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Introducing the Winners of Our First Annual WL Design 25 Awards
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Here's who emerged victorious from the Lighting Architecture Movement Project's 2016 competition.
Western Living: Congratulations on the win. You’ve created such a unique piece. How did you approach the “Cosmic” theme from this year’s competition?Dario Naraez: We have a design process kind of established, it’s not a mystery. There’s a universal design thinking, I would say. We started with the research phase. At the beginning we went to museums, went to the NASA website, we watched movies and documentries about the cosmos, trying to find a lot of inspiration. In reality it’s unbelievable the amount of ideas when you start digging into the theme, it’s incredible. After the research phase we ended up with the concept of the black hole. Once we had the conceptive element, we did sketches trying to find the form and the shape and did material tests before we moved the design into CAD.It’s important to say that this is team work. I mean, there’s an unbelievable number of people involved in these kind of projects. It’s not just the designers and the idea, you have to consider electronics, people who build with metal in this case — you need a multidisciplinary project team. Tony Baxter: We found the concept that we really believed in and that people were attracted to, which was the idea of the black hole sucking in the light as the light dims. The lamp actually changes shape and forms this analogy to a black hole. The concept is the easy part — then you’ve got to make it a reality and the reality involves all those other parts. Not just the way it looks but the way it functions, the mechanical, the electrical, the physical, everything that’s involved in the universe, right? The initial idea proved to be the easiest part of the whole process.Dario: We wanted a beautiful piece, we wanted a functional piece, but we also wanted to include a sense of interactivity. We want the user to be part of the design. Usually when you see lighting design it’s almost like a sculpture. You see it and you contemplate, and the interaction is just on and off. We wanted to have more interaction with the design.Tony: I think there’s also a sense of mystery as well. The idea that you can pull light into this shape and control it. I think it’s attractive and exciting to people.WL: Tell us about the choice of materials you used for the Black Hole.Dario: We had a lot of different tests. We tried different types of fabric: spandex, nylon, mesh, silicone, latex. Testing and testing and testing. At the end for the prototype we have fabric and latex. If we wanted to make the work easier, it would be with silicone, but that will require a mold. It’s harder when you’re doing just one to create a mold because it’s expensive. It works fine with the fabric and latex, but for sure there are other materials that work better as well.Tony: The real challenge in this was to find a material that could change form in conjunction with changing the output of the light. Very simply, we have a dimmer or a potentiometer inside a housing and we pull a rod passed this dimmer switch and the rod changes the output of the LED, while at the same time it forms the material to form this black hole. To find the material that had all the right properties was a very long process. We talked to quite a few people, but it was just trial and error. Lots of testings, lots of combinations of material, finally we found a combination that worked.WL: Is lighting design something you both had previous experience with?Tony: In the office we do different things every single day. One day we can be designing a utility vehicle, the next we could be designing a piece of cookware. We’re proud of the fact that we can take any design brief or any challenge and educate ourselves and then solve the problem. The design process is the same for any product but we have different parameters and different solutions. So again, with the team that we have here we can put ourselves to any task and come up with a solution. And there’s more than one solution to every problem. Dario: We had some experience with lighting but it was automotive. We’ve designed some headlamps for cars and tractors, that kind of lighting. But as Tony said, if you know the thinking process, you can apply it to anything. WL: It must be exciting as designers to have a team at your disposal that can figure out the details of anything you can dream up. Tony: It’s really cool. Just to be working on different things every day, solving different problems and creating things that can be mass produced or one off pieces, sculptural or furniture. It’s really nice to have that flexibility. WL: Is this a piece you see going into mass production?Dario: Hmm. It would be a challenge for sure but it would be good to take that challenge. Tony: I think a variation of it could be mass produced if we went with different materials and maybe a different scale. This one is fairly big, about 4 feet tall. In its present form we’d probably produce it in smaller numbers but maybe in a different form it could be mass produced. Dario: In almost all the projects that we work on, we learn a lot. You learn a lot about the market and the user, the materials, everything. In this case we were working with new materials, and we learned a lot about electronics and programming. At the end of the learning process you can look back and say, ok, we can change this and that and make it more simple for the future. I mean, the design is never finished, I would say. You always want to change something and get it better.
