Kaoru Mende (Architectural lighting designer) The need to recapture the true sense of light

In our previous interview, we explored the thinking behind the design of the Milan Design Week exhibition, “Search for Light”, with architectural lighting designer Kaoru Mende. In this interview, we explore Mende's philosophy of light. Having designed the lighting for various architecture, urban space and landscape projects to date, Mende believes that designing light is designing time. Additionally, he wonders if many people are too focused on the daytime, overlooking the charm of the night.

Mende oversaw the lighting design for Tokyo Station as part of the large-scale repair works. The lighting design contrasts light and shadow, revealing the building's character and conveying the true charms of the historic structure.
Mende also oversaw the lighting design for Gardens by the Bay, which opened in Singapore in 2012. The contrast between day and night fascinated many people, presenting new possibilities for botanical gardens.

Recapture the sense of light

“Living in today's society, I think that we should be more sensitive to the night.”

Building on this idea, Mende says that rather than using sunlight-inspired lighting to illuminate buildings at night, it seems more natural to have light spilling out from within the buildings. The presence and absence of sunlight has the power to change a scene completely. The contrasting approaches to light by day and night is something Mende describes as “Inversion: the reversible relationship”.

“A lot of people want brightness at night, but without darkness, it wouldn't be possible to create beautiful light. For Japanese people, the expansion of artificial lighting and white, uniform light were embraced as evidence of revival and modernization. However, the days of using lots of energy and excess lighting have now passed. This is both the result of our introspection and a proposal for the future. For that reason, RAYCREA has the potential to recapture the true sense of light, such as enjoying a warmly lit night, loving a tiny hint of light, being wrapped up in soft, dimmed light, treasuring beautiful shadows and darkness, and savoring beautiful gradations.”

Illuminating the future with a clear vision

How will RAYCREA change the spaces of the future? Mende believes the technology has potential uses in architecture, interiors and landscapes.

In architecture, open ceiling spaces and huge atriums with skylights or high side lights, where we can see the blue sky and clouds, are preferred. Using RAYCREA in a space like this would allow the sky to be visible during the day, while providing beautiful surface lighting after dark. If the technology can be used outside, it will have a significant impact on the design of street lighting. In office spaces, which are currently undergoing a period of change, the technology can potentially be used as dividing light panels and small partitions. I expect that light will be integrated into architecture and landscape in the near future. In order to use RAYCREA in such situations, it will not only require optical features, but will also need to fulfill a range of requirements including durability as a sustainable material, size, quantity of light and improvement of the light source. When you consider the practical side of product development, there will need to be further evidence of optical performance, such as providing the required flux and lighting distribution control technology.”

A scene from Mende’s exhibition, “Nightscape 2050-A Dialogue between Cities-Light-People in Future”. The travelling exhibition considered the future of light.

Imagine and design the future

Envisioning the future of light, Mende declares, "Without a vision, you can't expect a wonderful future.” Led by Mende, LPA (Lighting Planners Associates) toured the world with “Nightscape 2050-A Dialogue between Cities-Light-People in Future” in 2015. The travelling exhibition considered the interaction between people and light from various perspectives, including the cultural aspects of light, possibilities of expression and technical efficiency. In other words, it put forth a vision of the future.

“In 2050, I will be 100 years old. Looking into the future, it's difficult to predict how technology will have evolved by then. Perhaps RAYCREA will become a catalyst for further development of light control technology. As designers, we work based on the technology currently available and are expected to envision the future. In other words, it's important that we work to enrich lives. I hope that RAYCREA can evolve to show the possibilities of our future.”