In the Spotlight

If things were a little downbeat in Hanover this April, it was mainly because the 1999 show represented the end of an era. Due to a bust-up between the exhibitors and the show organisers, this was the final year of the long-established lighting fair’s residency at the city’s ultra-modern exhibition grounds. The show moves to Frankfurt next March, amid rumours of a future link-up with Milan’s Euroluce on an alternating biennual basis.

While Euroluce, piggy-backing on the Salone del Mobile, might be more glamorous, with a greater concentration of sexier, more decorative light-fittings, Hanover is the real business, the place where the important new lighting technologies and concepts which shape the future of lighting are first unveiled. At Hanover in the early-Eighties the first clutch of low voltage tungsten halogen lamps and fittings, which transformed retail and leisure interiors, first saw the light of day. Four years ago, the revolutionary ceramic metal halide lamp, now making its mark in a host of installations from shops to street lighting, was launched there too.

This year the big news is the LED (light emitting diode), currently under development by Philips, Osram, GE Lighting and other multinational giants. LEDs are heavily tipped as the major new light source for the next millennium. In recent years, their light output has risen almost exponentially and already rivals that of the tungsten halogen lamp and with ultra-low energy consumption and an amazing 100 000-hour life, they offer enormous possibilities. To date, the intense colour versions have been most successful, which has limited their applications to decorative trims, illuminated signs and things like burial marker lights. But “white” versions are improving all the time. So when you begin to install innovative LED-based spotlights in shops and reception spaces around 2005, remember you read it here first.

In other ways, Hanover ’99 was mainly about the consolidation and refinement of lighting themes established over the past couple of years. For example, the ultra-slender (16mm) T5 fluorescent tube stimulated the emergence of yet more slim-line fittings. Notable examples include Spectral’s highly spectacular Wing range of suspended direct/indirect fittings, which won a Hanover Industry Forum Design Award, and Louis Poulsen’s minimalist Plate fitting, which manages to generate generous upwards and downwards illumination from one 54W T5 lamp using a semi-translucent reflector/diffuser.

A different application of T5 came from iGuzzini, with its compact exterior-rated wallwasher unit, Linealuce, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who is rapidly becoming a ubiquitous Starck-like figure in the lighting world.

The circular version of T5 also found its way into several new luminaires, such as the suspended Circka uplight-downlight model from Regiolux. Finally, for those involved in developing illuminated sign systems, Philips introduced 450mm-long models of its TL-D aperture lamp, in both T8 (24mm) and T5 versions, with interior reflector, specifically for point-of-sale displays. These can be used for precise, intense edge lighting of acrylic panels (rather than traditional back lighting) and the new tri-phosphor versions increase the luminance level of their light “slot” by an amazing factor of five.

The ability to dim T5 lamps, using an electronic ballast, has also spawned the latest in dimmable floor-mounted task lights. These incorporate photocells, to switch or dim the lamps if the ambient light level on the desk is sufficient and infrared presence detectors (PIRDs) to switch lamps off if no one is using the workstation. The most sophisticated variant is the elegant Legato P model from Waldmann (distributed in the UK by MDS Services), which the company claims could save up to 70 per cent in energy costs. Another company going down the same automated route is Swiss outfit Regent (distributed by Concord) with its SensoDim version of the Smile direct-indirect fitting.

This technology is also finding its way into task lighting. Waldmann offers Tension+, a stylish desk-mounted tasklight that to my knowledge is the first with photo-cell and PIRD control option, integrated neatly into the arm. But perhaps the neatest (and most opportunistic?) little tasklight at Hanover was the e-Light, hot off Artemide’s production line. This compact keyboard task-light, with low energy, 50 000-hour fluorescent source, is designed for use with Apple’s iMac and comes in the same semi-translucent plastic, in a range of colours.

A very persistent, some would say overdone, trend in retail lighting at the moment is the use of upmarket versions of the once purely utilitarian high-bay fitting. Two new twists on this product line at Hanover came from Italian companies Reggiani and Regiolux. The former introduced Lingotta, a carefully researched re-creation, with modern light sources, of the original fitting used extensively in the Fiat Lingotto complex in the Thirties. Designed by Gabetti & Isola, the new fitting graces the refurbished building and comes with compact fluorescent or tungsten dichroic lamps.

The Regiolux offering, Mela, is less reverential, with its bulbous orange “cap” (containing the control gear) and translucent opal glass body. It is available in suspended or surface-mounted © versions with a range of fluorescent sources.

Spotlights always carve out a huge slice of the action at Hanover, and this year was no exception. The most popular, proliferating form is the “cluster” of two, three, four or six adjustable fittings mounted or suspended in a frame. You can really take your pick from a huge selection. However the wittiest of all has to be Vector from Targetti, in which one four-lamp model drops down on an adjustable rise-and-fall cable.

Companies launching more conventional track-mounted spotlight ranges included Concord and Erco. Concord had two offerings: the quirky Pixo low voltage range, with its interesting perforated body detail; and a new version of Torus, which can take the 35W CDM-TC metal halide capsule lamp, and has far more punch than tungsten halogen, with excellent colour rendering.

After a fairly fallow year in 1998, Erco came back fighting. One innovation is the expansion of its Stella range of projectors, which comes in three sizes, including a chunky version for large dimension rooms taking PAR56 tungsten lamps or 150W metal halide, first developed for Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Sharing both size and illustrious origins with Stella, the new Saturn fitting from iGuzzini is one of the largest fittings at the show. It was developed by architect Norman Foster and lighting designer Claude Engel for the huge Jubilee Line station at the Greenwich Millennium Dome. Suspended on four long arms, like an inverted lunar pod, it packs a huge punch 150W or 250W of metal halide for the uplighter and up to 400W metal halide for the downward component.

However once again, following the triumph of Aero last year, it was down to Zumtobel Staff to come up with possibly the biggest talking point of 1999. Miros, designed for lighting high spaces, takes indirect lighting into a new dimension, by projecting a powerful, well-controlled beam of light upwards on to a special faceted mirror, mounted on the ceiling. The reflected light can be directed anywhere in the space. There is a host of different reflector sizes and finishes, from specular to frosted and the metal halide projectors range from 35W to 150W. Doubtless Frankfurt 2000 will see a spate of imitations watch this space.

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