See in a different light

Janet Turner is a stalwart of the design world. I would rank her beside Richard Seymour and Madeleine Bennett as someone who not only looks, talks and acts like a designer, but is also enviably talented in her chosen subject. The fact that she has produced her second book about lighting, now focusing specifically on public places, is testimony to her talents.

Lighting design is an art which is usually carried out behind the scenes and by its nature is more concerned with intangible rather than tangible qualities. As Turner explains, the prerequisite for lighting an art gallery or museum is not about producing a design which begs applause, but about creating a scheme which illuminates its subjects so beautifully that you marvel at the objects on display, not the lighting.

As Turner says, “The lighting designer is, like the exhibition designer, an intermediary between the visitor and the work, both bringing the visitor closer to the work on show, and enabling the work to communicate most appropriately with the visitor.”

Illustrated with photographs of exhibitions, interiors and architecture the book also explains the methodology and technical requirements needed before any lighting scheme is embarked upon.

The list of case studies is impressive. Examples such as the seminal Gravity and Grace exhibition in the Hayward Gallery in 1992, Piers Gough’s Duveen Wing in London’s Portrait Gallery and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow were all of interest.

The Goodwood Visitor’s Centre and Gallery by Craig Downie is an outstanding architectural concept and shows how a specialist lighting consultant can make a difference. The lighting design maintains a feeling of daylight, whatever the time, while at night the exterior of the building is brought subtly to life with a sensitive scheme which sculpts the building into a focal point in its woodland setting.

This book looks good, is informative and, for those who want to learn about lighting in a straightforward, non-technical way, is an extremely handy reference guide. The lighting techniques are appropriate to all areas of design and architecture and not just for museums and exhibitions.

Any designer who thinks that you put bulbs in light fittings, as well as flower beds, should take particular notice.

Designing with Light – Public Places by Janet Turner is published by RotoVision SA, price 24.95.

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