Lighting Outside The Box

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Known for our design and our capacity to create outdoor lighting products that are made to order, Philips Lumec is often approached for special projects that are particular in style and demand specific attention.

In 2009, Philips Lumec was approached by Lightemotion, a Canadian lighting company, who was part of a vast project to revamp the cultural complex, Place des Arts, located in the entertainment district in downtown Montreal. The revamping project included the renovation of all entrances, marquees, box office, exhibit space, a central theatre space, corridors, a wine bar, a multimedia zone and more.

The project also included changes to the outdoor façade of the main entrance and the esplanade. It is for this space, the esplanade, that we were approached to create signature custom-made luminaires designed by Lightemotion specifically for the project. Philips Lumec worked in collaboration with lighting designer Ludovic Lefevere to create 26 uniquely curved luminaires. Their odd shapes are unexpected and create quite an impact.

These 26 twisted luminaires represent a contemporary forest. Each luminaire is a tree with 2 lighted branches. However every passerby can use their imagination and interpret the fixtures in their own way. For me, the shapes of the luminaires represent flexibility in movement like we see in dancers. They emulate the range of emotions that actors make us feel during a play. It is a mixture of vulnerability and strength. These luminaires also bring an element of surprise, the unexpected, strange and whimsical, bizarre yet fun at the same time. These in your face luminaires give you something to talk about whether you like them or not. No one is indifferent. Just like the performances, the plays, the concerts that are taking place inside the cultural complex.

For our industrial designers and engineers the creation of these luminaires presented quite a challenge. Firstly, creating the curved shapes with aluminum was a fiasco because the metal wasn’t strong enough. With steel the posts were much more solid. The challenge however was to form fluid metal bending with steel without having too many joints. This was a very long process but finally we succeeded in doing so.

As for the light source, the lighting designer wanted a bulb covered by a globe that projected a white uniform light at a low wattage. No advanced LED technology here. The request was for a low wattage bulb in a globe. The globe was to be side mounted. At Philips Lumec we do mostly post top luminaires and pendant luminaires. Having a side mounted globe was certainly doable but it had to be solid and secure. Philips Lumec had to make sure water could not to be infiltrated. That was another major challenge that we successfully surmounted.

A happy coincidence occurred when the luminaires were being installed. We noticed that the globe surprisingly resembled an eye. The lighting designer incorporated this idea and so it appears as though the luminaires are looking at the people passing by. Who is watching who? Are the pedestrians the ones being watched? Are they the actors? The esplanade becomes the backdrop where the action is taking place and the luminaires are the spectators? What a twisted concept. Totally original!

Last but not least, these luminaires had to be removable so they could be taken out for special events. With this specific request the final challenge was to create a discreet base for each of these luminaires. Smaller, compact bases had to be fabricated to hide the electrical wires. No bolts could show because it just wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.

This special outdoor lighting project took ten months to accomplish. Many challenges had to be overcome, many tests had to be passed and the final result is astonishingly unconventional. It is lighting outside the box.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Place des Arts. This revamped Montreal landmark with its new and unique luminaires will continue to be part of our cultural landscape for many years to come.

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