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A Beautiful Light: looking for ideal lighting through ideal beauty

29 January 2021

Lighting designer and 40under40 award-winner Martina Frattura is currently working on an ongoing research project aimed at pushing artificial lighting towards its highest potential. Thanks to collaborations with Universal Science and Phos, A Beautiful Light will break through the studio, office, and university bubble to get closer to people and their well-being. 

 

People are like prisms: ever-changing, irregular, sensitive to external stimuli and marked by their own individual backgrounds. While focus and self-care are crucial challenges of our time, anyone can still experience a spontaneous and even inexplicable moment of instinctual attraction when they encounter something that is appealing to them.

Being surrounded by beauty can help replenish one’s energy, but what happens when we have to fulfil a task in an office, studio, or more generally a space whose ambience we cannot control? Is the colourful puzzle of beauty something we can break down into a series of variables? If so, how would we apply these variables to a specific environment? Given our body’s immediate physical reaction to it, light is a key element to address these issues.

Neuroscientific research has indeed been studying the importance of light in the modulation of our feelings, however there is still a perceived gap between science and design, especially in terms of the effects of exposure to interior lighting on a person’s mental health. Filling this gap was thus the initial rationale behind the project.

For this reason, the first phase of researchA Beautiful Light: #WhereDoYouSeeTheBeauty – investigated individual ideas of beauty. First, Martina Frattura met 160 volunteers in 10 different countries (Bulgaria, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Turkey, Canada) and recorded their brain activity, looking for trends in people’s physiological response to beauty. Secondly, Martina collaborated with data analyst Massimiliano Mancini Tortora, with whom she analysed the EEG data collected. Focusing on alpha and theta waves in particular, the researchers tested two hypotheses: exposure to one’s individual referent of beauty lowers attention fatigue (comparable to prolonged exposure to nature); beauty enables the process of fascination.

The second phase of the project (#BeautifulLight), which is still ongoing, aims at identifying possible links between light and well-being. For this phase, Martina is partnering with two leading players in the lighting industry: Universal Science (IT) and Phos (UK). This key collaboration will contribute towards the definition of the characteristics that lighting stimuli should have to positively affect vigilance and vitality within a specific interior environment. The final goal is designing an interior lighting scenario for the betterment of people’s general well-being. The project is especially tailored towards offices where people work overtime, in order to enable them to maintain concentration without exhausting their mental energy. Such a goal will be supported by the EEG analysis with the aim to create an effective metric to measure and compare the beneficial effect on the neural process.

Is lighting design really making use of all the most advanced academic knowledge in this field? Is architectural lighting really people-driven, or is it still environment-driven?

A Beautiful Light will keep tackling these questions and working towards the answers.

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