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Light is a smart material: MX2014 lecture

In design, the concept of ‘smart’ can have different meanings. The bold statement by Rogier van der Heide, chief design officer with Philips, is that smart is the combination of technology with a human vision.

The theme for Material Xperience 2014 is The Smart Environment. We are going to be exploring the concept behind smart in depth. Each of our speakers will be addressing the issue from a different viewpoint. Rogier van der Heide will be talking about light, and how light is much ‘smarter’ than anything else.

So what does that really mean? A few examples provide clues. The speaker collaborated on various well-known large projects, from museums to stadiums, and has helped provide not only illumination and colour to these buildings, but actually made light an almost tangible part of the design: light has become a material.

In the renewed Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the design team looked for simplicity and a pure approach to lighting to bring the art closer to their original appearance. Using LED means light colours remain consistent across galleries, even when spotlights are dimmed.

Daylight is equally important. At the Stedelijk Museum, the designers developed a daylighting approach based on selective diffusion and reflection and careful analysis of the available light. A floating scrim with louvers and additional linear lighting keeps light levels comfortable at all hours. The entire system was mocked-up full scale before construction.

Further afield, the design for Beijing Olympic Stadium required a strong image at night, not only for people on the ground but for helicopter views too during filming. The lighting design ensures that the stadium glows from within, like a Chinese lantern. That emitted light silhouettes the exterior structure.

The full story of how light can be a smart material will be given by Rogier van der Heide during his presentation at Material Xperience 2014. He is a designer in the public and commercial realm, and Vice President and Chief Design Officer of Philips Lighting. As a lighting designer, he has had extensive experience with renowned architects all over the world, receiving prizes for individual and collaborative work. He lectures frequently: his talk at the TED forum was on ‘the beauty of darkness’.

This profile is one of a series in which we are giving previews of the star lectures featuring at Material Xperience 2014. You can see the entire speakers’ programme here. For your free ticket, register here.

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