Snapback: Interior Lighting

February/March 2012 issue of SNAP

What’s Changing? Everything

Bill Schwinghammer, Principal, Schwinghammer Lighting, said it best — “If I say that you can’t do something now, in two months you will be able to do it.” Much of this has to do with advances in LED technology (see sidebar), but it is not limited to LEDs. In design, we are seeing smaller fixtures, more organic shapes and sculptural forms, luminous walls and surfaces, and a return to more decorative fixtures. The color temperature and color rendering of LEDs has improved dramatically, increasing the percentage of LED fixtures on any job, and even fluorescents continue to improve in terms of output and maintenance. At the same time, energy requirements, LEED, light-trespass considerations, and energy codes are making every design decision more complex. Stephen Bernstein, Principal, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, says, “It’s virtually impossible now to do a project without a lighting designer.” For more on what’s new, read on. —Allison Craig

The new origami indirect fixture from Peerless Lighting
Photo by Brett Drury
The new origami indirect fixture from Peerless Lighting is one example of a trend toward more organic fixture shapes — in this case, inspired by the natural repeating crystalline and molecular patterns found in modern architecture, fashion, and design..
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Barbara Barker

Barbara Barker
Lighting Consultant
Trindera Engineering, Inc.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

“Finally, we are seeing some standardization of LED platforms, so there can be interchangeability. Philips Fortimo and Xicato are two examples of “FLM” modules, which make changing the LED light engine much simpler, more feasible, and more accessible. We are also seeing energy savings for lighting with the whole-building approach — that is, integrated design using energy modeling tools.”


Nelson Jenkins

Nelson Jenkins
Lumen Architecture, PLLC
New York City

“The market is going more and more toward LED in all applications, both interior and exterior. Issues that are coming up are that each product requires a very specifi c control element in order to get full range dimming, and then even over the course of the dimming it doesn’t always dim smoothly. You end up with pulses or bumps in the dimming curve. This has been an issue.”


William Schwinghammer

William Schwinghammer
Schwinghammer Lighting, LLC
New York City

“Trends in commercial lighting are heavily infl uenced by energy codes today. They are really forcing decisions. The only option will be to use LEDs for better or worse. Everything else will be obsolete. But we’re not there yet. The quality ones are very expensive. There are good manufacturers and good products, but very little product that is great yet.”

LEDs — Changing the Shape and Color of Architecture

Lincoln Center
Photo by Jimmy Cohrssen
Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design lit this rear-illuminated 2000-foot art wall in GSC Group’s offi ces with rows of LED fi xtures mounted at the top and bottom of the wall for ease of accessibility and maintenance.


It is becoming more and more apparent that LEDs are game changers, and not just in terms of giving us more fi xture type/lamp type options.

Let’s start with form. For years now, fl uorescent fi xtures have dominated commercial spaces, and we have spent a lot of time talking about how they are getting smaller and less obtrusive. Manufacturers like to use the words “almost invisible.” LEDs, of course, give us the ability to create very small fi xtures, but they also allow us to take lamps out of the box. Rectangles are no longer important. Fixtures can take on any shape imaginable, and as more manufacturers and designers begin to play with shape, those shapes start to become important architectural elements. They do not disappear into the design but become a key component. As lighting designer Claude Engle IV says, “people want more decorative now; they seem to be graduating out of the postmodern selfconsciousness.” Organic, sculptural, decorative — we’ve come a long way from round holes and square boxes.

Luminescent planes are showing up everywhere, not just in restaurants and bars. The ability to paint a wall with soft glowing color is too tempting to pass up, even in offi ce buildings, where building owners seek to comfort and stimulate increasingly stressed-out workers. Next on the horizon, according to Bill Schwinghammer, are “fabrics or wall materials that are electrifi ed and luminescent. There will be materials that are as thin as paper and illuminated. And color, which has been electric up until now, will be more normalized.”

Lastly, it is easier to create whiter, cooler light with LEDs, and with more owners demanding LEDs, the very color of our world may be changing. Schwinghammer confi rms that “color temperature is going up. People want spaces with cooler temperatures across the board, even in residential, but certainly in offi ce spaces and retail.” Could it be called global cooling? — A.C.

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