Vincent Laganier (VL): What does lighting bring to the context of an architecture workshop?
Laurent Lescop (LL): Lighting is not taught much among architects. Natural light is mentioned little, just here and there, while artificial light is seldom brought up or is not broached at all. Because of this, the students actually discovered a new discipline, which was fascinating because it was ultimately very dynamic. They took a projector in hand, and light and the world, were instantly transformed.
VL: How did the students participate in this international workshop?
LL: The workshop developed in three phases:
- Discovering light;
- Exploring spaces and establishing concepts;
- and the realization of the projects.
Realizing actual projects, working within the bounds of “real life,” was both a factor for involvement, but also an organizational motif. The students even came up with a protocol, so that they could discuss their differences peacefully.
VL: What places did you investigate on the Loire riverside?
LL: We established ourselves on the Ile de Nantes, below the Carrousel des Fonds Marins. There is a footbridge and a small clearing that no one seems to have noticed. These are pedestrian places, functionally lit up in the first case, and left in the dark in the second case.
VL: What were the lighting concepts that the students developed?
LL: The concepts were simple enough, since they only had one night to test them out. Above all, they “painted” the space with colors.
For the clearing project, they worked on the subject of the depth of the space.
- The foreground was rendered in warm colors, while the wooded depths were given cool colors.
- Reflective points wound up animating this space, conferring upon it a true magical sense.
- Outside visitors were immediately taken by it and lingered a long while to take in this atmosphere.
The footbridge became the object of a more complex installation, around a 3D metal structure. A cellophane film was rolled out over the top beams, creating a vibrant rooftop. The illuminating sources were placed in the reeds under the bridge or over the abutments. The result was fascinating. The light passed across the metallic grating, making it soar over the reeds, creating a real levitation effect. Overhead, the light reflected off the cellophane, suggesting the presence of water through caustic surfaces. It was amazing!
VL: How did the implementation go with the public lighting by Nantes Metropole?
LL: Incredibly well! The total involvement of the teams of Dany Joly and Philippe Weisz allowed for removing public lighting that could interfere with the projects. They also loaned materials.
There were also two technicians (Nicolas and JP), who came to create the installations together with the students. It was awesome! Beyond their technical involvement, of which we are extremely thankful, there was a real educational element to the involvement at Nantes Metropole. In fact, it was important to put together future designers with the technical services of a big city like Nantes. The knowledge gap between the intentions [of the students] and work [of the professionals] was one that risked creating misunderstandings and conflicts. However, this issue was perfectly presented and resolved during the workshop.
VL: What was the role of the lighting designer?
LL: Stephane Bazoge comes from the entertainment industry and understands light as a space to sculpt. Assisting a group of students is complex, as it is important to not design for them, or let your own personal criteria direct the students. You should instead:
- Assist them and transform the mistakes into instructional problems;
- Organize the project by providing rules and guidelines, without blocking the self-organization of the students;
- and finally, explain how materials function and predict potential problems.
As in all pedagogical functions, anticipation is the keyword.
VL: When night fell, what were the reactions of passersby?
LL: During June, the days are long…when night fell, we could do our work. We had no electricity, other than the spark of public lighting.
On the footbridge site, the passersby were astounded and surprised by the play of color and the “separation” from the ground. Some of them were a little afraid; most expressed their emotions strongly.
In the clearing, a strange serenity overtook the visitors. They spoke quietly and created a calm atmosphere. What a contrast with the evening of the installation, which more or less transformed this place into an intimate, festive salon!
However, most of the passersby believed that this was an installation for “Journey to Nantes,” as the inhabitants of Nantes are used to art on the street. They are familiar with installations and are always looking for marvel.
We should note that the installations remained up all weekend. There was no defacement, like often happens with the outdoor artistic installations between Nantes and Saint Nazaire. Here, the works were respected, something that perhaps, we do not see enough…
VL: What memories do you have from this workshop, “Lightscapes?”
LL: I have several memories, but some of them are really remarkable.
- First, there was the investment of the students and the process they set up for moving the material, which was very heavy and encumbering, from the school to the sites to develop. They showed their determination, their investment and their joy that they put into realizing their installations.
- Another memory is that of the passersby who stopped and re-discovered places they had been accustomed to walking by and became enchanted.
- The last strong memory was the joyful energy that the Nantes Metropole technicians brought to the table. They really carried the students.
VL: How does ENSA Nantes aim to teach lighting?
We are working to develop this lesson and to create particular connections, like those meant for professional training or workshops. We are putting in place a real policy of opening up to other schools, professional organizations (ACE and AFE), and as it’s well understood, institutions such as Nantes Metropole, SAMOA, SyDEV, and still others. We are also developing partnerships with manufacturers and businesses. We want to be involved with as many designers as possible because what they have to say to the students allows the latter to expand their investigation fields considerably. Without a single doubt, some of them will launch great careers.
Three architecture schools:
- Hafencity Universitat Hambourg, HCU: Eleven German students;
- Politecknica Gdansk, GUT : Eleven Polish students;
- ENSA Nantes : Eleven French students.
- Universite Franco-Allemande (UFA), registering this event as an innovative step;
- Nantes Metropole through the public lighting service, and Infras Telecom with its specialists;
- SAMOA, participating to evaluate the projects
To find out more:
- Lightscapes, Nantes Summer School, workshop student blog “Lightscapes” in English;
- Lumieres.nantes.archi.fr academic blog on light of the National Superior School of Architecture of Nantes.
Is it better to use local design students for local design projects, or is it important to introduce an international dimension to design workshops? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Original article written by Vincent Laganier, originally published in French on this title « Paysage de lumière », un workshop international à Nantes », can be found on Light ZOOM Lumière and NEWS Conception Lumière.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.