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Light Research @ MMU



September 12th, 2016 - 14:28pm

Sunlight and the Landscape: Stanton Moor, Peak District

I am currently  writing a paper that focuses upon the manifold effects of the daylight and the ways in which this shapes the ways in whihc we perceive and understand landscape. This involved taking a walk across a raised area of moorland and woodland in England’s Peak District, Stanton Moor, taking photographs at each moment that the light seemed to transform the scene I beheld. In focusing upon this changing light and its interactions with the landscape – the ways in which light is reflected, absorbed and deflected – I aim to foreground the ways in which our eyes must constantly become attuned to these shifts, a topic that is rarely considered in our habitual engagement with the world. The walk around Stanton Moor produced an array of instances where the landscape and elements within suddenly became notable through the effects of the sunlight. There were areas of strong contrasts and prominent silhouettes, parts where green plants became vibrant in the sun’s rays, areas of shadow and gloom, lucid reflections in water, expansive and luminous skies, vividly illuminated cobwebs adorned with droplets, and dappled 5.Stanton bright leaves17.stanton.jewelswoods.

March 8th, 2016 - 14:57pm

The illuminated magic of the fairground: Sydney’s Luna Park

Despite the many charms of VIVID, for me, the most affecting light display in Sydney has been attracting residents of the city to play on the North shore of the Harbour Bridge since the 1930s. Luna Park contains reproductions of the designs from this era as well as some original features. Luna Park Face

Unlike so many traditional pleasure gardens and amusement parks that have been made over and extinguished the original features, Luna Park conveys a powerful sense of the atmosphere, allure and aesthetics that held sway in the golden age of funfairs, and captures some of the magic of illumination that earlier twentieth century urbanites must have experienced, as the city was transformed by light from a dark realm into an enchanted, uncanny phantasmagoria. Luna Park - roundabout

In his magisterial book, Disenchanted Night: The Industrialisation of Light in the Nineteenth Century. (1988), Wolfgang Schivelbusch argues that the late years of the 19thcentury to the early years of the 20th century saw a broad shift from a lighting of order to a lighting of festivity.  Such festive lighting was exemplified at theme parks such as at Coney Island where, as Gary Cross describes (in his paper ‘Crowds and leisure: thinking comparatively across the 20th century’, Journal of Social History 9(3): 631-650, 2006), ‘(the original) Luna Park and Dreamland created a dazzling architectural fantasy of towers domes and minarets, outlined by electric lights, giving these strange oriental shapes an even more mysterious and magical air at night’. Luna Park - Coney Island Funny Land

The art deco entrance to Sydney’s Luna Park, comprising two towers that border a huge face with a giant mouth through which people entered, was constructed in 1935, and has been remodelled several times due to the damaging effects of sea spray and rain. The present design derives from 1995 and is a replica of the original. Other fantasy fairground design features spread throughout the park, notably the fabulous Funny Land, a survivor from 1935 and a fabulous and rare example of a funhouse from that era.Luna Park - Funny land detail - Popeye

June 7th, 2014 - 06:19am

Mary’s Lamp: lighting the way for women and sexually diverse individuals

Lamp for Mary Source Mikala Dwyer

Lamp for Mary is a pink street light installed in 2010 to illuminate an inner city laneway, Mary’s Place, in Sydney. The light stands at a site ia which a woman named Mary was attacked and raped by two men in 1996 as a consequence of her sexuality.  One year after the brutal attack, the laneway, previously Flood Lane, was renamed Mary’s Place and a community artwork was installed. The original artwork, however, was removed during building works. In response to a community-driven campaign, City of Sydney commissioned artist Mikala Dwyer, who worked with GLBTQI community groups to reinstate a structure that protects, heals, warns and celebrates the power of survival. Acting as metaphor, the light keeps vigil for those using this place after dark, and enables this previously historically notorious, shadowy laneway to be reclaimed by women and sexually diverse individuals. While pragmatic, Mary’s Lamp also acts as a symbolic public tribute and testimony to the resilience of assault victims. The unusual large size, bright pink colour and ringed body of the structure serve to disrupt the conventional sequence of lighting along the urban laneway, motivating recognition and reflection for those using and moving through Mary’s Place. Moreover, the lamp emits a warm inviting light, with its pink shade designed to spread the emitted light across the width of the laneway. This contrasts with other streetlights in the area chosen for energy efficiency and cost, that providing a cooler, whiter hue with lower luminosity. Posted by Anna de Jong (


June 4th, 2014 - 01:35am

Light and play

From Nona: On 17/5/13 I attended a conference organised by the Professional Lighting Design Association in Berlin and had the pleasure of listening to Maria João Pinto Coelho telling an inspiring story of an invention consisting of seven black boxes. All boxes look the same and contain items like candles, artificial light sources, mirrors, pieces of wood or card board. They also come with instructions that invite anyone who will open them to playfully explore the powers of light in space. The Game of Light will start whenever people join together round the boxes: “we’ll open them, we’ll read the instructions and… we’ll play!”



Maria  has conceived, planned and orchestrated the Game of together with her lighting designer colleague Ignacio Valero Ubierna to create a research tool that encourages a playful engagement with lighting techniques and technologies and their effects. Educative wooden toys developed by the German pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel in the 19th century – the so called Froebel Gifts – were one source of inspiration.

In her presentation however, Maria João Pinto Coelho created suspense: rather than revealing the content of the boxes , she opened the black-box of the design process for us. The boxes were developed and manufactured by seven lighting designers and seven students, grouped up in mixed teams of two. Before they could start, they were given instructions regarding the size and colour of the boxes (black with a light bulb symbol). Furthermore, the design task was that each of the seven boxes should address a specific light-related question:

  • Poetry in light – what kind of emotions can light deliver?
  • Space and perception of light – how does light affect our perception of space?
  • Light and Shadow – how can we play with contrasts, darkness and brightness?
  • Materials under the light – how does light change the appearance of materials?
  • Light and colors – how do we perceive color through light?
  • Drawing light with technology – how can you change the way in which light spreads?
  • (the box with no name) – what is lacking, overlooked or missing in lighting design?

I will not go into the details of the boxes – they become much more tangible through the images on the website of the Game of Light. The website must suffice since the only two sets of boxes still reside in Mexico. There, they were successfully tested by an assembly of 250 lighting designers during the Encuentro Iberoamericano de Lighting Design EILD 2010. The plan is to ship one set of boxes to Europe some day in order to have one Game of Light on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. “But they are heavy”, says Maria and has already moved on to new projects. The way she talks about the evolution and realization of her idea conveys another message: The game is on. The tool box is out in the world. Now, it is up to others to put it to use.

May 23rd, 2013 - 13:00pm