18 December 2014

Three questions for:
Lutz Harrer, Lighting Design at the Technische Universität München

Text: Franziska Porsch

Light is essential to our visual perception and has a direct impact on well-being and the body’s own biorhythm. The increased use of artificial light therefore raises questions about lighting design and the way in which it is used. This requires experts who know about the effects of light, and are able to incorporate these into room planning. There are a few educational institutions in Germany that carry out this sort of work. These include the Master's degree programme Light and Lighting M.Sc. at the TU München. We spoke to Lutz Harrer, a research associate at the Department of Interior and Lighting Design, about the focus and aims of the programme.


1. What is the role of light in design and architecture?


Lighting design is an integral part of architecture. The walls and the lighting, which are the essential elements of architecture and their original and constitutive elements, thus interact with one another. The wall – which here means all of the structural components – reflects the light and at the same time changes it. This interplay produces different areas of light and shade, which shape the space and thus define its look. When addressing both what is technically feasible and what makes sense from an architectural point of view, the aim and responsibility of architects should be to coordinate the ideas and interests of all stakeholders, to create clarity and certainty in terms of planning, to avoid misunderstandings and, finally, to save costs.


2. What is the relationship between technical knowledge and design capability when designing lighting and incorporating it into other types of design?


What makes this programme and its potential so distinctive is its interdisciplinary nature. This means that it avoids placing too great an emphasis on one of the disciplines involved. Graduates of the programme learn how to combine project responsibility with collaboration across different disciplines. They learn how to address issues relating to the development and implementation of design aims, against a backdrop of growing planning expectations coupled with high-tech offerings from the lighting industry.


3. When was the programme founded, what was the intention behind it, and what does it aim to achieve?


The programme brings together lighting technology, planning, design and architecture at an integrated, highly specialised level. The focus of the programme is the issue of how space and light – key themes in architecture – correspond with one another, and how they can be coordinated and brought together in a meaningful relationship.

The programme was first introduced in 2012 and took several years to prepare. The need for an academic programme came directly from professional practice and the implementation of construction projects. At present there are only a few specialists who are in a position to understand the complex relationships between lighting technology and architecture, and to meet the high standards of contemporary buildings in terms of lighting technology and planning. There is an urgent need for well-trained professionals with a broad basic knowledge across a wide range of disciplines.

Moreover, it is worth noting the increasing use of artificial light in many different areas of our lives. For instance, in the medical technology sector light is increasingly used for eliciting desired physiological effects or promoting healing processes. Finally, the possibilities of the latest LED and OLED light sources will also drastically change the quality and quantity of artificial light in everyday life. These changes are evident not only in technical appliances and lights, but also as part of the urban fabric. These new forms of technology must be cultivated and properly incorporated into our built environment.


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