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Lighting that follows people’s needs. Interview with Tobias Link Plug & Light concept designer

Lighting that follows people’s needs

The Lichtplanungsbüro (lighting design office) Tobias Link was founded in 1991 in Saarbrücken. Tobias Link and his partner Oliver Link develop customised solutions – lighting systems, objects and installations for international clients and a broad spectrum of application. 

How did you become the concept designer of Plug & Light?

We have been cooperating with Insta for a long time. We have created the luminaire instalight No limit together, for example. A modular system with which many different lighting solutions can be easily implemented. A successful project. So Insta asked if I would like to address the topic of ‘light straight from the socket’. A fantastic assignment!

How did you proceed? 

We first created use cases, working our way around the house exploring: where are flush-mounted sockets used? Where – in which positions where switch and switch equipment are installed – does it make sense to use lighting?  We have investigated luminous flux: how high is the lumen output that can be produced by an LED that is integrated into a flush-mounted socket and how expedient is it to produce directional or diffused light with it? And: what do I wish to achieve in doing so? What possible applications are there? 

We developed two options that could be plugged onto the light socket: a classic spotlight and a luminaire with asymmetrical beam angle, the wall light. 

How did you come up with the idea of a three-ring plug-in solution, which is also a Plug & Light trademark?

The construction of the light socket is inspired by a design concept for a desk lamp that I implicitly wanted to implement: the base, arm and head of the luminaire should be available in various finishes and colours using a simple design language. Customers should be able to configure the luminaire according to their wishes: glossy black base, matt black arm, copper-coloured head or similar. The assembly of the luminaire should be possible without any tools. So I developed the plug-in idea with the three concentric magnetic rings. The luminaire has never been produced – but I have always looked for possible applications for this innovative plug-in idea. This opportunity came with Plug & Light. It fits perfectly and has now been modified and perfected. 

Where in the living room are the luminaires best used?

Everywhere! – During the development phase we illuminated an entire hotel room as an example: the asymmetrical wall light allows for a glare-free illumination of the corridor, immediately creating a cosy atmosphere! The wall light can also be applied in the bathroom at the washstand or mirror. If you turn it 180° to the ceiling, it functions also as an uplight. The spotlight becomes the perfect bedside reading light and is equally suitable for the ceiling or as a spot. You can illuminate an entire hotel room with it. 

What advantages does Plug & Light offer from a design perspective?

The entire light installation of a building is now possible in a consistent design language and with uniform materials – from the switch to the wall lights to the ceiling lights. This is completely new! – A switch system is always present in the living room anyway. The fact that matching luminaires and installation parts are now available without a change of equipment responds to the wishes of many architects and designers. Because that means more design freedom for planning interiors. A new architectural quality.

Plug & Light creates flexibility on many levels…

For example also in planning and assembly. It was important that the electricians favour the system. It is often the electricians who choose the switch design for a home. This is what interests them: how can I install everything as quickly as possible? – If the situation is unclear, the electrician can just simply install a few more light sockets, for example in the kitchen. Maybe more light is needed there at times. One is flexible without having to reuse the drill. 

Of course, awareness for the possibilities using the Plug & Light system is necessary. The fact that a new flexibility comes into being is an option not a must. The entire handling is very simple. Thanks to a magnet on the light socket, a pendant light can replace a spotlight within seconds and without tools – conventional lighting would require time-consuming installation. 

In the future, you can easily set new accents in your hotel room, office or home..

Yes, that’s very handy. You only have to remove the light. If new attachments are added, you can create a completely new style or atmosphere in the interior in no time at all. 

What other projects are you currently working on?

We are currently working on lighting projects for several shopping centres located in Cologne, Munich, Chemnitz, and Leipzig. We also have projects in the luxury and spa hotel sector. An exciting project in this sector is currently in the pipeline near Frankfurt. Light has many aspects – in the area of artistic application of light, we are currently designing a façade mise-en-scène for the Grand Theatre of the City of Luxembourg. There are also several projects on a smaller scale such as the municipal park in Merzig, where we are treading completely new paths.

What general trends do you see in the lighting sector?

Light makes it bright – used to be the motto. At some point there came a phase in which we concentrated on saving energy with LEDs. That has now been launched worldwide. Now it’s all about customised lighting in a wide variety of sectors. The light follows the needs of the people according to the situation. Coloured lighting is becoming an issue in medicine – for example with Alzheimer’s patients. In nursing homes, where different areas of a building are bathed in light to provide orientation.

Lighting concepts are becoming more specific. They are becoming more refined, more differentiated. A lot will happen in the next few years: it will be possible to adjust the colour temperature directly at the luminaire so that its wavelengths become shorter, for example – which facilitates reading for older people.

So, lighting designers will have an essential task in the future…

The work spectrum is very broad. We develop lighting concepts from restrained, from focused on biological needs, to opulently staged as in the theatre. We’re partly interior designers; we know our way around lighting technology. But we also look at the psychological aspects. Lighting design is not just about complying with DIN values and ensuring that it looks good. It is also about light climate. We want people to feel good. It has to be right, adapted to the respective application purpose. This topic also played a decisive role with Plug & Light: do people need all this? How do they feel with this lighting when it’s applied in different ways? We were mainly interested in the effect of light in a room. And less in the luminaire. Therefore, the entire design is very reduced. The basic approach was as follows: reduction of formal language, multiplication of lighting effects in the room. We cannot touch light. However, it touches us!

– Plug & Light gives users the security of directly creating a wonderfully pleasant lighting effect.