Artificial light and lighting fixtures: Creative expression phenomena of interior design

Jana Vinárčiková


Light and light fixtures are an indispensable part of the architectural scene, interior environment of buildings not excepting. They are the basic prerequisite of generating all-around interactions of people with the world around them, a specific designer layer influencing both functional and aesthetic qualities of the interior. They co-create visual stories and images, both day and night time interpretations of space and objects. They can stimulate the mind and express ideas in a symbolic, abstract manner. However, conscious visual artistic modelling of interiors through artificial light as a unique phenomenon – means of expression – has not been commonplace in the course of history of architecture. For a long time, creation of scenic effects has been associated primarily with the effects of natural light corresponding to the tectonics of a building, “the story line” or intentionally set emotional atmosphere. Creators only later became fully aware of all the possibilities at their disposal and then they fully seized light as an artistic tool of the creative process in the work of an architect and light designer. Paradoxically, it was the era of industrialization that prepared ground for the stepping outside of the box of the earlier approach of creators that focused on practical value, as it brought about significantly higher interest in the artistic aspects. Artificial light thus gradually won the exclusive position of an irreplaceable means of expression as an essential component of architectural affairs. It has become a flexible practical, artistic and, at the same time, marketing product capable of providing a dynamic visual experience.

In the context of the topic, the paper interprets several important milestones and circumstances that significantly affected the gradual modelling of interior light fixtures and light systems perceived as indispensable articles of artistic expression. The introductory sections interpret individual semantic areas of both natural and artificial light utilized to add creative architectural touches and to create a specific atmosphere of the interior environment. The attention is focused on current possibilities available in the advanced digital era, but also on alternative ways of its use in the distant past.

The sections of the article cover, one after another, the topic of artistic-compositional articulation of light that has one of the crucial roles in creating modern, scenically designed interiors. The focus is on basic quality characteristics involved in generating the final visual perception, the artistic modelling of space and interior furnishing elements.

The article contemplates two historically different principles of use of lighting media, i.e. conscious emphasis placed on the decorative nature of lighting fixtures on one hand and creation of aesthetical and optical effects by purposeful directing and spreading of the light flow. Furthermore, it covers prominent personalities and art movements that, with their theoretical work and their design work, contributed to further growth and subsequent purposeful development of this means of expression used in architecture and in art in general.

Since there is an inseparable connection between artificial light as a means of expression, light sources as technical means and lighting fixtures as composition elements of an interior, special attention is paid to every single one of them. The design of lighting fixtures, forming of lighting systems and creation of complex lighting concepts in the course of gradual historical development have been significantly affected by the discoveries and inventions in the field of light technology, including the development of light sources. The generation of new optical situations and visual articulation based on specific qualities of a particular source are thus naturally perceived through the optics of the chronological technological development. The progress in the area of light sources was one of the main factors that considerably contributed to the creation of new perception of light architecture and creation of designer artifacts in the form of light fixtures. For this reason, the article documents quite in detail the major milestones related to their development, from the very first source mankind was able to control in the form of fire, through pre-industrial, industrial stages in the development, to the present-day sophisticated LED and digital technology.

Sections describing the historical milestones in the development of lighting fixtures also refer to the close connection between the visual and constructional design and the light sources. The most important milestones are presented, from the discovery of the oldest preserved pre-historic lamp, through ancient oil lamps, early lighting fixtures from later periods, such as petroleum lamps, up to the lighting of the industrial era that used town gas and electrical sources. Special attention is paid to the second half of the 20th century that was characteristic with rapid development of lighting design, start of various styles and growing effort to achieve alternative emotional levels in the interior designs. In this respect, the article mentions the formation of two main European movements practicing variant methods in the designing of lighting objects. Furthermore, it compares the rather limited sources that could be used in the past with what is possible now, even though the past limitations did not obstruct the creation of visually attractive, inspirational interiors abroad and also in the conditions of Czechoslovakia of that era. This section is accompanied with plentiful illustrations and photo-documentation.

Relentless technological progress, enormous expansion of digital, IC and other technology is naturally associated with contextual development in the area of lighting concepts and has an impact on the design of lighting objects. This fact gives rise to the need to adjust the educational process in both practical and theoretical area. One possible method of verification of the new trends is through experimental solutions linked to practical work and solutions with an overlap to other scientific disciplines and this is also the base plate of the experimental section of the article. The research was conducted by future architects, interior designers, postgraduate students and employees of the Institute of Interior and Exhibition Design of the FA STU in Bratislava. The practical research was performed as testing of designs of prototypes on the scale 1 : 1 and 3D digital models and the theoretical part focused on identifying preference values from the perspective of both the designers and the users of home interiors. As the young generation represents a sample of future consumers, the research into their preferences constitutes an important part of the research activities. Observation of their approach and preferences not only in the theoretical area but also during the creative process itself helps to generate the relevant findings. The initial definition of the creative motivation bases and their acceptance or rejection by the respondents involved in the research – authors of the presented designs – opens a path to new knowledge and information and, what is more, introduces new ideas for research. The results then become a new addition to the field of creative design and also indicate potential future possibilities.

The basic objective of the paper is to emphasize the importance of cultivating comprehensive thought-processes of interior architects / interior designers, which inherently includes the ability to use light to shape architectural environment. The optimum use and selection of light sources and light fixtures and sets that meet the stipulated requirements are the basic pre-requisite of a functional, artistically coordinated and emotionally positive interior. Therefore, this topic should be explored in more detail in the future, both in the education process and in its practical application.

Keywords: interior, design, artificial lighting, lighting fixtures, lamps, light sources, artistic aspects