Kaoru Mende (Architectural lighting designer) The lightweight technology signaling new forms of light expression

Nitto’s new technology, RAYCREA, will be presented at the “Search for Light” exhibition at Milan Design Week. The exhibition’s design was completed by architectural lighting designer Kaoru Mende, who has brought light to numerous architecture and urban projects over the past four decades. When asked about his impressions of RAYCREA, he replies, “First, above all, I was surprised.”

“For this exhibition, we used film created using RAYCREA technology to design the spaces. When I started working in lighting design, light control generally involved the combination of reflectors and light sources. Over time, this expanded to include the combination of lenses and light sources. The arrival of RAYCREA has changed light control from thick, heavy elements, such as lenses and reflectors, to lightweight film. The thin, lightweight nature of the film opens up new possibilities for lighting design. The film can be adhered to curved surfaces; it may even be used to illuminate materials elevated above the ground. For lighting designers like us, it marks the start of a new era.”

Created by Mende and architect Hiroshi Hara, ‘Shadow Robot’ was exhibited in Graz, Austria in 1984.

Good lighting design expresses something that moves us

In “Search for Light”, Mende uses the layering of acrylic panels, covered with RAYCREA film, to construct a space filled with beautiful colors and a sense of floating light. For Mende, what does it mean to design light?

“For architectural lighting, the design places an emphasis on logic. However, good lighting design requires expressions that move beyond logic. In my lighting design, 80% is based on logic, while the remaining 20% is the pursuit of expressions with the power to draw out emotions. When I saw RAYCREA for the first time, I was so impressed and unable to explain its logic. This connects to the 20% I just mentioned, as it has the potential to inspire creativity. It's functionally outstanding, and can create artistic spectacles as well.”

At the venue, visitors are welcomed by a labyrinth-themed installation. In Play with Light, acrylic panels covered with RAYCREA film are used to create a labyrinth of light. Through the layering of these panels, Mende had a sense that he could create a new world of light.

“I once made a light object, ‘Shadow Robot’, with the architect Hiroshi Hara. The work creates visuals by adding light to twenty objects created through the layering of acrylic plates. Hara referred to it as a 'light orchestra', constructing multi-layered worlds as though various forms of light were producing sounds. However, the limitations of technology at the time meant that it could only be viewed from one point, outside of which the astonishing overlay could not be seen. In contrast, RAYCREA allows you to experience the diverse, multi-layered light even as you move. I thought that this would create a labyrinth-like experience, which is the reason behind the expression.”

Moving back and forth between real and virtual images

For the exhibition, Mende created a full-size prototype to verify the design of the space. Based on decades of experience working with light, the resulting expressions didn't vary significantly from his plans. Yet despite verifying the samples and models numerous times, he was surprised to see the new technology exceed his expectations.

“We are professionals who express light, but there are many things that can only be understood upon illumination. As I stood among the layers of light in the prototype space, I watched as real images disappeared and became transparent, which gave the impression of moving back and forth between real and virtual images. It was there that we saw the deep, unknown possibilities of people, light and space. Every time you move, the scene in front of you changes. This results from the unique way that RAYCREA emits light on one side, while remaining transparent on the other. I hope everyone can experience the space, which resembles a mysterious forest of light.”

Mende oversaw the lighting design for the Jewel Changi Airport complex at Singapore's Changi Airport. Renowned for its lush gardens and man-made waterfall, the complex comes to life with beautiful light by day and night.

Designing light is designing time

This experience overlaps with Mende’s philosophy of light. “Designing light is designing time”, says Mende, who uses light to visualize the flow of time. Yet rather than capturing a single moment like a photograph, he expresses the passing of time through a three-dimensional experience.

“The light expressions, which gently rise and fall, are controlled by a computer and represent the flow of time. Visitors to the venue will probably bring various perspectives to the experience. I feel proud of the way that RAYCREA and the exhibition design have made this possible. For those who come without any preconceptions, I think the exhibition will present some surprises. It will raise some questions, while also providing some answers. From children to adults, tall people, short people and various professionals, everyone will take away something different from the exhibition. Beyond the visual experience of seeing, I want people to experience the possibilities of RAYCREA through their body as they walk around the venue.”