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Paul James / Pete Brewis - Editorial Comment

February / March 2013

An introduction to the latest issue from the editor Paul James and deputy editor Pete Brewis ...

Paul James, editor, writes: 
Once in a while you get a chance to rage against the machine a little. To stand up for the industry you know and love. This last month has been such an occasion...
When hearing about the ‘LEDs damage Van Gogh masterpieces’ headlines in some leading publications I decided to do a bit of research of my own to find out the true story. It turns out the experiments were carried out in lab conditions using a UV light source (a Xenon lamp high in UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C wavelengths to be precise). Unfortunately the research group, which included scientists from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam amongst others, chose to highlight the danger of LED lighting by publishing a spectral distribution chart from a six year old LED system with a particularly high blue bandwidth. The chart is labelled ‘Emission spectrum of a typical “white” LED, containing a substantial portion of harmful blue light’. Even more unfortunately, the report was jumped on by some lighting press and mainstream media all over the world, printing misleading headlines that LEDs were harmful to van Gogh paintings.
Remarkably, in questioning the research that used old LED data, I was attacked for being an LED evangalist by certain members of the lighting industry (individuals that I normally agree with!). Nothing could be further from the truth. On this very page I have written many editorials urging people to consider design and quality of light rather than always plumping for the energy efficiency of LEDs at all costs. I was simply redressing the balance and the full story can be found on our website ( for those that want to learn more.
It is regrettable that the research was published in such a way. The research was correct but the interpretation was wrong. Then again, that’s nothing new. It’s something we need to constantly guard against.

Pete Brewis, deputy editor, writes: We all know the arguments for good quality public realm lighting (safety, way-finding, civic pride) and we’ve all seen the consequences of poorly considered schemes (glare, spill, crowds with pitchforks), so its disheartening to see how often the illumination of our shared spaces still falls wide of the mark - quite literally in some cases. Part of the problem comes from lazy ignorance, but even when well intentioned, the planning of some environments can lack the subtlety of thought necessary to deliver a successful solution. Boxes are ticked and regulations met, but budget pressures, combined with the need to protect against meteorological attack and the occasional kicking, can lead to imperfect results if key players lack the invention and determination that comes with a passion for well-groomed photons.
This issue, we’ve brought together a selection of projects that show what can happen when designers go the extra mile - using light to define a space, to carve out a distinctive character - in many cases creating bespoke luminaire solutions to achieve their goal.
UNStudio’s uncompromising approach to Arnhem Central Station is a case in point. Their determination to realise a particular aesthetic led them to commission a special fixture, and one that didn’t break the budget. For their Strand East Tower project, Hoare Lea Lighting also had to get creative when a last minute change of construction technique rendered their existing choice of fixture obsolete, and just down the road, the work of LAPD has helped put Stratford Island on the map - no small feat given the attention-grabbing presence of its nearest neighbour, the London Olympic Park. Perhaps the most leftfield of our stories comes from Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district. Here lighting plays an integral part in a large-scale experiment in urban multiculturalism: a communal neighbourhood space that brings together the most successful elements of world city street design and creates a wonderland of urban best practice.
As the French government makes moves to impose a blanket ban on the illumination of public buildings after 1am, this issue offers a timely reminder that smarter thinking - not sledgehammer policy - will always provide the best solutions.



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