Monument light

Our technological age has changed the way we design. Not just in fabrication, but in the speed in which an industry evolves. We are in the age of generation design – always on the edge of the next release – constantly under threat of being superseded by the impending upgrade. This has made us look at time, in relation to design, in a new light. We are moving away from the ‘classic’ and towards the ‘relevant’.

Time is one of the biggest obstacles to design – whether something is to last, or be continually replaced – and so with every object, comes an intended lifespan. It is sometimes mindful of relevance, or it could be limited by its ability to physically stand in the face of decay. Whatever the case, it is very difficult to foresee the usefulness of a creation in a future unseen. For all our good intentions, we cannot always dictate the use, relevance, and most of all the appropriation of a design.

Exposition Universelle of 1889, where the Eiffel tower was first erected

History usually reveals pivotal moments in technology through the happy coincidence of their misuse, or their use extends their projected lifespan. Here the unexpected monument is born. One such monument is the Eiffel Tower. It may conger strong associations in the modern selfie-taking-mind; however its original conception by Gustave Eiffel was to test the known structural limits of iron works. Its usefulness was in serving as a demonstration, only intended to stand for six months – the length of the Paris Exposition of 1889. In all its rigid might, the tower itself was designed to be dismantled, however it still stands 126 years on. Is it by force, or did it become unexpectedly relevant to a modern world, standing as a reminder of time most experimental?

Olafur Elisasson, Beauty, 1993Steel and stone is what comes to mind when one thinks of standing strong against the fourth dimension. However, the unsung conqueror of time is light. With the advent of LED technology, illumination has seen increased longevity and diversity in aesthetics. A LED light bulb, left on continuously, can now last almost 40 years. Developments in light fitting features and new efforts to employ graphene technology, not only reduce the energy consumed, but improve the overall lifespan by dissipating heat, ensuring that the filament does not overheat and burnout. This means that a bulb could very well live up to the lifespan of architectural fabric. So it begs the question – how do we treat light as the equal of a brick?

Speed and agility in assemblage are two factors that make light an interesting material to experiment with. This, coupled with its ability to last, make it an interesting media to push the practicalities of building physical experiments. Up until the recent increase in the bulb’s lifespan, light design has been bound to the necessity of frequently accessing the light fitting to change the bulb. Even more limiting is the inherent need for light to project onto a surface. In its steps towards becoming its own ‘brick’ light has to break free of built convention. What if light becomes its own object, its own feature, something to stand alone – giving it the ability to decay through time – short or long.

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