Light is a beautiful language: Rogier van de Heide

Sep 19, 2015, 08:30 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Rogier van de Heide, Artistic Director for the Amsterdam Light Festival is very serious about light and its virtues. Currently in Mumbai for a conclave and awards ceremony, he speaks of how light can play an integral role in every city

Q. How can light play an important role in showcasing and defining a city?
A. In Amsterdam, we believe that light is very important because we make lights in a public space and light is a language for everybody. Cities have become international environments, such that you have to speak everybody’s language and culture. Light is important for everyone, and it is a good medium to communicate optimism, progress and inspiration to a global audience because everyone can connect with it.

The city of Amsterdam comes to life during the Amsterdam Lights Festival

Q. What were the logistic challenges for such an event (Amsterdam Light Festival)?
A. The logistical challenges include, of course, the transportation of the artworks. We get artworks from 30 countries all over the world; so light artists reach Amsterdam and install it. Also, we are in the city for almost two months and it is a real challenge to keep everything in operation for two months. We have a large maintenance fee — where we need to move around the entire city to maintain the technology and provide repairs wherever required. All of it also depends of the kind of city you are in. In case of Amsterdam, the weather is quite harsh. In the winters, we have frost, storms and occasionally, there are a few accidents related to the artworks. In such cases, we have just one day to repair it. So these are the big challenges.

The House of Cards at the Amsterdam Lights Festival

Q. Have you been to Mumbai earlier? How can crowded cities with a space crunch overcome such hurdles and yet give the visitor a sense of space?
A. Yes, I have been to Mumbai before. It is a very big city. It is full of inspiration and ambition. I was happy to be there, when I had come down to give a lecture on lighting. What was great was that everybody has progressive thoughts, and were looking forward to all possibilities. At the same time, there was a great sense of tradition. We had a nice ceremony burning candles.

Good lighting design can also help give direction. I am involved in several projects here, for traffic to flow much better, good lighting to reduce jams and accidents. I would look into the power of lights that goes beyond the illumination of streets. I would create beautiful focal points that direct people much better. Light is a beautiful language that goes further to illuminate. The city should organise a few workshops with a few designers to tackle the challenges.

As far as the challenges related to Mumbai’s crowds go, of course, people have their dreams to pursue here. But there is also something that people share that brings them together. In terms of the meaning of what the city stands for, it would be great to not be irritated by crowds and the traffic, and look at why everyone has come to Mumbai, which is for shared values, and ambition.

Marine Drive promenade with sodium vapour lighting

Q. In an age where we need to conserve energy, how can this maxim be followed with light that consumes electricity?
A. The city can save tremendous amount of energy, and nowadays, it does not have much to do with the light source. Everywhere, it is all about LED; it has already become the standard. If you purchase the lighting for a city, it is all about LED and digital. The real intelligence goes into the composition of it. One needs to work out scenarios that modulate and change over time, depending on clouds, on the climate and on the function it has in the public space. There are so many elements — like whether to include bright lights or perhaps, dimmer lights; therein, they have the opportunity to save huge amounts of energy.

It is not so much as the light source, but it is what we as designers do with it, how we can contribute to public space, deciding when it has to be more and when it can also be less. The lights of today can change their brightness over time, and this should be the real opportunity “
to conserve energy.

On September 19 and 20
At EEMAX GLOBAL Conclave and Awards 2015, Taj Lands End, Bandra (W).
Log on to:

On the Marine Drive light debate
Recently, there was a debate about Mumbai’s Marine Drive promenade where LED lights were used but it had to be switched back to the original sodium vapour lighting due to several reasons including that it took away the charm of the stretch. Roger van der Heide shares his comments, “Lights is a science, but it also an art. So, when it is a science we calculate how much light we need. So when it is a promenade you need so much. Like engineers we need to decide how it is the most optimum. As an art we look more into the experience and perception of the people. Hence, the solution for the promenade is to consider a more artistic approach, and bring it down. The atmosphere needs to be pleasant and a lot more favoured for the audience, because it is a promenade and people need to walk on it.”

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