Essay | One Perfect Detail

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There are certain projects in which a singular, perfect lighting detail evolves to become the basis of the lighting design. We take a bold idea, test it, refine it, hone it, and deeply embed it into the architecture: this is light architecture in its purest form.

On the surface, these projects seem simple. But with such a pared-back approach, there is nowhere to hide from even the smallest of imperfections. To fully resolve these details requires a level of attention that is obsessive, even by our standards. Buy-in from the entire project team is also crucial to the success of these projects. From the client and architect or landscape architect, through all the manufacturing partners, contractors and installers, full collaboration and commitment to achieving the vision must be applied in every stage. (images of St. Botolphs Building)

K11 Art & Cultural Centre, Hong Kong- Glass Façade


The design of this facade detail is so beautifully integrated it appears effortless. Yet, it is the result of a rigorous collaboration between ourselves, the architects (SO-IL), facade engineer (Eckersley O’Callaghan) and the facade manufacturer (Seele) to ensure the lighting, data and power cables would fit perfectly within the mullion detail, providing even, well-proportioned light down the entire visible portion of the 9m high glass tubes, avoiding visible joints. 

Sackler Crossing, Kew, UK


Our vision for this walkway over the lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew after dark was simple and pure, to express the sinuous curve of the design and create a shimmering reflection with no obvious light source. Achieving this required huge commitment from the client and the architect (John Pawson), as the one perfect detail, in this case, was repeated 998 times. Between each bronze upright of the balustrade, a precisely placed custom-designed recessed uplight gently illuminates the inner surfaces and reflects light onto the deck. A black glass cover over each uplight helps to minimise its visual presence in the stone deck by day. 

To fully resolve these details requires a level of attention that is obsessive”

George C King Bridge, Calgary, Canada


We focused on how light could contribute to a special experience crossing this bridge. A bespoke vertical lighting element integrated into the pedestrian level balustrade uprights provides safe conditions for passage while expressing the structure and allowing views out. Inspired by the views and the smells, sounds and vibrations of the fast-flowing water, rustling grasses and foliage, we animated the lighting with a series of four pre-programmed rhythmic scenarios. Based on pixelated graphic representations of light drawn from the natural landscape of Calgary, they run on the quarter-hour, creating softly immersive light ripples and patterns across and along the deck. 

Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong – Sea Deck


Our design for the sea edge of this important cultural destination both defines and enhances it, a ribbon of light that connects to the harbour with softly animated reflections. Visible from Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong Island, the sculptural facets of the new cladding are underlined by a seemingly simple and elegant recessed detail, that in reality is a complex piece of marine civil engineering. Resolving this detail required us to not only deliver in terms of lit effect and animation, but to ensure the solution could withstand the harsh marine conditions and double as a bump rail for boats. 

Terminal 4, Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain


One of the world’s largest airports and winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the brief for Barajas required us to minimise visual clutter and avoid the use of floor fixtures. Our solution to these constraints was an ingenious and simple ‘perfect detail’. The unique suspended mirror reflector system we developed allowed us to illuminate the floor plane while also providing a rhythmical glow to the dynamic, undulating form of the roof.