Luca Mazzon: When Alessandro and I found LAMP we knew that is would be an excellent opportunity becasue they don’t give any restrictions to your creativity or imagination. We were open-minded towards the theme “cosmic” and research the direct meaning, then delved deeper into research. We passed through the religious interpretation of the the big and small ethnicities looking for something unique. After reading a letter from Einstein about his interpretation of the universe explaining the strong connection between religions and science we hit a turning point.The next big step was representation. We spent several days researching new trends, innovations and materials looking through the best way to represent our concept. We went to a material library, took a sample and started sketching shapes and different solutions until we came up with our final design. The idea to realize a prototype helped us to choose a reasonable manufacturing process. We ordered materials and after one week we finished crafting our prototype.WL: How did the materials you chose inform your design?Luca: We started our research for material online and quickly realized that this was not the right approach to our project. It was almost impossible to find a “cosmic” material that could change its perception by simply changing the user’s perspective. Looking for such a unique material, we decided to visit a material library. Our experience started by simply switching on our iPhone’s LED and analyzing the 3000 samples available, trying to see if something cool was going to happen. We passed through unusual kinds of papers, marbles and synthetic film until we found out material. Usually dichroic panels are used in interior design because they give amazing futuristic effects. We knew that this was out material after discovering the stunning shadow and its unique crispy effect. Another big challenge was to design a shape that could emphasize the light and the material without taking the upper hand. Even if it’s such an easy shape, we both agreed that the circle could perfectly fit with the theme, paying tribute to the amazing material.WL: Why did you choose to enter this competition? Luca: Lighting design is fascinating, poetic, and authentic, distilling direct emotions. Coming from the industrial design world we were very curious to try something new but related with our fields. It’s amazing how you can give a personal and unique vision to light be simply using different materials, and most of the time you can reach results that are close to an art piece.We were looking for an international contest to test ourselves with skilled designers and we realized that LAMP has the right framework, raising the level every year. If you decide to participate, it’s certain you will learn new amazing things that could imporve your design approach.
WL: How did you approach this year’s theme? Walk us through your design process. Anna Tomschik: Do you know that moment when you find yourself gazing at the moon and you can’t take the eyes off its beautiful charcoal grey surface? The other day I rediscovered that in contrast to the energizing daylight, the moon provides us with soft, reflected rays of sunlight. It can be seen as a natural nightlight, which in an increasingly light-flooded world gets less and less attention. I was fascinated by this natural phenomenon and decided to translate it into a bedside luminaire that provides both, more direct, as well as indirect light. My intention was to create a simple, but recognizable metaphor of sun and moon, which led to two hemispheres varying in size. In order to prevent glare and to hide the light source, the two shapes were positioned opposing each other by 180°.The design of HENYX should not only touch people on an instinctive level, but also make them reexamine the importance of light. It conveys a message that light should be used relating to task and time. Sun and moonlight structure our day and in a man-made environment we can easily get out of sync without the guidance of natural light. It’s crucial to draw inspiration from nature and to develop certain light rituals. Light pollution isn’t just limited to street lights and the illuminated advertisements. Depending on which lights we choose for our rooms, it can reach right into our very homes. With adjustments in light intensity, wavelength composition and the right type of light we can make our universe a lot more human-friendly.WL: Can you tell us about your choice of material? How did they lend themselves to your design? All my design choices derived from the distribution of light. I started by closely examining and interpreting natural light sources. Sunlight feels ubiquitous and intense. I decided to use white acrylic because of its good light-transmitting properties, which allow light to spread in all directions and to illuminate the space in 360°. The moon on the other hand, is well-known for its limited, glare-free and dimmed light. Concrete seemed to be an appropriate choice as it partly absorbs light, but also allows it to reflect from the concave side of the hemisphere. Copper is a commonly used material in electric installations. It ties the two hemispheres together and gives the composition a holistic appearance. The shape as a tube allows to hide the cables and provides stability.WL: What first drew you to lighting design in particular? What inspired you to enter this competition?When studying Architecture, I felt that lighting had not the importance it should have. Therefore I decided to specialize in a field that would enhance my knowledge about lighting and could help me in this way improve my designs. As a native Austrian, I was impressed by the short periods of daylight at wintertime in Sweden, caused by its high northerly latitude. Thus I decided to go to Sweden to experience living in extended darkness in order to learn about the effects of light. During a very enjoyable and educational year studying at the KTH Lighting Laboratory in Stockholm, I had the pleasure of getting to know and collaborate with many great likeminded people. This formed the foundation from which my passion for lighting design developed. Upon finding this competition by accident on the internet, I was happy to see that the theme related to the topic of my upcoming master thesis.
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