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Sculptural, sustainable, stylish: the LED
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BEIRUT: Environmental awareness is gradually seeping into the national consciousness, and with it comes a focus on sustainable architecture.

The first practical light-emitting diode was invented in 1962, but it is only in recent years, due to increased efficiency, that the LED is beginning to be considered as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs by many architects.

An attractive resource for contemporary designers, the LED’s increased durability, energy efficiency and environmental performance are supplemented by the flexibility of a light source that doesn’t need conventional filaments and fittings.

Designers are increasingly experimenting with the unique capabilities afforded by LED to pair stylish aesthetics with sustainable ideals.

This month, the Beirut Art Center is exhibiting a collection of hanging lights, wall and floor lamps designed specifically for the space by Greek architect and designer Niko Koronis, who has studied sustainable design and environmental building design in Cardiff, Milan, London and Helsinki.

His experiments with LEDs have let him blur the boundaries between art and design, aesthetics and function.

“LED is More” features a number of pieces produced locally in Beirut, where Koronis is based, which show the versatility of LED panels as opposed to bulbs. Koronis combines simple steel frames – some painted, others brushed or bead-blasted to give a textural finish – with opaque LED panels that cast a soft, warm glow in targeted directions, allowing him to play with light and shadow.

One standing lamp combines clean lines and a simple form with an unexpected use of light, rendering the design as sculptural as it is practical. The upright lamp rests on three legs, the insides of which are fitted with LED strips, casting their light in a warm triangle on the BAC’s stone floor. A central steel pole lends the lamp height, while three spreading poles at the top make it reminiscent of a tree, one whose roots and branches emit a diffused light that casts soft patterns on walls, floor and ceiling alike.

A more traditional hanging lamp is made up of multiple sections of painted steel that come together to form a spherical tube, resembling a traditional lampshade. Its raggedy ends give the work an asymmetrical appeal.

Rather than being lit by a single central bulb, its surface is punctuated with dimmable panels, meaning the light source is on the outside of the lamp, instead of shining out from within.

Spiderlike lamps that appear to cling to the surface of the wall with sucker-style feet, their invisible LED panels illuminating the paintwork, are contrasted with the more complex geometric design of a floor lamp consisting of six interlocking rectangles of steel, sprouting incongruously from a heavy concrete base.

Each of these six rectangles, which come together to form an elegant, sculptural whole, is lit by bright panels along its inner rim. These panels cast their light inwards and reflect brilliantly off the shiny surface of the steel forms abutting them to create a series of focal points of sparkling light where steel meets steel.

Koronis’ designs are sleek and contemporary, in keeping with his materials. Clumped awkwardly in the echoing concrete space of the BAC’s first floor gallery they appear a little lost, their subtle play of light and shadow overwhelmed by the featureless, industrial space.

Once integrated into a home, surrounded by contemporary furniture, however, these sculptural lamps will go a long way toward proving that LEDs can be stylish as well as sustainable.

“LED is More” is up at the Beirut Art Center, Jisr al-Wati, until Jan. 11, 2014. For more information please call 01-397-018.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 11, 2013, on page 2.
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