In a collaborative effort by Susanne Seitinger, Senior Technologist for Advanced Applications at Philips Color Kinetics, and Antonia Weiss, Strategic Designer at Philips Design Lighting, “Light for PublicSpace” is a book that explores diverse lighting projects that use contemporary lighting technologies push the boundaries of what’s possible with public lighting.
Part two, “A Framework for People’s Engagement with Light,” explores ways in which lighting designers can activate the urban realm in new, enriching ways by using LED lighting to create welcoming, safe, and attractive cities.
In the second of three question and answer sessions, Seitinger and Weiss weigh in on the future of lighting for public spaces and preview the second part of the book.
A Framework for People’s Engagement with Light
In the second part of your book, you discuss the different levels of public engagement that can be achieved by light: ambient, dynamic, responsive and interactive lighting. As a technologist, designer, or architect, how do these tiers help you think about creating lasting connections between cities and their citizens?
Susanne Seitinger: First of all, I don’t think of these categories as mutually exclusive. In studying diverse projects around the world, we observed installations which mixed all four levels of engagement. In some cases, there is ambient illumination that is also interactive at certain times of the evening. As a technologist, I think of the tiers as qualitative jumps in the underlying infrastructure. An ambient installation does not need digital sensors or additional connectivity. It works fine as a standalone network. When you start to move towards responsive systems or especially interactive installations, a system requires a much more sophisticated network infrastructure and potentially additional sensors and input devices. Designers also need to curate the interactive design of the entire experience over time.
Antonia Weiss: There’s an assumption that it all has to be interactive lighting, but that’s incorrect. We tried to find examples for the spectrum of possibilities, and sometimes the lines between them are not clear. As an architect, it shouldn’t force you to have to only use interactive technologies. You can connect the different types of lighting to the particular ways of using them. Some are more suited to bring out the qualities of a place, the rhythm of people or seasons, or how a space is used. We tried to tie each point in the spectrum to a particular meaning that light can have.
Light enables these different levels of engagement thanks to an increasing ease of integration with other digital systems. What are some of the characteristics that controls need to have moving forward?
SS: Speaking broadly, control systems need to be digital, networked, scalable, and resilient. In order to support a diverse set of requirements from simple scheduling to actual content management, control systems are becoming much more sophisticated and diverse to accommodate different needs. Groups like the Center for Infrastructure Based Safety Systems (CIBSS) at Virginia Tech are studying how dynamic lighting might be implemented on roadways. For truly interactive installation, it is still challenging to implement many systems since maintenance concerns and other challenges, like providing fresh content, are a constant concern.