• Space lighting experiences

Dignifying Space

August 2017 - by Rolf Zavelberg

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Light has always fascinated and influenced me. I can still clearly remember how I protested against a new kitchen light when I was a child. The light from the fluorescent tube caused me physical discomfort.

I still react directly to light which has led to my intense preoccupation with light. For example, when I get a new office, the first thing I do is to replace the standardized and, quite probably, technically high-quality work lights with those I feel comfortable with.

SOR_LiveLight_Beautiful-DignifyingSpace.jpgToday, my office and my apartment are “test laboratories” for lighting controls, lighting, and staging. The lighting adapts in intensity and color along with the natural progression of the day and my changing needs, which keeps me feeling refreshed and happy.

To achieve a sense of well-being from the lighting, it is not only necessary to take the quality of the individual lamps into consideration – the room as a whole must also be taken into account. Just one small change in lighting color and intensity makes the atmosphere in a room feel quite different. For this reason, light is the most fascinating design element that I know of. Or perhaps I should say: light and shade; because the interplay of light with darkness – the various gradations – is what makes it interesting and unique.

Seeing the world through my lens, the beauty of nature itself results from its wealth of detail, the constant change and the interplay of light and shade. Appreciating this living diversity is a major fascination for me and the driving force behind my work.

By using lighting to consciously steer the attention of visitors, I can bring certain things into the foreground while allowing others to fade into the background. By creating shadows, which we often do ourselves as part of our work, we are able to illuminate surfaces and objects in ways that appear natural.

Light gives us the ability to see colors and contours, and the quality of the light determines whether these appear dull or vivid. For a long time, it was difficult to achieve this with LEDs, until SORAA came along. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Shuji Nakamura, professor and co-founder of SORAA, and his amazing engineering team for further evolving LED technology. Their technology breakthroughs and unique design mean they have created truly extraordinary high-quality lighting and I know of no better.

SORAA lamps not only emit faithfully reproduced white light and the entire color spectrum, but also allow for clear and defined shadows. Both are very impressive and, in my opinion, are one of the best tools.

The extent to which nature is capable of impressive artworks can be seen in the example of a limestone cave in Saalfeld, Germany, which we are currently illuminating. This former mine lay abandoned for centuries. During this time, beautiful rock formations formed in an amazing array of colors.

In the spring grottos, part of the cave system that we illuminated in January 2016, countless subtle gradations in ochre and a range of white, black and blue hues can be seen. To bring these to the forefront, we used SORAA lamps, specifically their GU10 LED lamps, with different color temperatures.


The colors of some minerals or rock layers required a cold white light, while others needed warmer white light. Furthermore, we used various SNAP SYSTEM™ attachments, especially those with an elliptical dispersion characteristic, to emphasize the structure of the rock and mineral formations and to highlight depth in combination with shadows.

It was impressive to see how the beauty and diversity of these caves were further revealed with each lamp we installed. As a lighting artist I feel the change that takes place in the space when everything is in its “correct” place. It is precisely for this reason that all the elements must interact with each other and, time and again, it is amazing to see what effect even small changes, such as alignment, can have.

We therefore preferred to use the evening and night for the process of fine-tuning, so that we could work when we were alone in the mine, and devote ourselves to the details entirely undisturbed. I can still feel the deep reverence and gratitude that rose in me when, one evening – it was after midnight, and we were finally able to look at the finished result. It was almost impossible to break away from this unreal beauty. Suddenly I could see the stories that the mountain told. Somehow our work had neutralized the distinction, and I felt at one with this wonderful masterpiece of nature.

It’s moments like this that make my job so satisfying, and that is precisely what visitors ultimately feel when the sensitive staging allows them to open up and permit the magical design of nature to touch them.

Photo credit: Gordon Axmann of Aktivraum, SORAA

Rolf Zavelberg, a lighting artist from Cologne, produces spaces that provide an enlightening ambience, creates lighting experiences and makes the invisible visible.

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