumtobel, for industrial applications in high-bay storage facilities or production bays where temperatures of up to 55ºC prevail; Trilux’s ConStela LED urban outdoor light, which can illuminate squares as well as emphasize individual objects; Berker’s W1 waterproof light switch, a revolutionary little wonder; and, at the awesome Artemide booth, its “Masters’ Pieces” designer-lights exhibit – featuring such beauties as Gio Ponti’s Fato (1969); Boalum (1970), by Livio Castiglioni and Gianfranco Frattini; and Ettore Sottsass’s Pausinia (1983) – and more recent works by the likes of Ross Lovegrove, David Chipperfield and Herzog & de Meuron.
Of course, cutting-edge design is what I was after. Following, I shine a light on 14 new products that look as good as they perform.
Belgian company Dark brought the “Bright” with its Big Bubble, a first collaboration with Alex de Witte that has proven to be an instant hit and multiple prize winner. Each artisanal, hand-blown glass bubble – fitted with a dimmable Xicato LED lamp – is unique, and seems as ephemeral as a soap bubble. You can choose among five colours: smoke, smoke green, red, amber and transparent. Also available is a smaller version called Baby Bubble. dark.be
Created by Jjoo Design for German company Nyta, Tilt directs light exactly where it’s needed. Easy, intuitive handling allows you to turn and swivel the shade along its oblong opening in every direction. It’s superbly simple, with matt metal shade, stainless-steel guiding peg and cloth-covered cord. nyta.eu
German lighting master Ingo Maurer and his team continue their winning relationship with London-based designer Moritz Waldemeyer, adding a flexible chandelier system to the collaborators’ family of Flames, which mimic a flickering flame while rendered in LEDs. The LED candles are combined with simple and functional downlight elements, all placed freely with a magnet on a canopy board. You decide on the number of Flying Flames and downlights, and at which heights they’re hung. Materials used are circuit board, metal, anodized aluminum and plastic. ingo-maurer.com
4—Through the lens
The designer of Artemide’s Objective family, world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, says it best: “The character of the object – a tube containing different sets of optics – recalls the lens of a still or movie camera and its manipulation, with the three different segments housing three different light sources: a) ambient light coming from the glass segment, b) a spotlight focused, from the first head, onto reading matter or work surface, c) light pointed upwards from the floodlight in the second head.” It comes in table (shown), floor and wall versions. artemide.com
Berlin-based Tobias Grau introduced Five, a sculptural LED table lamp made of mouth-blown glass. It comes in two versions: white (shown) and transparent. tobias-grau.com
6—A place in the sun
Viennese designer Kai Stania got his inspiration for the Helios office light for Austrian company Xal from the most natural of light sources: the sun. Available in suspended (shown) and floor versions, the high-efficiency LED light is flexible: its radiant characteristics can be quickly and easily adjusted between direct and indirect lighting. xal.com
Belgian company Wever & Ducre debuted Wiro, designed by Bernd Steinhuber. Made of durable wire, and available in black, red or white, it comes in three different configurations – each airy and delicate. wever-ducre.com
8—Hits the spot
German company Erco presented a new generation of Parscan flexible spotlights – with their high light output – using LED technology. Parscan’s hallmark is its minimalist design: sleek, compact and cylindrical. Its hinge is centrally positioned; the luminaire head barely swivels out when rotated or tilted, delivering light unobtrusively. erco.com
Designed by Bart Lens for Belgian company Eden Design, Diabolo is simplicity itself: two hemispheres, a couple or twins, one of them lit by LED and rotatable on its axis. Available in table (shown), wall and ceiling versions, in several colours, it evokes the centuries-old diabolo juggling toy, consisting of an axle and two cups or discs. edendesign.be
10—LEDing the way
German company Occhio introduced the next-generation Sento light –– completely reinvented in LED. Sleek and handsome, it is extremely bright and exceedingly flexible, with touchless control and up/down fading. Sento LED comes in floor/table (shown), wall and suspended versions. occhio.de
Italian designer and manufacturer Davide Groppi has been creating lights since the end of the ’80s. Of his latest, a collaboration with Beppe Merlano, he says, “N-Euro is a simple project, almost a revival of old electrical plans. A plug, a cable, some insulating materials, a lamp socket and an LED bulb.” N-Euro’s power cord becomes a design feature when attached to the wall with round-dot insulators. It’s available in matt black or matt white. davidegroppi.com
Winner of a Light + Building Best in Show, Wireflow – an artful pendant fixture that reinterprets the classic chandelier – was designed for Barcelona-based Vibia by Israeli-born, Paris-based artist/designer Arik Levy. The light structure is formed by black electrical wire and 3W LED terminals. Architects and interior designers can experiment with endless configurations on Vibia’s online platform. vibia.com
13—You can ring my bell
The Bell+ lamp designed by Thomas Holst Madsen for Danish company Darø is ingenious. An aluminum shade – which comes in matt white, matt black or brushed copper – hangs on a simple suspension, implementing a textile cable and an aluminum stick that can be used to tilt the shade. Says the designer, “The tilt function occurred after working with the principles of a simple way to suspend the shade. This made it more than just a lamp with the shape of a bell. It is a Bell+.” daroe.dk
The secret to Twin, a suspension light designed by Hans Karuga for German company Serien Lighting, is a sturdy swivel joint at the centre of the chrome-plated-aluminum twin arms, which allows them to be moved up and down. Inside both shades – made of white opal acrylic glass – is a translucent reflector; the light emitted at the sides is diffuse and soft, while the light emerging from the shade opening is directed and bright. serien.com