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The beauty uniting people lights up in Dubai

21 February 2022

Lorenzo Bruscaglioni, lighting designer and Luminae Lighting Design Studio founder, talks about the design concept for the Expo 2020 Italian Pavilion

Interviewed by co-editor Marco Nozza


One hundred and seventy years have passed since the first “Universal Exhibition” in London. Guests and tourists have reached the amazing Expo Dubai 2020, officially inaugurated on 1st October 2021, open to visitors until 31st March 2022. The extension of the approximately 3000 sqm of the Italian Pavilion has been considerably travelled and experienced: on the weekend of the first week of December, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Arab Emirates, there are fifty thousand visitors, six million in total reached at the end of last October.

The Italian exhibition celebrates “The Beauty that unites People”: a circular, reconfigurable and narrative design that is the result of the architectural competition won by some leading designers on the Italian scene: CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building Office, with Matteo Gatto & Associati and F&M Ingegneria. Lorenzo Bruscaglioni, Luminae lighting design studio, conceived the lighting design in the Italian Pavilion exhibition spaces.


In the Pavilion artistic installations, the light was applied as a vector of wonders, giving the visitor “a visual experience out of the ordinary”. Can you tell us your concept?

The concept reflects the complexity of the architectural project, the very structure of the Pavilion is permeable to the natural light filtering through the roof, and the perimeter ropes have considerably influenced the lighting strategy. The magical, unpredictable ingredient characterizing the lighting of the Pavilion lies in the changing dialectic between natural and artificial sources.


Not a single light, therefore. Each space requires targeted and specific lighting mainly based on the visitor use and content. How did you design, according to this philosophy?

Each installation was treated as a particular set-up where, in some cases, the artificial light has a symbolic value, such as the reproduction of shadows/foliage on the walls; in other cases, it is functional to bring out works such as the reproduction of David inside of the Memoria. There is also a plant-dedicated “biological” light taking on another important aspect with the installations of Tolo green, Eni and the luminaires dedicated to horticulture. Last but not least, the design of the Second Sun has engaged us in a challenge where our background in the entertainment field has allowed us to solve various technological problems. The agronomist and botanist Flavio Pollano, GMP Studio handled the layout and garden design of the Pavilion. The blades of water evoking the Mediterranean dissect the circular structure of the Belvedere: there, the cultivation of micro-algae (Spirulina) takes place for the ecological treatment of the air through the bio-fixation of carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors. The roof is a lowered dome on which a series of Mediterranean scrub herbs are grown: caper, thyme, fern and rosemary. Leaving the Teatro Della Memoria, on the other hand, you can appreciate sections and segments of the vegetable garden containing plants of different species that adorn the space and ceramics of Sicilian appeal stand out on the perimeter.


The lighting design applied from the vegetal dome of the Belvedere to the vegetable gardens of the Teatro della Memoria required an ad hoc study on the choice of equipment. Can you tell us?

In the design phase, the research focused on high-performance luminaires with optical range able of satisfying sufficient illuminating values from very different distances. At first, the challenge was undoubtedly to reach green areas at risk, as from a daylight exposure point of view, they were in some critical areas of the Pavilion.


We often talk about “out of print” products: to illuminate the green areas, you opted for newly conceived bodies, technically rearranged for a specific task, is that right?

Well, it was not easy to find the proper luminaire. The horticultural lighting market is characterised by products that fit standard applications, such as greenhouses or classic clusters of vertical shelves. Instead, we were looking both for flexible products to be positioned in different Pavilion places to follow the growth of plants and for a company willing to work on custom prototyping.


Like architects, lighting designers often relate to the various players in the supply chain (lighting engineering field and other disciplines) to carry out the projects. The support of a company that produces lighting fixtures is here essential. Which company did you work with?

In collaboration with One 4 all technical department, we designed a frame to contain 4 Unik 150W LED (COB LED Citizen) luminaires that could be individually oriented and equipped with dedicated optics as needed. Another not secondary aspect was the choice to remote the drivers to convey them to a single point to facilitate wiring and maintenance operations. Each frame can then be mounted individually or in pairs on stands equipped with wheels.


Light is vegetation lifeblood. Chlorophyll photosynthesis could only happen if there is a consistent quantity and direction of light spectrum over time. To obtain a healthy and regular growth of plants inside the Pavilion, how is guaranteed proper exposure to artificial light?

Constant monitoring is provided by a skilled team headed by the agronomist who periodically organizes the devices to facilitate the growth of plants, applying the correct spectrum and relative amount of PPF. The Italian Pavilion, in its complexity, is a large experimental installation that blurs the boundaries between Natural and Artificial. Let us imagine it as a forest: its foliage filters the light to give life and at the same time, the birth of neo-organic matter takes place. It somehow recalls the lighting for indoor and hydroponic cultivation. In its genetic spiral run sustainability and biophilia, especially for areas of the planet with a strong environmental impact, attention to the light pollution and light impact on the ecosystem. But most of all the values and ethics of life, to learn – “agri-culture” – and support the mutually beneficial relationship between man and nature.


Photo Credits: Michele Nastasi and Massimo Sestini



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