Kaleidoscopic adventures

Finally, the event we were all waiting for. A chance for us to take on something physical – to “build” like we did in our university days. An event where lighting professionals share knowledge, inspire each other directly, and get their hands dirty.

The Darc Awards for us is all about the “collaborative experience”. A project that should not be realised by a couple of designers, our concept was developed through collaboration in team meetings that included the entire studio. We pride ourselves in having created our own light installation, from design stage to the finished build (all of which was caught on camera – see the video at the end of this post). Moving away from the computer screen for a while and replacing the mouse with a hammer and jigsaw excites most of us – just as Lego does to a seven-year old (or me at 20 plus…).

This year we were inspired by the reflections and refractions seen through a kaleidoscope. We wanted our visitors to feel like they were inside a kaleidoscope, submerged in colours of light. The idea was simple – the execution was complex. Simple doesn’t always mean easy.

We covered the ceiling with triangular prisms acting as separate kaleidoscopes. The light fittings were supplied by the very helpful Paul Thorogood from PT Lighting (representing Heper) and were positioned above the ceiling and angled horizontally, punching light onto a mirrored surface that was at 45 degrees to push the light down into the prismatic triangles. The mirrors were all handmade in the studio: they were formed out of carefully glued pieces of dichroic glass that sat on a matt black surface. If you met any of us lately with cuts and glue on our fingers…now you know why.

Darc Awards 2016 Light Art Installation Ceiling Triangles Designers Nulty

To get a fully emerged experience the mirrors were mounted onto five Ø800mm wide wooden (again, handmade) cogs positioned horizontally above the ceiling – they would rotate together when the visitor turned the handlebar in the centre of the cube.

We were so excited arriving to site, wanting to realise our idea and the countless reflection tests we had done in the office. Unfortunately though, there was a big unforeseen challenge: the support beam for the central turning bar was positioned directly in the way of our triangles. The carefully measured positions of the cogs and mirrors all had to move and be re-measured on site. Apart from adding a few hours to our schedule this also turned out to be a very difficult job because everything had already been cut. But, we like to be tested!

Darc Awards 2016 Lighting Designers Installation Workings Cogs Nulty

Eventually (after re-measuring every offset) we got the dimensions right and the mechanism up on the ceiling (our arms are still sore after that workout). However, the ceiling sloped heavily towards the middle angling of the cogs, and the cog mechanism slowed to a halt. We resulted to the second best option and disconnected all but the centre cog, so that there would still be an option of rotating the light. We had to reposition the mirrors on the remaining cogs to match the triangles because these ended up being static.

We’ll be honest, as designers we were massively disappointed that our realisation was not fully achieved, but it was a learning curve and made us think on our feet. What did make us happy was seeing the joy on visitors’ faces when spinning the bar, experiencing colours move around the space.

Darc Awards 2016 Lighting Designers Installation Kaleidoscopic Play Nulty

We understand now why other designers spent thousands of pounds on their cube, both on materials and for hiring specialists to build their installation, to best realise their concepts. Ours ended up costing less than £500, and was completely built by Nulty hands.

It might not have gone exactly to plan. It might not have been the best lighting installation there, but isn’t that half the point of the Darc Awards? To test out lighting concepts on our own, and to feel the appreciation for other professionals by experiencing the challenges they face when helping realise a project to life. After all, the only people invited to the awards are other lighting professionals with similar skills.

We may well have come across some tough challenges with our installation, but will that make us spend thousands next year and loose the chance of getting our hands dirty? We’ve yet to decide, but probably not!

Want to take a look behind the scenes? Check out our journey here:

Blog post by Ida Evensen / Images Nulty