HTC48, Netherlands

Light Sculpture at Philips HTC48, High Tech Campus.

LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture), along with lighting designers Beersnielsen, has created a unique gathering space in the atrium of the Philips Lighting headquarters in Eindhoven. mondo*arc editor Paul James paid a visit to bask in the light.

Standing outside the unassuming, modernist building named HTC48 – the Philips Lighting headquarters at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven – you would be hard pushed to imagine what lies inside. But when you walk in, the sight before you takes your breath away. The spacious atrium contains a magnificent lighting sculpture that appears to be an organic mass, flickering and communicating in an apparently random manner.

In close cooperation with Philips Lighting, LAVA (along with partners INBO and JHK) and Beersnielsen were responsible for creating and lighting the spatial sculpture called the Light Tree, a parametrically designed sculpture containing 1,500 ‘leaves’, hanging panels that cover the whole atrium. The aim was to design a space that both embraces the innovation and core values of the brand. The design features an inspiring and healthy work environment for the Philips employees.

Asked why Philips Lighting decided to create the atrium space and sculpture, Guillaume Galloy, Design Consultancy Director of Philips Lighting, comments, “The lighting industry is going through a huge transformation due to the digital revolution. As a company, this requires us to completely change the way we work. But at the heart of it all remains human communication. This is what the atrium fosters – the fact that people from different departments will unexpectedly meet and talk to each other.”

It might be said that the Light Tree signifies the root and branch of the Philips Lighting organisation and its philosophy.

For this reason LAVA conceived a network of ‘attractors’ throughout the building, where people need to go for specific uses. These spaces were designed to encourage informal ‘accidental’ interactions, known to be a key enhancer of success in R&D businesses.

“We use light for information, emotion and activation,” states Nuno Galvao, senior architect at LAVA. “It’s a different approach than just looking at luminaires. It’s a search for the original meaning and natural understanding of light.”

The giant tree demonstrates the behaviour of light, both natural and artificial. During the day 500 Philips Ecophon Soundlight Comfort light emitting panels (an integral product that consists of comfortable LED lighting with sound absorption in an integrated light and acoustic ceiling system) provide changing light scenarios, supplemented with 50 Philips Selecon RAMA LED fixtures placed in the centre of the sculpture which create the ‘Golden Light’. The idea of sunlight, light sparkles on water, or the dramatic play of colour, light and shadow at dusk and dawn.

Juliette Nielsen of Beersnielsen explains, “We tried to capture the different moments of daylight into the building like the sunlight that falls through the trees, for example. We created reflective cones that sit behind the panels and scatter the light creating beautiful patterns of light and shadow.”

A reflective surface on the back of each panel creates a play of light and shadow. It also filters and reflects natural light from the atrium side windows and skylights.

Because of this giant tree the light in the atrium transforms automatically, totally random from alluring light to refreshing or even energising light. To enhance the quality of the Light Tree, LAVA developed a light control application that allows individual control over each of the 500 panels and LED fixtures. It uses low-level artificial intelligence to derive daily light scenarios in an organic and non-repetitive way. Scenarios respond to the seasons, times of the day and architectural layout of the atrium space. The combination of natural light, physical representation and intelligent light control creates an innovative space-light office ecosystem.

“The atrium, originally the central courtyard of the 1950s building, was designed as a place of welcome, way finding, branding and staff interaction, and therefore had to be strong spatially,” says LAVA director Alexander Rieck.

The atrium also brings people together by congregating core activities such as exhibitions, meeting rooms, coffee bar, public talks and staff meetings, and is also the entrance to the new Philips Lighting Application Centre.

Covering the whole atrium ceiling the sculpture demonstrates the behaviour of light, both natural and artificial: reflection, diffusion and emission.

“Light was obviously the main driver but LAVA’s design goes beyond just showcasing technical solutions – it explores a deeper understanding of the nature of light. Light is only visible to the human eye when it reflects on something, so the sculpture gives shape and visibility to light,” adds Rieck.

Rieck explains, “The sun gives our sense of time. Working in an office means people miss the subtle light changes during the day. So LAVA programmed the panels using low-level artificial intelligence to create daily light scenarios in an organic and non-repetitive way for the whole calendar year. The patterns are never the same. Scenarios respond to different seasons, times of the day and the architectural layout of the atrium space and are used to activate or relax the users throughout the day.

“It’s a bit like an ecosystem, with light effects turning golden, for example, as an energy boost in the morning.

“We know from Fraunhofer Institute research that generating different lighting effects is a cost effective way to bring variety and productivity to the lives of workers who quickly become oblivious to their surroundings, no matter how attractive.”

“The iconic design not only gives visitors an amazing experience and a transition from the entrance to offices and the Lighting Application Center, but also reflects this innovative and forward-thinking company,” he adds.

The offices were designed to foster creativity with a more flexible and efficient use of space. Spaces were designed to encourage informal ‘accidental’ interactions, known to be a key enhancer of success in R&D businesses.

Special environments were created for different work situations – from concentration to communication, activation to relaxation.

Other factors such as variable visual fields, perceived security, acoustics, smell, lighting, materials and textures contribute to an effective and harmonious work environment, which meets the highest standards of the innovative workspace layout WPI (work place innovation).

The design was developed using the latest workspace research and Philips experience with recent fit-out experiments plus an intensive cycle of interviews and design meetings involving the end users and building management.