Radically Rethinking Boundaries Using Light [Future of Light]

Radically Rethinking Boundaries Using Light [Future of Light]

Lighting is being deployed on-demand to demarcate new spaces and accommodate multiple use-cases.

  • 29 september 2013

Lighting typically blends into the backdrop of our day to day existence, providing a level of functional utility that is often only noticed in its absence. But as a new frontier in lighting emerges, designers and artists are experimenting with how light can be used to define boundaries within a space and do so on demand.

In a trend we are calling Bound By Light, PSFK Labs has identified several ways in which designers are exploring the use of light as a substitute for physical boundaries, helping to change the way people perceive their surroundings. By taking advantage of the precision and controls offered by lighting and projection technology, these explorations are redefining human interactions within a space, creating flexible environments which accommodate a host of activities ranging from fun to functional. Ed Bakos, managing director at Champalimaud, tells us, “Lighting clearly can emphasize both the space or it can be used to highlight an object. You have to think about how you’re going to construct the room as a three‐dimensional illuminated experience, because the surfaces that you’re creating are really only meaningful if light hits them in a certain way.”


One example of this trend is the ASB Glassfloor in Germany. It’s a sports surface made from glass that uses hidden LEDs to switch between different court markings at the touch of a button. Created by the German glass company ASB Systembau, the court’s combination of translucent glass and hidden LED channels can be switched on and off to create boundaries and markings for a range of sports. In addition, the LED technology can enhance the experience for spectators by displaying things like score, statistics and team colors directly on the playing surface. The floor is designed to emulate hardwood courts with the added advantage of flexible lane lines and markings for multi-purpose gymnasiums.

1 ASB-GlassFloor_1

In our conversation with Winka Dubbeldam, principal at ArchiTectonics, she explains,“There is no architecture if there is no light. You can create a space just with lighting and you can play and change the space with lighting rather than having to change the space by rebuilding it. I think light as a physical boundary is a much softer and more friendly approach to boundaries in general.”

2 United-Visual-Artists-ÔÇô-Vanishing-point

Another example of this trend comes to us from the art world. Vanishing Point is a concept that speaks directly to the idea of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ boundaries. The art installation explores the idea of ‘light architecture’ and use of perspective as a way to redefine and represent a particular space. Created by the London art collective United Visual Artists, the installation projects laser lines from a single vanishing point onto a dark room, creating volumes and divisions that reshape the experience of the physical space. The beams of light frame new boundaries within the room, allowing the audience to interact with the space in an entirely new way. Sound is also incorporated into the space by sampling the ambient noise generated by the lasers.

Vanishing Point and the ASB Glassfloor point to the novel ways in which light can be used to redefine a space on demand. Lighting installations like this could demarcate areas for street performers and taxi stands, or indicate designated areas for certain activities without the need for physical boundaries being constructed.

These examples also fall under a larger theme we are calling Enlightened Communication, which explores solutions that investigate the way light can be used as a communication tool, either visually conveying information through color, design and frequency or as a medium for transmitting data over distances.

The Future of Light series explores light’s potential to improve lives, build communities, and connect people in new and meaningful ways. Brought to you in partnership with Philips Lighting, a full report is available as an iOS and Android app or as a downloadable PDF.

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