I nominate Rogier van der Heide for his exceptional application of the latest lighting technology: he uses light not as a means of making objects visible but as a primal force flowing from those objects. Technology, design and craftsmanship come together in splendid fashion in his work.
I admire the expert way in which Van der Heide utilises light as a material, allowing it to be the bearer of the message and speak directly to the viewer. He does not use it excessively, grotesquely, like a curtain that permits mere glimpses of the subject, but handles it in a measured, subtle, sensitive way. His work comes across so naturally that the technology behind it goes unnoticed. For him, the medium is not the message.
Especially remarkable, to me, are the luminous costumes Van der Heide designed last year for Black Eyed Peas. During the performance, the clothing is connected wirelessly to the stage lighting and the rhythm of the music, giving rise to special lighting effects. Here, costume and lighting design merge; the light becomes part of the wearer’s identity and enhances his or her expressive abilities. When I look at the costumes hanging up together, I can see the set list and choreography of the show at a glance. The band members don't have to move; the luminous costumes create motion and atmosphere, supporting the music in a natural way.
Van der Heide is a designer who creates autonomous work but does not do so in isolation. His lighting projects are almost always part of an interdisciplinary collaboration. He works closely with architects, designers, technicians and programmers. He is a master of his art and recognises the necessity of teamwork in completing a project, but the final result always unmistakably bears his signature. For example, look at the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, completed in 2011. The architecture is the work of Zaha Hadid, but to me, Van der Heide’s lighting design is key in making the bridge a compelling, recognisable part of the landscape. In addition, in the dynamics of the lighting, he has created a language that suits the Emirates, literally interacting with, for example, the way the full moon lights up the big mosque.
Proof that Rogier van der Heide can also move us on a smaller scale is found in his ‘Dream Cloud’ installation for Swarovski Crystal Palace. It is an overwhelming imaginary landscape featuring a magical interplay between a field of Dutch tulips and a cloud of crystals, based around the way crystals reflect light. The result is extremely affecting; the designer speaks directly to the viewer through the work. For me, ‘Dream Cloud’ is essential, simple and pure yet also extremely well and precisely crafted.
Rogier van der Heide has the vision and capacity to take interactivity beyond gimmickry and make it truly functional, and in his future work he will continue to bring lighting design closer to other creative disciplines.