Movement as the Spark

1. 2. 2023

Preciosa Lighting drives traditional crystal lighting into the 21st century. Discover how the technology in its latest bespoke installation for French bank Crédit Agricole turns a wave of light into an unexpected experience.

With a seemingly simple mission to connect people through light, Preciosa takes on the challenge of finding new ways to bring unexpected emotions to people interacting with our installations. Our Research and Development team often pushes the boundaries of glass and light. The Stairway of Light, a recent project in Clermont-Ferrand, France, gave the R&D engineers plenty of new challenges to conquer.

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Crédit Agricole regional headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand.

Breath of Light in motion

Breath of Light is an award-winning Preciosa Signature Design which debuted at Milan Design Week 2018. It’s notable for its hand-blown triplex opal spheres and open and airy composition. As a Signature Design, the concept can be tailored to the client’s wishes. For Crédit Agricole, we were asked to create an interactive version of Breath of Light for the atrium in their regional headquarters. To demonstrate their innovative approach, they requested the installation connect people through interactive lights and emotions. The bank’s design team - studio Tan Gram Sbaf wanted the movement of people through the space to affect the lighting and therefore play a role in the atrium’s atmosphere.

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Šárka Stránská, BDM for Preciosa Lighting, Michel Martiniani and Laurent Peyring, Tan Gram Sbaf designers discussing the project details

The sparkling surprise

The 14-metre tall installation features several different lighting scenes. Once every hour, for example, the piece produces an effect of light spilling through crystal bubbles from the centre of the installation to the edges. Passing from the entrance to the reception area brings another effect. It turns off the entire light fixture and gradually brightens the whole installation again. Additionally, after two people meet under the lighting, a sparkling effect will appear in the lower part for as long as they stand under it and finally, after someone moves to the elevator, the sparkle effect will raise up to the ceiling and dissolve. It’s immediately apparent their coming together created this sparkling surprise. If there is no movement through the space, the light remains on, and after a while, dims and shines again as if it were breathing, bringing a constant feeling of life into the space.

If there is no movement through the space, the light remains on, and after a while, dims and shines again as if it were breathing, bringing a constant feeling of life into the space.

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Model of the bank’s lobby

The interactive challenge

But how was this sparkling surprise created? For some insight, we spoke with Ondřej Major, Preciosa Lighting’s electrical design engineer who led the project. “For the Stairway of Light we used a technology called Time of Flight,” he explained. “Time of Flight senses space using a laser. The space is illuminated by infrared laser pulses, which reflect off the environment into the view of a special camera.”

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Ondřej Major – Preciosa Lighting electrical design engineer

The height of the atrium’s sloped ceiling required careful and tricky placing of ten cameras with the Time of Flight sensors. “The location of the cameras was carefully selected to achieve the ideal position and minimise the possibility of a person covering the camera’s viewfinder,” Mr. Major explained. “We used the first floor ceiling, outside the light fixture area, and overlooking the path from the entrance to the reception. Some sensors are placed around the lobby, and some are pointed towards the entrance and reception.”

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Motion tracking sketch

“I would say that this type of motion response–real-time object tracking–is the most complex interactivity we do,” Mr. Major added. “Of course, it depends on the space and desired effects, but Time of Flight projects are significantly more demanding than other types of interactivity. This is because of the many cameras required, the necessity of precisely placing each one, the often demanding calibration, and the programming of the system.”

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14-metre high light installation inspired by Breath of Light

This project was exacting in terms of the advanced systems and technologies for lighting control, as well as in terms of design and coordination. Each of the 226 glass spheres was illuminated by an LED module, and then suspended from the sloping ceiling. It was critical that each one was correctly connected and hung so that the light fixture formed a spiral and each one lights up when it should. The result? An installation full of sparkle, surprises, and emotions.