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Spotlight: Lighting
As part of our Spotlight on Lighting, we visit New York’s legendary Rockefeller Center, where INC Architecture & Design’s brilliant scheme revives the rink concourse.
Studio Modijefsky Brings Magic Realism to Museum Arnhem
Nanoleaf Lighting colourful rainbow rod lighting
Nanoleaf’s New Lighting Collection Embodies the Brand’s Innovative — and Playful — Spirit
Light Echo installation by Kiki Archi
A Vivid Light Installation Illuminates a Beijing Office
Entrance to Rockefeller Center rink concourse
New York City’s Rockefeller Center Gets a Lighting Upgrade
Iris pendant lamps by ANDLight above a black table
4 Sculptural Pendant Lamps That Embrace Organic Forms
Contardi lamps on either side of a round black mirror
4 Stunning Wall Sconces to Suit Any Design Style
Funiculi floor lamps by Marset
4 Compact Floor Lamps That Bring Sophistication to Small Spaces
Spotlight: Lighting

The central premise of magic realism, whether it be works on canvas or the written word, is a subtle disruption of reality. Think of the hypnotic stories of Jorge Luis Borges, where the lines between the real and the fantastical become muddied and vague, or Giorgio de Chirico’s perspective-defying paintings.

Studio Mudijefsky designed miraculous chandeliers that are hung at Museum Arnhem
Amsterdam’s Studio Modijefsky custom-designed a multi-tiered chandelier to emphasize and celebrate the height of Museum Arnhem’s original neoclassical dome.

For fans of the genre, Museum Arnhem, perched on the crest of a grassy hill overlooking the Rhine River, has long been a pilgrimage point, as it holds one of the most significant collections of magic realist paintings in the Netherlands. Recently, the building itself experienced a dramatic narrative shift.

Studio Mudijefsky helped lead a dramatic narrative shift at Museum Arnhem.

It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing saga. The building was originally constructed in 1873 as a gentlemen’s club with a hexagonal triple-height central volume; the city’s bourgeois men would gather to socialize beneath its monumental neoclassical dome. When the museum took up residence in 1920, the central space became a picture gallery, but at the cost of the original architecture — including that dome. (Two lateral single-storey wings were added later, in 1956 and 2000.)

“Over the years, the cupola had been closed off,” recounts Esther Stam, founder of Studio Modijefsky. She was tasked with the museum’s most recent interior redesign in 2020, when it underwent a major renovation and expansion. Benthem Crouwel Architects stripped back layers of unfortunate past interventions and built a new wing to house the art collection, allowing Studio Modijefsky to transform the former gentlemen’s club into a bistro with its own interpretation of the collection’s spellbinding subject matter.

First, they introduced a sense of weightiness on the ground floor via dark-stained wooden booths upholstered in tobacco-toned leather, chocolate brown walls and a monolithic textured marble bar. To emphasize the room’s soaring height, they installed an elaborate multi-part chandelier that hangs directly in the centre, its shape based on the newly revealed original architecture. “We took impressions of the outlines of the cupola itself, mirrored them and flipped them upside down,” Stam explains of the hanging light piece, a series of curving abstract forms suspended over the bistro tables.

“We wanted to have neon, but neon is expensive and fragile,” she continues. Instead, they replicated its ambient glow using a system of custom LED tubes — “which are nice,” adds Stam, “because they’re bigger and less fragile than standard neon.” To further captivate the museum’s visitors, they programmed the tiered clusters of lights to slowly pulsate throughout the day, creating the uncanny effect that they “live” in the space. They also took a similar approach in the museum’s entranceway, where a smaller version of the grand chandelier acts as “a little teaser.”

The former gentlemen’s club turned bistro, Museum Arnhem is replete with warm wood, rich tones and a mix of materials that beautifully counter and complement the building’s architecture.
The former gentlemen’s club turned bistro is replete with warm wood, rich tones and a mix of materials that beautifully counter and complement the building’s architecture.

For the final touch, an homage to the museum’s otherworldly collection, Studio Modijefsky designed a ripstop nylon lantern based on the exact proportions of the reception desk, which it now hangs directly above. The boxy, translucent pendant floats like a spectral beacon, glowing above its mirror-image, Stam says, “almost like a ghost.”

Nanoleaf Lighting colourful rainbow rod lighting

Ten years ago, a trio of University of Toronto engineering grads dropped what was considered to be the most energy-efficient lightbulb of all time on Kickstarter. The crowd went wild: backers pledged over $250,000 toward the project, and Nanoleaf’s groundbreaking LED technology has been a mainstay ever since — you’ve likely seen the touch- and sound-activated systems backdropping a famous YouTuber, DJ or maybe even your spin instructor. Since its days as a scrappy start-up briefly based out of a factory in Shenzhen, China, the company — which was co-founded by Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger — has gone global, establishing a head-quarters in Toronto in 2015, a European main office in Paris in 2018, and outposts in Hong Kong and the Philippines. And it has continued its mission to make lights that do more than turn on and off, pushing the intuitive capabilities with each new model.

