Crystals are finding their way into modern lighting fixtures, wall décor and art installations as designers continue to build a relationship between the luxury glass product and its ability to enhance light.
Simone Chua, industrial designer and co-founder of amigo & amigo design believes crystals are a highly effective material for use in any lighting feature.
“Crystal is a great material for diffusing light,” she says. “It also shimmers and reflects light throughout the form providing more depth to the design. The application of crystals in lighting pieces creates a sense of grandeur, and wealth.”
The first known crystal project came about back in 1851, when designer Sir Joseph Paton created a glass exhibition hall which was erected in Hyde Park, London.
The hall was constructed from prefabricated wood, iron and a glass application through a cast plate glass method which was a fairly new innovation at the time. Glass covered the 39 meter walls and ceilings removing the need for an interior light with Paton calling the structure the Crystal Palace.
Over time, crystals have found a prominent place in the design of lighting products and are commonly placed within sculptural pendants and chandeliers.
“Centre lighting pieces, such as chandeliers, have traditionally used crystals in an array of complex forms,” Chua says. “Crystal is often used to represent luxury and elegance.”
She notes that crystal exudes an air of sophistication “while creating a design piece that is relevant to a modern interior environment.”
Despite their popularity, Chua recommends using crystals in moderation in the interior environment.
She says they should be used “mainly as centerpieces, to create a focal point amidst the surrounding environment. If overused in interior design, the representation of exclusivity is compromised.”
London-based design firm Meystyle has taken the use of crystals one step further, unveiling wallpaper embedded with LED lights and Swarovski crystals at the recent New York Design Week.
Mestyle’s design duo, sisters Maria and Ekaterina Yaschuk, hand-applied the crystals to “accentuate the impact of the LEDs as the two work in harmony to create a dramatic impact” for walls.
Swarovski in Austria is one of the most renowned brands for their clear cut lead glass crystals. While the organisation dominates in the jewellery sector, Swarovski is strengthening its relationship with leading architects and designers around the word to develop sculptural lighting pieces and gleaming art installations.
At the 2011 London Design Festival, Swarovski collaborated with minimalist designer John Paswon to create Perspectives, a 40-centimetre-wide concave crystal meniscus lens - the largest created to date.
The installation has now been installed inside the San Giorgio Maggiore Basilica in Venice, a 16th century church by Italian architect Andrew Palladio for the 55th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia this month.
“The temptation is to try to take in everything. This is about offering viewers a dynamic visual experience of Palladio’s architecture, based around a single, sharply honed perspective,” Pawson says.
This is also the first project sponsored by the newly established Swarovski Foundation, which will make a donation toward restoring a statue within the church. The foundation is committed to supporting creativity and culture as it works with established and emerging designers including Zaha Hadid, Yves Bhar, Studio Job, Ross Lovegrove, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad, Tokujin Yoshioka and Fernando and Humberto Campana.
Hadid has created light installations in the past with Swarovski Crystal Palace, a division of the company aimed at reinventing the chandelier to create signature interpretations of light and design using crystals.
Fade Chandelier, a Hadid/Swarovski collaboration project, was exhibited a few years ago at The Serpentine Gallery in London. The design “draws from the primary elements: gradient effects and interlacing networks” to create a stainless steel structure embedded with Swarovski crystals which appear to float, catching and directing the light.
Another opulent project, simply called Light Structure by Zaha Hadid featured 86 cables stretching 15 metres from floor to ceiling to create a spiraling vortex housing 2,700 internally lit Swarovski crystals.
The illuminated crystals emit a light blue hue to engage with the surrounding space.
"As with our architecture, contextual embedding is always considered,” Hadid said of the project. “The chandelier relates to- and interacts with - each new environment in a unique manner; constantly reinventing itself and offering exciting new possibilities with each installation."
Swarovski further showcased its support for Hadid this month by commissioning the starchitect to create a celebratory installation, Prima, an angular piece made from five highly polished components illuminated with LED technology to mark the completion of her first major built project, the Fire Station at Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein Germany.
While not crystal-based, Prima aims to honour Hadid’s original sketches and paintings of the building while offering an architecturally dynamic seating space for visitors.