One of the very great privileges of my position on the Queensland chapter committee of IES – The Lighting Society is that I have the opportunity to light some key architecture events around Queensland.
Each year the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) holds seven Queensland regional awards, leading up to the Queensland State Architecture Awards. In 2013 these were held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, on Friday 21 June.
The AIA appoints a ‘creative director’ for each awards event – this year’s being Richard Kirk Architect (Kirk). The creative director’s job is a challenging one: Not only do they have to come up with an exciting concept to wow their peers – they also need to do it on a very tight budget; and typically have to install on the morning of the awards, and pull it down that same night! The design also needs to accommodate up to one hundred A1-sized poster-boards of the award entries.
Katy Roberts and the team from Kirk met this challenge with a striking sculptural design in timber and sisal (hessian) rope. The timberwork was beautifully assembled to Kirk’s design by the joinery team at Duce, with the rope-work painstakingly (painfully?) completed by hand by the Kirk team. The rope ‘walls’ were to hem in the large and rather impersonal function space to a more intimate one. These walls being essentially transparent, it became the job of the lighting to create the illusion of a solid element – hiding the empty space behind.
The lighting design had to work on a shoestring not only because of limited budget, but also due to the very restrictive weight limitations of the rigging that supported the rope walls. Ultimately the desired lighting effect was achieved with:
- Just four fresnel spotlights above each rope wall, located directly over the forward-projecting sections of rope wall. Locating these here enhanced the modelling of the rope walls – by putting the ‘projections’ in light and leaving the ‘recesses’ in shadow, the whole assembly became much more three-dimensional. The warm colouring produced by these halogen spotlights also enhanced the colour of the natural hessian rope. Finally, the lights were tightly barn-doored to provide just a strip of light along the wall with little spill to the front and rear.
- Thirteen Philips Selecon PL1 architectural spotlights (on gallery track loaned by SLA – thanks) on a truss suspended in the centre of the space, aimed and tightly focussed on the display boards. The theming of the event was ‘black and white’ which meant that coloured lighting wasn’t appropriate, but a flat warm-white palette can easily become boring. The PL1 fixtures are colour-tunable, and so the colour was set to a 4000K cool white in contrast to the warm white of the rope-wall lighting. This had the dual effect of ‘separating’ and ‘floating’ the display boards (which were invisibly suspended from the walls by nylon line); and of increasing the perceived vividness of the boards by the cooler colouring (especially since architectural display boards tend to include a lot of blue sky).
- …and a few other supplementary spotlights hidden away up high in the space -though all of the lighting was accent and all general illumination was from borrowed light.
The light worked just as intended: Though the walls were in fact 90% open (and one could look straight through to the empty space behind) with lighting they became ‘solid’ and defined the space. Careful placement and aiming of the lights revealed and enhanced the sculptural forms of Kirk’s rope walls, and the display boards were given pride of place.
It was a great privilege to work with Katy and the Kirk team on this year’s event, and I look forward to a new challenge on the 2014 event.