Nanoleaf Founders Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger

In 2014, Chu found himself admiring the aurora borealis from an airplane window. It was an “Aha!” moment. “Why does light need to be restricted to a light bulb?” he asked himself. That out-of-bulb thinking led to the production of a series of modular, ultra-lightweight panels in unexpected shapes — triangles, hexagons and straight lines — that are simple to mount and configure in endless mix-and- match patterns. These fully integrated models might seem a world apart from the earliest versions (which featured origami-folded LED bulbs, circuit boards and hubs) but they are actually natural evolutions. Along the way, Nanoleaf also added smart home connection and fine-tuned controls into the mix, allowing users to adjust brightness, temperature and colour through touch and voice commands. And the more panels used, the more immersive the experience, which is part of the charm. “We’re inspired to model our products after natural light and the feeling of joy that comes from it,” Chu says.

Nanoleaf geometric rod lighting white light
The newest collection, Lines features back-lit colour-changing LED bars that can be used to create linear layouts, abstract patterns or signature shapes.

The brand’s pursuit of this feeling of joy has led to playful, responsive features that encourage users to have more creative interactions with their lighting systems. The Nanoleaf Canvas, Shapes, Elements and (most recently) Lines collections have built-in rhythm modules that react and dance to sound; most can be paired with a soundscape app for seamless audiovisual atmospheres, and are able to mirror any screen for a real-time light show or play touch-based games during a quick work-from-home break. On a grander scale, they have been used to create everything from the dazzling wall-to-wall installation that broadcasts moving images of the aurora borealis and polar bears in the atrium of Alaska’s Anchorage Museum to a wood-look mural that creates a warm, dynamic background for the Japandi dining experience of Toronto’s Minami restaurant. They have also been used to soothe minds and calm moods in sensory rooms, meditation centres and rehab clinics.

Interior hexagon geometric lighting
Nanoleaf’s robust offerings include a range of geometric shapes that allow for completely custom installations.

Remaining true to its crowdfunding roots, the company still looks to its massive online community to help steer product development and discover unexpected new uses — including car tail lights, ice cream trucks, dining tables and pyramids, to name just a few. With fans that range from DIY enthusiasts to music-makers, Nanoleaf has learned to look past trends and always strive to try to do things that haven’t already been done. By staying focused on intelligent lighting products that simply know what you need, when you need it, the company delivers opportunities for personal creativity and experience through unconventional illumination.

Light Echo installation by Kiki Archi

Film editing requires not only a high degree of technical skill but also a touch of magic — a nuanced manipulation of angles, brightness, colour and other elements to expertly convey a certain mood or atmosphere. When architecture and design studio Kiki Archi (with offices in Japan and China) was called on to transform a mundane former industrial factory into an animated office and showroom for a Beijing-based film and television production company, it immediately recognized a parallel between this unique artistry and interior design.

Light Echo installation by Kiki Archi
Light Echo, by Kiki Archi, injects a modern office with vitality while also nodding to the past in an abstract way: “The emotions and existence of the people who used to work here are felt through the sequence of warm tones.”

Working with the shared principles of light and colour, the team, led by co-founders and architects Yoshihiko Seki and Saika Akiyoshi, delivered a scheme that articulates cinematic expressions in a physical form. “As the client deals with visuals, we tried to express the colours not by the colour itself but as an abstract phenomenon through light,” says Seki, referring to the large-scale colour tube installation that now dominates and divides the two-level, 620-square-metre showroom of the 2,000-square-metre workspace.

Interior of an office for a film and television company in Beijing, featuring a blue light installation
The fixed colour tubes are positioned at a 45-degree angle to effectively capture and reflect light.

Dubbed Light Echo, the project naturally unfolds in the lobby, where visitors are greeted by an arrangement of 220-centimetre-tall transparent acrylic square prisms (finished on two of four sides with 3M reflective film) that wraps the upper portions of three walls. Set against an otherwise pristine white backdrop, the 195 vertical tubes transition from warm tangerine to shades of chartreuse and back again, creating an energetic effect. Seki replaced a portion of the original brick facade with a four-metre-high wall of glazing that allows natural light to flood the space and illuminate the iridescent materials. “The colour of the tubes will change with the brightness of the surrounding environment,” he says of the ever-fluctuating display.

