Flexible Lighting Systems

State-of-the-art staging of architecture

Munich, 01.02.2021

An interview with Martin Reuter, Head of Realization Center at OSRAM GmbH, Munich Germany

OSRAM: Mr. Reuter, high-quality lighting plays a key role in today’s world, and even more so when it comes to sophisticated building projects. How do you think this striving for high standards is reflected in the orchestration of state-of-the-art architecture?

Martin Reuter: Light has always been an essential part of technical building equipment, but the trend towards high-quality lighting has become even stronger in recent years. Just think about miniaturized LED applications, which open up a whole new world of solutions for presenting architecture in the best light – and also about the benefits of innovative technologies such as Human Centric Lighting (HCL). Furthermore, efficiency enhancements, and control and sensor technologies are gaining more and more in importance.

OSRAM: What role does lighting play in existing buildings, for example in the refurbishment of historic buildings? And which aspects are of particular relevance to building owners and also future visitors?

Martin Reuter: When designing a new illumination concept for a refurbishment project, lighting planners must seek to balance two challenging demands: incorporating cutting-edge lighting and control hardware while at the same time preserving existing structures. In this regard, future-oriented LED technology also provides endless possibilities. If the new lighting is perfectly planned and implemented, the replacement of obsolete light sources can, in many cases, not even be consciously perceived by the human eye. However, this change becomes clearly noticeable when looking at the electricity bill, because innovative LEDs have the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption.

OSRAM: What technical requirements must an innovative lighting installation fulfill in order to bring out the full beauty of architectural structures – and thus satisfy the high aesthetic expectations of many clients today?

Martin Reuter: There is not just one answer to this question, simply because people’s preferences, building styles, and also lighting tasks vary from project to project. But no matter what the case may be, it’s always essential to take lighting into consideration once the first project drafts are available. This ensures that creativity has almost no limits. To mention some examples: Various lighting options – such as the color and direction of light, the luminous emittance and many other variables – can be combined in a sophisticated manner in order to specifically highlight material surfaces. Spotlighting and linear lighting of structures and surfaces inside or outside a building are simply ideal for creating distinctive impressions – and wide-area lighting can even add a further dimension. Last but not least, dynamic lighting elements – whether just dimmable or with different colors – open up almost endless possibilities to give a building a distinctive look against the night sky.

OSRAM: Does this mean that viewers today have become more demanding with regard to architectural lighting – and if so, in your experience, how is this reflected in conversations with OSRAM customers and other scenarios?

Martin Reuter: Yes indeed. Both building owners and architects have higher demands and expectations than ever before and want to benefit from the wealth of new options which state-of-the-art LED technologies provide. Today it’s possible to make facades shine in homogeneous light as bright as day – or lend them a more differentiated appearance thanks to integrated light. It’s of course a constant challenge to balance technical feasibility with the client’s preferences, and in each individual case the final decision must be made by the architect and the building owner.

OSRAM: How important is homogeneous light distribution within the scope of architectural lighting?

Martin Reuter: When talking about facade or external lighting, wide-area lighting gets closest to daylight – and is thus most appealing to the eyes of many viewers. But a facade can also be visually subdivided by applying different luminance levels, for example.

OSRAM: Do aspects such as dimming or lighting control also play a role or should these rather be considered as technical gadgets which can be neglected for this field of application?

Martin Reuter: As we all know, reducing our energy consumption is crucial. Dimming can contribute significantly to this global goal. In the late evening hours, the lighting can be adapted to the lower general light intensity of the environment and controlled fully autonomously with the large number of different sensors and controllers available today.

OSRAM: What’s the role of visual comfort in the context of homogeneous architectural lighting?

Martin Reuter: I think we can all relate to the unpleasant experience of glare from oncoming vehicles on a dark country road late at night. Unfortunately, there are many such disagreeable examples in architectural lighting: Facades are illuminated from inappropriate positions without taking the viewer’s viewing direction into consideration. The glaring effect is even increased by the fact that the human eye is highly sensitive to different luminance levels, especially in these luminous intensity ranges. But those lighting designers who plan ahead and make high visual comfort a priority for their lighting concept can effectively prevent mistakes with long-term consequences – a key point to be recommended for future projects.

OSRAM: How do you handle criticism, for example from people who think that facade lighting is “nothing but light pollution”?

Martin Reuter: Everything can be questioned, but nowadays facade lighting can be implemented with little energy consumption. An innovative LED system – of course depending on the size and surface – consumes less energy than any vacuum cleaner or toaster customary in the trade. Targeted, energy-efficient architectural lighting breathes life into cities and buildings at night. Just balance the depressing scenario of dark castles or fortresses with the joy of viewers who are also able to see these buildings in the dark. From my point of view, these are very good reasons why well-designed facade lighting cannot be considered as light pollution; it’s just quality of life.

OSRAM: Mr. Reuter, thanks for taking the time for this interview.

Get inspired:
Facade lighting for the National Theater – Munich, Germany
Interior lighting at St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City/Rome, Italy
Basic and effect lighting – Collegiate Church of Vreden, Germany