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Daniel Rybakken

Issue 55 Jun / Jul 2010

As all good designers should, Daniel Rybakken likes to question accepted norms, breaking them down into their essential elements and building up fresh approaches to everyday problems.

Though only recently graduated, his work with lighting – or perhaps more accurately, his obsession with light – has brought this young designer to the attention of top name decorative lighting manufacturers, garnered an international design award and more recently led to the completion of an impressive lighting installation in Stockholm.

Rybakken’s interest in lighting was sparked over ten years ago while sitting in the lounge at his mother’s house in Oslo. He was intrigued by the way the ambience of the room could change from pleasant and airy during the day, to restrictively claustrophobic by night.

Placing a fluorescent lamp behind the lounge’s closed curtains, he experimented with recreating the daytime feel of the room, which was more usually lit at night by a couple of traditional incandescent lamps.
He concluded that by introducing false daylight he was creating the suggestion of a wider world behind the curtain, he was able to establish a conncection between his mother’s lounger and the wider world beyond – introducing a psychological sense of space.

Rybakken started to think about how he could create a lighting object that would suggest extra space, rather than highlighting the limitations of the existing room. He wanted to step away from the reductive approach of most decorative lighting.

“If you look around Milan [Salone Internazionale del Mobile] and you look at the finer lamps, they’re usually just lampshades, or an object that someone has designed, inserted a lightbulb into and called it a lamp,” say Rybakken. “It’s all about the aesthetics of the lampshade – it’s the same thing we’ve done for the last hundred years – taking an electric light and placing something around it to dim it, to make it more diffuse.” Rybakken wanted to take a different approach. “I wanted to design the light and not the lampshade,” he says.

His first success came with the creation of Daylight Comes Sideways*, a wall-mounted panel that used 1,100 LEDs behind a frosted screen to simulate daylight falling through a blurred semi-transparent ‘window’. By programming these dimmble LEDs, dynamic artificial shadows were made to move across the screen. The mesmeric effect impressed the judges for the 2007 Red Dot Awards and it was named Best of the Best in the Design Concept category.

Next Rybakken looked at the shadows cast by direct light. The Subconscious Effect of Daylight is a table into which a projector has been fitted. Light is thrown onto the floor in a pattern that mimics the shadows that might be cast if daylight were to fall onto the piece. It was a prototype of The Subconscious Effect of Daylight that was seen by an art consultant working for Sweden’s largest property management company, Vasaskronan AB. Vasserkronan were in the process of redeveloping Vasagartan 7, an old 1970’s office building in central Stockholm, and wanted to commission a light art installation for the entrance lobby and the three-storey stairwell which was set to replace the exisiting elevator shaft.

The Vasagaten project allowed Rybakken to try a new design, bringing together the LED backlighting of Daylight Comes Sideways* with the illusion of direct sunlight created by The Subconscious Effect of Daylight and incorporating them directly into the architecture of the building.
Using over 6,000 OSRAM Backlight LEDs (more commonly used in commercial signage), Rybakken created a series of parallelogrammic LED sheets mounted on aluminium frames. These were installed behind the Corian-panelled walls of the lobby and stairwell - placed at regular intervals rising through the three storeys.

The Corian panels were CNC milled down to a thickness of just 3mm in the areas that are backlit by LED with precisely gradiated edges helping to create a realistic blurred shadow edge. LED sheets sit approximately 3cm behind the Corian panel – a distance found to give the optimum light output without the individual LED pixels becoming visible. A pendant light hung at the top floor adds a final gradient of light to complete the effect which Rybakken has dubbed Daylight Entrance.
Attention to detail on all the element that go into the installation come together to make a convincing final product. “It’s something I’ve looked at for a number of years now,” says Rybakken. “ Looking at light and saying to myself, ‘What is it with this light that makes it look real?’ You don’t think about it – you just know it’s real; you know that it’s sunny outside. There’s a lot of information in the light and I wanted to keep that information, to communicate those emotions.”

Whilst he enjoys doing these large scale conceptual installations, Rybakken also hopes to translate the Daylight Entrance concept into a marketable, out-of-the-box product for smaller scale installations. As work has already brought him to the attention of big name manufactures, like Artemide, Luceplan and Ligne Roset, it seems certain we will be hearing more from Daniel Rybakken in the future.


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