Our backlit features, in all of their beauty, are proudly monolithic and rigidly calculated. We debate over 1/32” changes in joint lines, the words “align”, “coordinate”, “tolerance” are plastered across our shop drawings, and we sweat over manufacturing tolerances at fractions of a millimeter. With such deep-seated precision in our daily design work, it’s no surprise that this art installation caught our attention as a refreshing reprieve.
In the Vana installation by the architects at Orproject, surface material meets LED backlighting but the result is anything but permanent. As a canopy draped over an entire room, the triangulated tree structure grows and stretches towards certain points of light. An immersive installation, the structure consists of geometric shapes stitched together with joint lines expanding and contracting as the tree grows and evolves into new shapes. There’s a lot to touch upon why this piece is impressive, but here are the main qualities that stand out to us:
The surface creates the interior space; the surface IS the room as opposed to an applied finish. The distinction between ceiling and column is blurred, a welcome contrast to the standard manner in which architectural planes rigidly intersect.
Lighting the Void
While our work focuses on illuminating an entire panel of material, Orproject flips this relationship to celebrate the joints between pieces. Light escapes through these voids, making the attachment method and that gap more curious than the material itself. This gets us thinking, is negative space > positive space?
Do the terms “organic” and “geometry” even belong in the same phrase? With the 3D printing craze yielding structures derived from computer algorithms, these days many architectural forms are beginning to look the same, regardless of context or culture. In this project, the ability of the structure to organically adapt to a stimulus, and the thoughtful engineering behind that feat, is elevated to an equal importance as its shape.
Deep layers of light and shadows emerge as the as the tree structure shifts, unveiling different lighting patterns. The perception of a forest is simultaneously linked to its layers of shadow and light – a simple quality that can be easy to forget when forging through the world of lighting design.
As designers and engineers, our egos can pull us to view our creations as perfect, permanent objects, indestructible by even the most powerful of forces. But the materiality, construction, and form of the Vana installation reminds us that our creations – no matter how robust we perceive them to be – are relatively fragile, transient, and forever-aging. Time and nature will cause imperfections in our designs (like the “cracks” in the Vana installation), but that does not lessen their value. It simply calls attention to the fact that no matter how creative man is, we cannot outsmart the natural progression of time.
We appreciate when designers are as dedicated to the little, yet essential, details as we are. And we’re especially respectful (and, admittedly, a little jealous) when they manage to reveal and celebrate them as the heart of a project in new and unexpected ways. For highlighting latent nuances in form, light and detail, we salute Orproject and their Vana installation. Thanks for bending not only the forms you design with, but also our perspective on backlit features.
Image credits: Orproject