Dark Matters – Lighting Magazine

Dark Matters

Kerem Asfuroglu low res sideLighting designer Kerem Asfuroglu aims to put social and environmental values at the centre of his fledgling practice Dark Source.

With a CV that includes a master’s in architectural lighting design from Wismar University and almost eight years at Speirs + Major, Kerem Asfuroglu’s new venture will be keenly anticipated in the lighting design world. Asfuroglu’s passion is the urban night and darkness. At Speirs + Major he worked on projects such as Covent Garden’s site-wide lighting improvement, Battersea Power Station’s redevelopment masterplan, Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford Upon Avon. His fledgling practice, Dark Source, aims to put social and environmental ‘core values’ at the centre of what it does.

‘Dark Source is coming from the lighting design world, but we’ll promote a set of values in delivering a new vision of design,’ says Asfuroglu. ‘So this means considering the social and cultural impact of lighting while taking other aspects into account such as the energy usage and light pollution. Dark Source believes creating an intriguing atmosphere is still possible within the realm of sustainability and respect to biodiversity. ‘So it won’t be about creating an image that simply looks good’. He agrees that it is time to regard these issues as an integral part of the design process. ‘But unfortunately we know that the single dimensional visual aesthetic is the driving force in what lighting design has become’. While Dark Source will focus on social design, it also aims to undertake a wide range of exterior and interior lighting design projects to convey its artistic vision.

He believes lighting design belongs to a broader conversation with other stakeholders interested in the urban nightscape including policy-makers, politicians, night workers, architects and urban planners. Unusually, the practice will create ‘influential’ content – he cites video, podcasts and ‘thought-provoking’ productions – that will aim to reach a wider audience. 

The idea is not that Dark Source becomes a multi-media production company. ‘That’s not what we’re aiming for,’ says Asfuroglu. ‘It’s more about nurturing diversity and broadening the discussion. We’re interested in producing creative content which looks at issues with a distinct approach’. 

He cites the example of London, and the advent in recent years of the night tube and the upgrades brought by the mayor’s office. With the night-time economy moving up the agenda, it’s creating opportunities for lighting designers to influence the direction of conversation in city-planning and represent an informed voice about issues such as light quality, levels and experience. 

He’s also concerned at the macro scale impact of lighting. ‘How does it read on the city scale?’

‘Our visual system is sensitive to contrast rather than actual light levels. So what does it mean if a city suddenly becomes much brighter as a whole? Why lighting standards don’t take perception psychology into consideration? What does the shift to LED mean for future cities? 

‘The sources are getting brighter and cheaper to produce while the optics are getting more aggressive. More manufacturers are only providing cool colour temperatures simply because they’re more efficient than warm ones, whilst various studies show how blue-rich LEDs worsen the sky-glow’. 

He believes that the speed of LED adoption has marginalised considerations other than energy saving. ‘The paradigm shift happened so quickly. Considering that it took decades for the gas to be taken over by electric lighting, I don’t think the society had the chance to fully adapt to this transition’. He worries that only a small portion of the booming LED market adheres to a strong environmental & recycling ethic when it comes to manufacturing.

 ‘It’s difficult for me to understand why there isn’t a broader conversation about LED lighting.’ These include light pollution and a perverse proliferation of LEDs as the price of luminaires fall. Asfuroglu’s interests include considerate light-planning at city scale, a process he is familiar from his work with Speirs + Major, a specialist in the art.

As part of that, Asfuroglu will be one of the keynote speakers at The Illuminated City conference taking place at Lightspace London 2019 at ExCeL London. It will explore urban lighting with an emphasis on planning and place-making with light. See more at www.lightspace.london.