The Lumière Cloud: More Than Just A Conversation-Starter

Design Days Dubai Fair Director Cyril Zammit interviews the men behind one of the show’s most stunning installations.

March 19, 2015

The first time I saw a sneak peek of Commonplace Studio’s Lumière bulbs installation it surpassed all my expectations and I immediately thought of its impact on a larger scale.

If design provides an intimate relationship with its owner and can be a conversation starter, then installations start a much larger dialogue and an interaction with an audience that can be perceived in many ways.

Making its world premiere right now at Design Days Dubai, I sat down with Jon Stam and Simone de Bakker, the Dutch creators of The Lumière Cloud, to learn more…

First off, what is Commonplace Studio?
We are a design practice that is interested in both craft and technology and we see ourselves crafting new media. We treat the objects we produce as a form of media and we approach the materials in ways consistent with quality craftsmanship. Jon [Stam] deals with the forms of the objects, while Simone [de Bakker] creates the electronics that bring the objects to life.

How did the Lumière project come about?
It started as a casual discussion. Jon mentioned that the early Lumière Brothers films were such a wonder to watch, and that it would be great to have these films playing in a light bulb. We immediately paused and looked at each other and thought that this was a good idea.

While it seemed impossible to get the rights to screen the films, Simone was convinced that building a projector and computer small enough to fit in a light fixture was not. For our first presentation we decided to start on a smaller scale and then continue and build it up to a larger installation of Lumière 28 or what we like to call The Lumière Cloud, which is premiering now at Design Days Dubai. 

How long did it take to build your custom made projectors?
It was developed in two phases. The first involved hacking off the shelve projectors and adapting them to fit our requirements, which took us about a month to complete for the first Lumière series.

As for The Lumière Cloud installation, we built our own projectors, which took roughly a month and little sleep to complete from idea to development. The main issue was the elements we were dealing with are made in bulk and suppliers weren’t interested in selling a small number. We eventually found a company that was intrigued by our project and decided to supply us with 30 optical engines that are the core of our projectors. 

Initially, the Lumière bulbs were not sanded, but now the bottom of the bulbs are. What is the difference?
We first used regular bulbs that included white glass in them, as a result there was this gradient. So when you looked through the sides of the bulb, it was completely transparent but when you looked upwards something really magical happened.

What made it tricky is that if you placed the white glass on a white wall, the bulbs became washed out – this was part of our testing so we decided to sandblast the gradient from the inside. It was essential to do it from the inside, so the owner can’t see the results of the rough sandblasting, and if they touch it, there won’t be any smudge marks. 

How have you seen the market for contemporary design develop over the past few years?
Our biggest surprise is that there actually is a market for this. In The Netherlands there are a lot of designers that work in the same way, but there is no Dutch market. Alexis Ryngaert, director of Victor Hunt Designart Dealer, was a primary force that really catapulted our pieces into the market. He has the vision, the understanding and the capabilities to invest in our projects. His knowledge was essential and helped us navigate the market.

There are collectors interested in commissioning; others in acquiring part of a series; and some are after the initial prototypes. What we find rewarding about this partnership with Alexis, is that we are entering new territories, with exciting projects. While we do deal with the latest technologies, that isn’t our primary focus – our aim is to create good design that involves the user rather than alienating him. 

The Lumière Cloud is making its world debut at Design Days Dubai, which runs until March 20. For more, visit designdaysdubai.ae