The understated relationship between light and nature

A conversation with Jan Van Lierde on lighting design, sustainability and relationship with nature.

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Highlights

Small intense glowing lights are interspersed among the greenery of bamboos, podocarpus shrubs and blooming oleanders or stand inconspicuous, albeit in full view, in a garden lounge or at the pool’s side. The elegant and minimal lines of DOT outdoor lamps, designed by businessman and architect Jan Van Lierde for PLATEK, are just the latest design – featured at FuoriSalone 2022 – by this internationally-renowned and veteran master of lighting. Founder of Kreon and a regular collaborator of Artemide, just to name a couple of his career highlights, he designed this product with the aim to celebrate nature with a clear message. «Man himself is a product of nature. Only for a short time in human history children are born in buildings, e.g. Respect for that same nature is therefore self-evident for me. A walk in the countryside is always good! So adding light here and there nearby nature should therefore be done in the most discreet way», says Van Lierde at the beginning of our conversation. «Simple design, timeless materials have always been part of my creative signature and are therefore certainly in place here», he continues.

«So adding light here and there to nature should therefore be done in the most discreet way so as not to disturb the fragile balance»

The silent relationship between these lamps and the vegetation of a garden prompts thoughts on how we, as humans, interact with nature in a way that is anything but inconspicuous, and soon our conversation shifts towards a theme that is so prominent in the contemporary world, with

Jan Van Lierde for Flos

«Today it is a clear theme for everyone to deal sustainably with our planet and not to exhaust its energy any further»

impacts across all sectors of society and industry, i.e., sustainability. «This is a theme that is close to my heart», Van Lierde points out. Today it has become impossible not to think in terms of environmental sustainability when it comes to travelling, manufacturing and consumption, to name a few. It is more paramount than ever to develop innovative and disruptive solutions if we are to pave a new viable way to the future.

Since these two ingredients – innovation and disruptive solutions – are actually Van Lierde’s bread and butter, we ask him if he thinks there is anything brewing in lighting design that may result in a creative and technological advancement towards more sustainability: «Today it is a clear theme for everyone to deal sustainably with our planet and not to exhaust its energy any further. Due to the development in light sources to LED, a great opportunity has arisen to help with this worldwide theme. Almost all our current light sources use a different voltage than our network and therefore need a built-in converter to adapt the mains current to the needs of the LED light source. Some manufacturers incorporate this step into a single driver. Others split the transformer (220-24/48 volts) from the driver function (constant voltage or constant current)».

As if to confirm our expectations, Van Lierde delves enthusiastically into the nooks and crannies of choices that might dramatically change the way we currently use power in our homes or to light up our cities. «By using renewable energy, we can store this generated power in batteries at the same voltage as the need of the LED light source. As a result, a conversion from solar energy to mains power and back can be avoided and energy can therefore be saved by switching off this transformation (plus less electronics required). For institutional larger projects (and also residential) a more ecological application can be developed in the future ».

Inevitably, our conversation turns to the current energy crisis and the high relevance soaring energy bills are given in the current media and political debate. We ask Van Lierde if this difficult predicament can contribute to raise more awareness of our use of energy and if he thinks that experts such as lighting designers should be involved more actively in the debate on this delicate topic. «An awareness process has now started due to the sudden sky-high energy bills that make us think about what is necessary and what can be done to bring the balance between cost and well-being in a new balance. Laws and norms are made by politicians and their consultative committees. It seems logical to me that more space should also be given to people with practical experience to build in solutions that contribute to the general well-being».

Before we take a leave, we ask him to give us a hint of what he has in store. Although he dislikes talking about his work and prefers to keep away from the spotlight and be spontaneously appreciated by curious and expert eyes, he teases our curiosity by saying: «I would like to explain that we are working on a new formula for offering light to the international market. With a different formula than what is currently known, in terms of approach and roll-out. More on this in a year or so».

We are sure that it will be worth it, and will patiently wait to see it unveiled.

Jan Van Lierde for Artemide

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