Liquid Light, Sweden

Pic: and Snøhetta

ÅF Lighting has created Liquid Light, a unique approach to lighting design that orientates itself to human needs where natural light is lacking.

The demands of today’s technological and fast paced society requires a lighting scheme that keeps up and remains as fluid as the environment it is situated in.
Liquid Light, created by ÅF Lighting, is a design concept that brings light to life, by creating a visual environment with its own identity and unique expression.
ÅF Lighting is making it its mission to take part in designing the cities of the future and make them more environmentally friendly, efficient and navigable.
The concept of Liquid Light originated during collaboration with architectural firm Snøhetta and the construction of Powerhouse.

Located in Trondheim, Norway, Powerhouse is the world’s northernmost energy-positive building, where Liquid Light has ensured sustainability and an inspiring visual environment. The building is designed to be an office building that produces more energy than it consumes; the construction is designed so that the excess energy produced during the building’s operational time will exceed the energy used to produce the building materials, operation and eventual demolition.
“Liquid Light is contextually designed with respect for human needs and energy efficiency, ensuring unique lighting solutions for the users,” described the firm.
“The concept is inspired by natural light and based on the philosophy that the lighting should respond and adapt to the changes that are physically happening throughout the day.

“The absolute main challenge in the Powerhouse project was to reach the high energy goals without compromising the quality of lighting. Some energy goals were conflicting with each other, so we encouraged the client to deviate from these constricting criterias and instead ensure a good working environment where those who want can choose to use a desk lamp, as well as ensure an overall low power consumption used for the functional lighting,” explained Thea Collett, Architect and Senior Lighting Designer at ÅF Lighting.
“Further challenged by the demands of keeping a low energy consumption, the idea of having the light triggered by real time data, such as people moving around in the building, prompted the development of the lighting concept Liquid Light.”

Morten Jensen, Country Manager of Norway for ÅF Lighting, explained the decisions behind the colour temperature choices for the space: “We are not trying to copy nature, but rather adapt to it. For example, if the weather outside is rough and cold, the lighting could adapt by bringing warmth and calm lighting into the building. The lighting changes organically in parallel with the outside environment. It adds a natural element to the lighting installations and the architecture with the intention of connecting people to their surroundings.”
Associating the living and working space with nature and the outdoors, and its impacts on our physical and mental health, is a current point of interest in the lighting industry, and recognised through ÅF Lighting’s research.
“When we include natural elements in architectural design, we instinctively reconnect with nature,” they said.

The variability of this lighting approach allows ÅF Lighting to create schemes and concepts that are individually customised for the end user, without the need for any involvement from the individual.

Sensors are used to detect movement throughout a space, and lighting is programmed to react accordingly. The changes in movement are seamlessly integrated into the environment due to long dimmer curves and positively affect the user’s senses.
Each zone can be shaped to any personal need or set the mood for a particular space that facilitates meetings or workspace.

Powerhouse was fitted out with multiple predefined sensors that determined the time of day, week or year and controlled the lighting scenarios.
“As the project developed, so did the concept of Liquid Light,” explained Collett.
“We constantly adapted what kind of sensors to use, how the control system should be programmed and what real time data should be triggering the light levels. When it was decided that the concept should be implemented, all other technical decisions needed to adapt to this.

“One of the main challenges in the early stages was to find an energy efficient, visually comfortable luminaire that could adapt to the architecture and maintain general lighting.
“The design of the luminaire was a collaboration between Evolys, Snøhetta and ÅF Lighting,” continued Collett. “This multidisciplinary process ensured a general lighting scheme that adapts to the architecture, meets the highest energy demands and provides visual comfort through both technical and visual design aspects.

“We know that people feel positive when the lighting harmonises with their tasks or location in a workspace. Liquid Light is designed to adapt and follow each person as they move around in the building. Sensors trigger movements and the lighting seamlessly changes and adapts accordingly, which creates a sense of wellbeing.

“We recently completed an inspection to see the nearly finished result, with all the different lighting principles mounted. One of the most striking elements to see was the great impact of the different colour temperatures working together.

“In all working areas we used 4000K in the E-16 fixture. A main architectonic element is the cores (toilets, kitchens, stairs, lifts, etc.) running all the way through the building. “These are covered in wooden slats and in-between some of the slats we used linear LED products with a very warm light (2400K).

“Seeing the effects of the warm wooden cores, both from indoors and outdoors, exceeded all our expectations. We often illuminate vertical surfaces as a key feature in our designs. This ensures the impression of a bright area and allows us to dim or even skip lighting in areas such as corridors. The functional neutral lighting combined with the warm wooden verticals created just the atmosphere we were aiming for.”

