ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING asked the lighting designers, artists, and architects involved with the projects discussed in the fall issue of A|L LED to offer their perspective on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the benefits and difficulties in working with solid-state lighting technology. Designers respond below to the LED Exchange Question: How was your design process impacted by working with a new lighting technology—LEDs?

Thomas Sayer
Artist/Architect Clearscapes
Project: Shimmer Wall
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As an artist who frequently designs installations for public projects and sites, my work often includes lighting as an important component. “Lighting” for such scenarios has, historically, meant illuminating art objects or art environments with a fairly straightforward set of lighting techniques—in-ground lighting, spotlights from on high, or sometimes internal lighting. All, however, are traditional fixture-based sources and quite limited in their expressive potential. Lighting also has been a way to extend the viewer's art experience and the life of the piece into nondaylight hours. With the advent of color-changing, programmable LEDs, and its current status of being more reliable, available, and affordable, lighting for public art takes on a new meaning and creates new artistic possibilities. Lighting in the post-LED world means that the light itself can become a viable part of the artistic idea; the artwork itself can be conceived of in terms of its capacity for expressive light. The difficulty in the design process, however, continues to be access to the technology as a playful material. Most good art comes, at some point, from playing with materials. In all but very large projects, the cost of mocking up the lighting and its controls is prohibitive and limiting. For LEDs to continue to fulfil their expressive potential, artists will need to experiment and try things out to discover the untapped expressive power of the technology. The lighting industry would do well, in my opinion, to make its technology available to artists and designers to experiment and play.

Michael Mehl Director, Lighting Design JB&B
Project: The New York City Waterfalls
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Working with LEDs offered us interesting possibilities both technically and aesthetically in realizing Olafur Eliasson's artistic vision. The exterior environment provided some comfort from the immediate concerns and demands of the technology (i.e., color rendering and heat dissipation). Hiding the source was the biggest challenge, so that the water would appear as if lit by moonlight. The design cried out for a source with a more immediate and even appearance on the water. LEDs offered this capability. Unlike prior projects we have worked on, LEDs were not chosen for their promise of extended life since the project has a limited installation period—four months. Knowing the LEDs' size-to-light output ratio favored them over conventional lamp sources. The final confirmation of the technology was answered via mock-up, proving the system would perform beyond original expectations.

A critical component to using LEDs, beyond the specific source, is the choice of manufacturer. Architects and lighting designers should chose a manufacturer that understands the technology and can aid the design process considerably. Since LEDs are a compilation of components, the best friend the lighting consultant can have with the burgeoning technology is to work with a manufacturer that understands the nuances of LEDs and can integrate ever-evolving aspects of the technology, while delivering on the conventional design process of conception through installation.

Amy Landesberg Principal
Amy Landesberg Architects
Project: Georgia Tech Power Wrap
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Working with LEDs has expanded our opportunity to create interesting lighting. Effects that were previously difficult are now feasible. Since LEDs are programmable, light shows can be carefully crafted to illuminate the station in a manner otherwise not possible. Individual shows are created to “energize” the substation in a diverse range of atmospheres and can be created to reflect a particular mood or serve as a barometer of the site's particular conditions. Each show can vary in length and the full spectrum of color is available. On a daily basis, the Power Wrap acts as a translucent screen, and evolves from fluctuating and revealing patterns of the daytime to a surprising and exciting revelation of color and shadow at night.

Brian Stacy Lighting Leader, Americas Region Arup Lighting
Project: Cellophane House
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To make sure we did not miss anything utilizing LED technology, while giving us the visual effects we were after, we returned to first principles. We started by developing the visual concepts of cool, warm, and colored light. Dividing the various elements of the project meant different fixtures, and these smaller sizes meant we literally could build the LEDs into the plastic construction of various aspects of the house. Further, the salient features of the LEDs had us examine all aspects of the light source incorporated into the luminaires such as the brightness from the diodes. The ability to run the LEDs together from end-to-end on one circuit gave us lots of flexibility for the electrical connections. Last but not least, the light weight and small profile of the LED fixture meant unconventional adhesion and placement of the LEDs and related wiring.