Light Echo installation by Kiki Archi
In a rest area under the vibrant installation, rows of steel wires, each wrapped in transparent acrylic cylinders and lit from above and below, create a play between shadow and light.

Moving upstairs to the offices, where daylight doesn’t reach as easily, things become slightly cooler, more introspective. While only one colour of film was used, it takes on a blue-green tinge on the back of the prism, contributing a tranquil quality to the space. “As you go deeper inside, the light gets darker, so the tone becomes lower,” explains Seki. Wavering between reality and illusion, Light Echo is an appropriately cinematic display that evokes a sense of wonder and emotion — much like movies themselves.

Entrance to Rockefeller Center rink concourse

An iconic part of New York City’s urban fabric since the 1930s, Rockefeller Center recently underwent a major renovation in a bid to make it more accessible while preserving its art deco integrity. Local firm INC Architecture & Design was responsible for reimagining the interior rink concourse that connects the outdoors to the indoors, including a custom lighting scheme that both complements the architecture’s new interventions and maintains a reverence for its past.

Custom lighting at Rockefeller Center rink concourse
The lighting program developed by INC Architecture & Design also supports the firm’s intuitive wayfinding by properly illuminating the architecture. Skylights uncovered during the reno were completely made over and now flood the interior with natural light.

“Our goal was to ‘democratize’ the rink concourse in a meaningful way,” says INC partner and creative director Adam Rolston. In what was previously a “rabbit warren” of extruded rectangles and low ceilings, Rolston and his team opened things up and introduced an arterial system of organically curved walls that “respond and relate to” the boxy insertions that had been layered on over time. Clad in vertical slats of fluted stone plaster with bronze panels, the newly configured volumes instill an obvious sense of flow that effectively “decongested” the concourse. To amplify that new-found sense of openness, portions of the ceiling were removed to expose not only the original 4.8-metre-high concrete beam framework but also a series of skylights that, after being retrofitted and brought to code, once again allow natural light to permeate into the interior.

Custom lighting at Rockefeller Center rink concourse

1 Nearly 80 metres of new glazing brings in natural light that reflects off the polished bronze details and gleaming terrazzo floors.

2 More than 800 metres of plaster light coves and 536 metres of bronze light coves were installed throughout the concourse rink.

3The custom bronze pendants and sconces number 84 and 60, respectively, and were made by local studio Lite Makers.

When it came to the lighting narrative, Rolston was inspired by another NYC landmark — Radio City Music Hall — and installed a continuous 36.8-centimetre- tall cove in fibreglass-reinforced gypsum (GRG) that follows the perimeter of the space. Custom-made by Hyde Park Mouldings, the S-shaped profile hides both LED strips and internal reflectors that cast an uninterrupted and indirect glow. Complementing this is a J-shaped bronze light cove that washes the storefronts, walls and new polished terrazzo flooring (chosen specifically for its ability to reflect light). “It’s a dreamy and beautiful way to light architecture,” says Rolston of the effect. “Downlights illuminate the floor — and people — in a harsh and artificial way. Cove lighting has an element of natural light.”

Custom sconce next to staircase

Throughout, custom pendants and sconces make an appropriately grand statement. Riffing on both Rockefeller Center’s original tiered radial fixtures (manufactured by Edward F. Caldwell & Co.) and the ones found at RCMH, the new stacked-ring pendants have three light sources (recessed up and down, as well as light tape on each circle) that create a warm ambience. In turn, the radiator-style sconces were inspired by the postwar experiments of Swedish industrial designer Hans-Agne Jakobsson and are powered by linear LED elements. Together, they inject a touch of glamour — one that manages to feel modern but still connected to history.

Iris pendant lamps by ANDLight above a black table

In recent years, many designers have cast aside the clean lines of modernism and instead embraced the beauty of organic forms. These sculptural pendant lamps by ANDLight, Bolia, Luminaire Authentik and Modern Forms embody this growing trend — and will serve as the perfect focal point for any interior.

Iris by ANDLight
Iris pendant lamps by ANDLight above a black table

Vancouver designer Caine Heintzman seems to effortlessly combine the industrial with the elegant, and his Iris pendant designed for ANDLight is a perfect example. Suspended from a belt-like aluminum frame (in black or silver), the crystalline orb shade is detailed with a kaleidoscopic surface that diffuses light with an almost ethereal quality. The shades are actually composed of two differently sized elliptical half-shells, which can be combined to create four profiles.

Lunaria by Bolia
Bolia pendant lamps above a beige sofa

For its first-ever light for Bolia, Germany’s Design Studio Niruk referenced both Japanese paper lanterns and the delicate seed pods of the lunaria flowering plant. To give the lamp its shape-shifting silhouette, the designers hand-formed a metal frame and draped it with a stretchy translucent white textile that gently diffuses light (and is removable and washable). The three sizes offered may be used individually or grouped in clusters.