Energy-positive constructions are encouraged globally and are playing a significant role in hopeful solutions to global warming. Snøhetta’s new architectural concept aims to set the standard for future commercial buildings to follow suit in being environmentally conscious in their construction.

The World Health Organisation predicts that stress-related illnesses would be one of the largest contributors to disease by the year 2020. The use of lighting to create a more natural environment is one of the proposed solutions to creating a better living and working space. It is thought that by bringing elements of the natural world into the built environment – known as biophilic design – stress levels and other ailments are reduced and productivity increased.

Incorporating biophilic design into their projects, the Liquid Light concept will play a crucial role in creating the natural environment effect with artificial lighting.
“Liquid Light is designed by using real time data harvested from traditional and natural sources like windmills or through temperature sensors, such as seasonal changes, or direct and indirect sunlight, as well as unconventional data sources, such as cloud formations, bird migration, human movement and automatically generated sine curves. It is a combination of conventional parameters and real-time data that determines these organic light scenarios,” explained ÅF Lighting.

Following on from Liquid Light’s conception, ÅF Lighting joined up with Snøhetta once more, this time to create an underwater dining experience at Under. The restaurant, due to open in March 2019, is located on the coastline of the Norwegian village, Båly. The concrete rectangular structure is semi-submerged five-metres under the North Sea and provides diners with a one-off underwater eating experience.

Due to the uniqueness of the project, it was important that the designers and client were transparent with their plans throughout the construction process. “All of the designers were forced to work together in order to deliver a holistic design that added value to the building and the business the project will show and serve,” explained Jensen.
“From day one, the design group has been a part of the client’s vision. All the designers were part of an advisory group that acted as ambassadors and gave the client input on professional skills.

“The project demanded full transparency in the design and engineering, therefore all the members had to have a good understanding and knowledge about each others’ approaches and were kept informed of any technical issues throughout the whole construction period.”
Both teams at ÅF Lighting and Snøhetta undertook extensive research, before embarking on the project, into the human impacts on marine life and the effects artificial lighting and architectural creations had on it.

“Research shows that light has a significant impact on the ocean’s ecosystem and, together with marine biologists, ÅF Lighting tested different lighting solutions and measured the effects on local marine life. Thus, the lighting concept at Under extends beyond the interiors into the water to measure the effects of light according to luminous emittance and spectral distribution,” explained ÅF Lighting.

The aim was for the lighting to attract various species that would be visible from inside the restaurant for the guests to see, but without harming the natural environment.
“By adding light to the area around the submerged restaurant, we can attract fish and observe the marine life at night. The light sources and amount of light will affect the marine species, depending on the light source,” explained Jensen.
“The underwater stage lighting was a challenge to position correctly due to the fact the ground is continuously changing through tides and currents,” elaborated Collett.
“The initial lighting fixtures are now in place and positioned under the water but there will need to be a scuba diver with lighting design skills that can maintain the luminaires over time.”

As well as functioning as a restaurant, the building’s other purpose is as a research centre for marine life. The coarse concrete surface of the building is specially chosen to encourage marine life such as mussels to cling to it, resulting in an increase in biodiversity.
The structure of the building played an important factor in the lighting design, as it was key for the designers to illuminate the space but discreetly disguise the fixtures, so as not to distract from the overall completed look.
“The whole building is mostly covered by seawater and leaning into the sea,” described Jensen.

“The ceiling is curved for acoustic purposes, so there was a special need for a tailor-made solutions for each luminaire. We ended up with more than 400 fixtures positioned exactly with vertical output and into a grid formation with no space for flexibility, which brought with it some challenges in the detailing.”

“Our main challenges were to maintain a natural light and to create a safe atmosphere at the bottom of the ocean for the visitors,” added Jensen.

“Due to the minimal amounts of daylight below the sea and with a natural reference to the theme of the restaurant, we envisioned that the lighting would float into the room where it is needed. It is finely tuned to the surroundings inside the restaurant and designed in harmony with the nature around, with an aim of creating a visual ecosystem.”

“By use of LEDs in a matrix located in the ceiling, the light sources are small with good glare control, which makes them almost invisible. Technically, Liquid Light consists of data harvested from different sensors, and for instance in Under, infrared sensors detect heat, while acoustic detectors respond to sound frequencies in the room. The data is then interpreted and transformed into light scenarios constantly changing and adapting to its milieu and the people using the space,” reflected ÅF Lighting.

“Liquid Light is designed to bring the wild outdoors into our civilised world. Just like air quality, thermal comfort and acoustics, lighting is a precondition for people to live and work comfortably in a healthy building. With Liquid Light, we embrace the challenges of designing human centred lighting.”