Building on the success of its first global lighting design convention held in London in 2007, this year's Professional Lighting Design Convention once again proved to be a formidable event. More than 1,100 individuals involved in lighting from 43 countries around the world representing design, manufacturing, research, education, and public policy gathered in Berlin from Oct. 29 to 31 for a program devoted to all aspects of the lighting design discipline. And while there were a series of preconvention gatherings, including a City Planners' Forum and invitation-only sustainability and education meetings, the main conference treated attendees to a packed lineup that included five keynote speakers, 65 paper presentations, a special series of student presentations known as Vox Juventa, and a gala finale celebration.
THE PRESENTATIONS Similar to the 2007 conference, the papers, which were reviewed and selected by an independent jury of lighting design professionals, were organized into four tracks: lighting design research, lighting application cases studies, daylighting and sustainability, and professional practice issues. There was a heavy bent on presentations that focused on light and health topics, daylighting techniques, and lighting case studies for museum applications and urban place making. The most thought-provoking keynote talks were delivered by Dr. George Brainard of Thomas Jefferson University, Department of Neurology in Philadelphia, who spoke on the physiological impact of light on humans, and Mark Rea from the Lighting Research Center in Troy, N.Y., who discussed sustainability as a collaborative foundation for science and design. With first-rate speakers often presenting simultaneously, it proved difficult to choose which seminar to attend.
Standout presentations included Gabriele von Kardorff's overview of the lighting design for the decade-long rebuilding of the Neues Museum in Berlin; Speirs and Major's in-depth master class review of its designs for St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the Grand Mosque in the United Arab Emirates (UAE); Ulrike Brandi's discussion of her firm's work on the lighting master plan for Rotterdam, Netherlands; Roger Narboni's presentation of his lighting design master plan for the Grand Canal in Hangzhou, China; and Paul Traynor's talk on “bokeh,” the phenomenon of unfocused light first noticed in photography. A strong contingent of lighting designers from the United States presented 11 of the sessions and reinforced the fact that U.S. practitioners and institutions are conducting some of the most advanced daylighting and lighting research.
If there is one criticism to level against the event, it would be that the 12 papers on view through the electronic PowerPoint poster sessions seemed to get short changed. There could have been a clearer announcement that these presentations were going to be shown, as well as a more definitive statement of where they would be held. Additionally, there appeared to be some kind of ongoing technical difficulties that prevented the PowerPoints from being seen on a regular basis. As a result, there really was no chance to see these presentations.
That being said, the event ended on a high note, a celebration of light designed by Herbert Cybulska specifically for the gala dinner venue—the Palais am Funkturm on the Berlin Fairgrounds. Evoking themes from the 1950s that paid homage to when the building was constructed, the audience of more than 500 guests was treated to a lighting spectacle and live performances by musicians, vocalists, and local Berlin artist Helge Leiberg's video paintings.
THE AWARDS The other focus of the gala dinner was the Professional Lighting Design Recognition Awards. All five categories had an impressive list of nominees and the jury had its work cut out for it in selecting only one winner for each. Best Professional Work was awarded to Speirs and Major for the Grand Mosque in the UAE; the Award for Research and Education was presented to professor Jan Ejhed for establishing the Ph.D. course at KTH, Royal Institute of Technology in Handen, Sweeden; Best Partner in the Industry was given to lighting manufacturer Weef; the Award for Daylighting was given to the Bruder Klaus Kapelle, a chapel in Wachendorf, Germany, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor; and the Award at Large was given to Lighting Urban Community International (LUCI) for it international efforts to improve urban lighting.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to William Lam for his professional achievements in integrating lighting and architecture discussions through his practice, teaching, and writing. Unfortunately, Lam was not able to attend. He was too frail to travel, but he did offer a prerecorded message of thanks along with insightful words about the challenges facing lighting practitioners today.
THIS IS A CONFERENCE, NOT A TRADE SHOW What makes the PLDC particularly unique is its ability to find the right balance between audience and content. It is a conference in the true sense of the word, where the focus is on the presentations, as opposed to a trade show where everyone is scouting new products. For the 47 manufacturers that did have small booth exhibits, it was a much more relaxed environment where designers could take a quick look at the product displays. Adding to the energetic atmosphere were the substantial number of students and young designers among the conference crowd who created a whole new level of integrated discussion.
A third PLDC will be held in 2011, although the location for that event has not yet been determined. But it was announced that a symposium devoted to daylighting would be held in October 2010 in London.
Overall, the PLDC confirms that there is a genuine interest in, and a tremendous amount of work being done in, the lighting design field and that architectural lighting should be recognized as a global endeavor that is making its way to the forefront of all of today's relevant discussions.