Lotus by Luminaire Authentik

Combining structured geometry with graceful fluidity, the sloped forms of Lotus‘s five shades evoke the movement of water. Equipped with Tala Sphere LED bulbs, the pendant by Luminaire Authentik can be dimmed to a warm candle-like glow and is available in over 40 shade and nine suspension-wire colourways.

Sydney by Modern Forms
Sydney pendant lamp above a black dining table

Sculptural and segmented, Sydney’s modern expressionist form is inspired by the iconic opera house in the city it’s named for. Manufactured by Modern Forms, its five almond-shaped canopy shades, in die-cast aluminum, are positioned in alternating directions to project illumination upward and down, creating an overall ambient glow. Suspended from ultra-thin aircraft cables, the fixture can be adjusted to a drop of between 61 and 305 centimetres.

Contardi lamps on either side of a round black mirror

From terracotta and bronze to concrete and glass, decorative wall sconces can help to define the vibe of a space. These new launches by Contardi, In Common With, Brokis and Viso embrace rich materials and geometry in unique ways.

Stick by Contardi
Stick wall sconce by Contardi

Designed by Studiopepe for Contardi, Stick is more gallery-worthy sculpture than conventional lamp. Its triangular frame in satin copper or satin gold nickel (the terracotta shown is from a special edition for Fuorisalone) is fitted with a ribbed diffuser specifically chosen to produce playful and atmospheric illumination: When approached from the front, the light is even and pure, but when viewed from an angle, it takes on an entirely unique effect.

Brass Up Down Sconce by In Common With
Brass Up Down sconce by In Common With

As its name implies, this sconce by In Common With projects light both upward and downward to create a gentle wash against the wall. The fully customizable fixture can be specified with matching or contrasting shades and hardware in Brass or Patina Brass.

Overlay by Brokis
Overlay wall sconce by Brokis

An exercise in material exploration that expresses an architectural sensibility, the Overlay wall lamp by Lucie Koldova for Brokis nestles a smooth cylindrical glass sleeve (frosted or clear) into a concrete cuff embedded with upcycled glass shards. The fixture is lit by a hand-blown glass light tube that extends from within.

Linea by Viso
Linea wall sconce by Viso

Characterized by its fluted glass shade, which casts light in a calming array effect, the Linea Glass collection’s vertical wall sconce by Viso is handsomely accented by anodized gold or polished chrome. Two sizes are available, as is a horizontal suspension version.

Funiculi floor lamps by Marset

In many large cities, both space and natural light come at a premium. These compact floor lamps by Artemide, Marset, Flos and Estiluz offer lighting solutions that don’t compromise on style — or add visual clutter. And, while they are particularly well suited to small spaces, they are sure to bring sophistication to homes of any size.

Ixa by Artemide
Ixa floor lamp by Artemide

A collaboration with Foster + Partners, Artemide’s Ixa floor lamp interprets the “elegant balance” of Alexander Calder’s sculptures through a system of counterweights and pivot points that allow for rotation and inclination. Further, the spherical head welcomes interaction: Attached to its extension bar with a magnet, it can be rotated freely 360 degrees, directing light where it’s needed. Also available in table and wall versions, Ixa comes in Charcoal, Crane (yellow), Ink (blue) and Slip (light grey).

Funiculí by Marset
Funiculi floor lamp by Marset

First launched in 1979 with an all-neutral palette, the Funiculí floor lamp by industrial designer Lluís Porqueras for Marset has been updated with three cheerful hues: terracotta, mustard and green. Displaying Porqueras’s penchant for creating useful objects with “absolute simplicity,” the lamp is free of any unnecessary details; a double-clamp system locks its fully rotatable head at different heights.

Luminator by Flos
Luminator floor lamps by Flos

Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s iconic 1954 floor lamp design has been remastered by Flos with LED technology, a dimmer pedal and a more sustainable painting process — which is used to coat the lamp’s sleek metal tube in both its original anthracite finish as well as the newly introduced light blue, white, yellow and red options. Conceived by the brothers to be both essential and elegant, it still stands on its slender detachable tripod and casts light straight up to bathe interiors with indirect illumination.

Cupolina by Estiluz
Cupolina floor lamp by Estiluz

Inspired by the classic architectural element, the Cupolina floor lamp’s diminutive dome-shaped head is suspended from its angular metal body by a thin cord and projects a focused yet soft beam of light. Designed by Barcelona-based Boti de Dominicis Studio for Estiluz, the lamp is available in black, white, terracotta and custom colourways; the series also includes table, wall and pendant versions.