Tripping the light fantastic
Jane Gosney's talk, hosted by Art and Architecture at the Gallery in London's Clerkenwell, was designed to show that 'a lighting designer is probably a good friend if you'd like to make an exciting building.' Gosney was speaking in her capacity both as head of wsp Lighting and as a member of Art and Architecture, and a contributor to its quarterly magazine of the same title. Her audience seemed to be a mixed bag of mainly youngish fine artists and architects who have probably come under the spell of James Turrell at some point.
Gosney herself confessed Turrell to be her 'super-hero', although her own work might be said to typify the over-use of artificial lighting which Turrell has criticised. Her project for the internal and external night- time lighting of the refurbished Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens was strictly constrained by the need to avoid light pollution, but nevertheless seems a rather theatrical display. Gosney argues that the aim was to 'create a presence in a very open space', and views the result as 'somewhat ethereal' in quality. She maintains the role of a lighting designer is to 'help in the expression of all built forms whether art or architecture', and points out that this can be quite inexpensive: the Serpentine scheme cost less than the allocated budget of £12,500.
Gosney was trained as an architect at the Bartlett, and subsequently effected her move into the world of lighting during 12 years at yrm. Now she is a specialist in the subtleties of neon and argon gas, and all the other technicalities of lighting in exciting times of rapid development and new possibilities. She brings to her work a fascination with the way that artists such as Dan Flavin and Martin Richman, as well as James Turrell, have used light in their work to explore issues about depth of space and colour, and how this work has affected the practice of architecture.
Among her slides were images of illuminated architecture where bright reflective light is avoided in favour of blocks and planes of colour. The colonnade of the Rotterdam Architecture Museum was lit by artists commissioned by architect-in-charge Jo Coenen, and the results achieved through mixing coloured light generated by boxes of simple fluorescent tubes. A scheme for facade lighting of an energy company hq in Germany by James Turrell himself showed an inspired use of a heat-sensitive intelligent system which generates colour change as the ambient temperature drops. By contrast, Fisher Park's stage sets for Pink Floyd's Division Bell concerts provide a suitably brash drama of colour, dynamic lights, projections and lasers. And Jean-Michel Jarre's concert in China turns whole tower blocks into exploding, showering Roman Candles of light.
Light, for Gosney, represents 'the most powerful medium of crossing boundaries between art and architecture.' That vision will be tested by the new Southwark underground station designed by Richard MacCormac, which incorporates work by artist Alex Beleschenko and lighting by wsp.