Regardless of Eyjafjallajökull—the Icelandic volcano that erupted and impacted everyone's travel departure from Frankfurt—Light+Building did not disappoint. A visit to the fair this year proved particularly beneficial in seeing a full array of the latest architectural lighting offerings—both decorative and technical.

Although the Milan Furniture Fair was happening simultaneously, it did not deter decorative lighting manufacturers from making a strong showing. Nor did the economic downturn appear to keep visitors away. And while there did seem to be less of a “buzz” in the air this year, Messe Frankfurt, the fair's organizer, reported attendance of more than 180,000 people over the course of the six-day event.

What Light+Building is so good at doing is inspiring lighting designers and architects with the endless possibilities that come with discovering new lighting tools. As I scoured the aisles of the six principal lighting halls, I was impressed by a number of new product offerings. On the decorative front, one couldn't help but be impressed with the sheer beauty and scale of Luceplan's Hope chandelier. At once modern and classic, the goal was to “reimagine the chandelier using as few sources as possible per fixture,” according to Paolo Rizzatto, one of the luminaire's co-creators.

Philips, a major presence at the fair, appears to be reinventing itself as it works hard to be known as more than just a lamp company. CEO Rudy Provoost made it clear during the company's press conference that they believe LEDs are the source of the future. To that end, their two lines of fixtures that integrate color-changing capabilities and personal control—LivingColors and LivingAmbience—are particularly interesting. Launched in Europe, they are available in limited release in the United States.

To be sure, LEDs were everywhere. However, an abundance of LED products does not mean it all represents quality. But some do. One new launch that separated itself from the pack was Erco's Quintessence. This line of recessed luminaires, with more than 1,200 different possible configurations, is designed with LED sources in mind, as it pays special attention to the reflectors and lenses incorporated into the luminaire assembly. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons—everything from market share to the UL process—this line will not make its way across the Atlantic. Still, for designers working outside the United States, this is an interesting new product line to keep in mind.

Another notable development in the field of LEDs was the emergence of what people have begun referring to as modules. Slowly, manufacturers are addressing the new form-factor possibilities that LED sources offer. The future of light sources is moving away from round bulbs to flatter, puck-like shapes. A number of companies—Cree, GE, Philips, Osram, Xicato, and Bridgelux and Molex (in collaboration)—launched new LED modules that enable OEMs to design luminaire housings based around an LED source. All have slightly different approaches to their assemblies, but all address issues of color rendering and stability, which continues to be a key concern for lighting designers about using LEDs.

Most manufacturers are putting serious research and development behind the introduction of new LED products. One of the most promising prototypes I saw was Selux's presentation of a linear LED module that could function as a direct-indirect fixture as well as a wallwasher. Combining cool and warm LEDs, each separately dimmable, it was nice to see issues of optics and glare addressed in the design of the fixture. The wallwash version was particularly exceptional with a light distribution of 4:1, better than the standard 3:1 ratio.

Another product that caught my eye was a software program: Schréder's Owlet wireless control system for managing street lighting. The fully functional program allows for the tracking of a fixture's energy use so that municipalities can address energy savings in real time, in addition to monitoring where maintenance is needed. Information about operating status is stored in a database that includes a time stamp and geographical location. The program was impressive in both its functionality and user interface.

Finally, one of the things that still continues to surprise me is how indirectly, if at all, issues of sustainability enter the discussions about lighting overseas. While manufacturers do address green design topics, it is not something they launch into right away—unlike the product discussions at U.S. trade shows. Perhaps this is because building codes in Europe have addressed sustainability issues in a different way, often through more integrated curtain-wall design. Still, it is rather surprising that this discussion was really not part of the dialogue around lighting technology and products at Light+Building.

Although Light+Building does not take place in the U.S., it is recognized by the industry as the pinnacle in lighting trade shows, and we believe it is important to report on these findings. They offer inventive and stylish solutions that provide a source of inspiration—an important part of the lighting profession. We start our recap as seen through the eyes of several designers who attended the show. Look for additional coverage online at

Attendance at Light+Building is not an inexpensive proposition, but the rewards are great. Luckily, one has two years to absorb all that was seen, heard, and discussed before it's time to head to Frankfurt again.