15/12/2020

If life is a series of steps ... Fifteen ways to light them

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Author L&L Communication Team
Category Tales of lighting design
Read time:

min

Even if stairs sometimes give us a few headaches, we shouldn’t be tempted by the lift!

Here, we have assembled lighting examples taken from the case studies we have collected over the years, so that they can serve as an inspiration when you’re working on an uphill task :)

There’s metaphorical potential to spare in these architectural structures, of course, between ladders to power and hair-raising tumbles back down to square one.

We have therefore amused ourselves by inserting a film reference for each of the 15 points. If you are curious to know which film each “excerpt” refers to, just click on the question to reveal the answer.

“Ah, my old enemy – stairs."
Kung Fu Panda

***Warning: may contain spoilers***

1. Asymmetrical light

You stop to look down at your city, wrapped in that grim greyness that has always characterised it.

You glimpse the agents behind you. You flick your cigarette butt on the ground and smile: your dark side takes over and you throw yourself headlong into a descent into hell, the only place that is rightfully yours.

Every four steps, a step light sets the pace down this stairway that has become your stage. The light is projected onto both the tread and the riser, gradually fading towards the centre of the staircase.

As your dancing catharsis runs its course, out of the corner of your eye you follow the jagged-edged profile of the steps on the wall – the rough side of life – the only side you have ever really known.

Lira 1.0, 3000K, 6W, anthracite

Lira 1.0, 3000K, 6W, anthracite Go to the project and credits

Lira 1.0, 3000K, 6W, white

Lira 1.0, 3000K, 6W, white Find out more about the product

 

 

 

 

 

Schematic lighting design using a lighting fixture with 368 lm luminous flux (6W, 3000K, white finish).

Lira 1.0, 3000K, 6W, white

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

2. Oval light fading out across the tread

Another glamorous night awaits you in the Big Apple, perhaps the very night you’ll have your perfect season finale. Reflected in the taxi window, for the umpteenth time you look at yourself in your new designer dress.

Slightly hesitant on your vertiginous heels, you prepare to climb the steps of the club that’s just opened on 27th Street. You keep your eyes down to avoid tripping, and your gaze is captured by a broad graphic pool of light forming the beginnings of an oval that opens out towards the equally broad tread.

This has the effect of highlighting the centre of the step, so you can clearly see where to place your foot. The light’s graphic curve comes from the form of the opening on the cover of the lighting fixture.

Very fitting, in a city where form is substance.

Step Outside 6.2, 3000K, 2W, satin

Step Outside 6.2, 3000K, 2W, satin Go to the project and credits

Step Outside 6.2, 3000K, 2W, satin

Step Outside 6.2, 3000K, 2W, satin Go to the project and credits

Step Outside 6.2

Step Outside 6.2 Find out more about the product

 

Step Outside 5.1, 3000K, 2W, white

Step Outside 5.1, 3000K, 2W, white Find out more about the product

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
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3. Rectangular light fading out across the tread

Scene change: you wake up in your apartment a few hours later.

Breathlessly, you run up and down the stairs searching for the right outfit for a brunch with your girlfriends, where you will admit with exasperation that the evening was a total washout. But where is it? Not still at the dry cleaners?

Yesterday's soft lines are just a memory, the graphic shape of the light shining the tread of on your stairs is the beginnings of a rectangle, all angles and worthy of your sharp personality that has made you who you are.
Here, too, the form is dictated by the fixture cover.

You sigh to yourself: a square peg is never going to fit into a round hole.

Line 1.0, 3000K, 2W, satin

Line 1.0, 3000K, 2W, satin Go to the project and credits

Line 1.0, 3000K, 2W, satin

Line 1.0, 3000K, 2W, satin Go to the project and credits

Line 1.0

Line 1.0 Find out more about the product

 

Step Outside 6.3, 3000K, 2W, satin

Step Outside 6.3, 3000K, 2W, satin Find out more about the product

 
 

Which film is hidden
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Which film is hidden
in this story?

4. Single graphic shape on the wall

You’ve played your cards very cleverly, with a few lies and a few omissions, and the climax your life is working towards is in the ascendant. The ladder to riches and satisfaction seems to be within reach, real, not only for you but for your entire family.

The light you observe as you climb leaves a decisive mark on the wall, pouring a well-defined rectangle onto the step.

It is the product of a narrow opening, just like the one you exploited to insinuate yourself into other people’s lives and attach yourself like a parasite.

The light merely accompanies the steps of someone climbing a staircase that is already partially lit – easy enough, isn't it? Yes, everything is so straightforward now, viewed from here.

Step Inside 2.3, 3000K, 2W, white

Step Inside 2.3, 3000K, 2W, white Find out more about the product

Step Inside 2.3, 3000K, 2W, white

Step Inside 2.2 Find out more about the product

 

Step Inside 2.2, 3000K, 2W, cor-ten

Step Inside 2.2, 3000K, 2W, cor-ten Find out more about the product

Which film is hidden
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Which film is hidden
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5. Double graphic shape on the wall

After having seemingly granted you some rapid ascents, life may have some hair-raising falls in store for you that leave you in cramped conditions underground. You may find yourself living your life down here like someone else's double – your opposite number, who comes out at night to steal the crumbs left by those who have more and keep it for themselves.

The rectangle of light projected on the step is always narrow, but now the mark on the wall is doubled. The upper light clings to the wall, gradually fading away.

You can't have one without the other, in a struggle that never ends. History continues to repeat itself.

Bright 1.B, 3000K, 3.5W, 2x60°

Bright 1.B, 3000K, 3.5W, 2x60° Find out more about the product

 

Which film is hidden
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Which film is hidden
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6. On both sides

The night has not yet given way completely to the glow of dawn, but rest is already a distant memory for you. Under the hood of your sweatshirt, your forehead is beaded with sweat: one last effort and even the highest steps in the city will be yours.

The staircase will require double the effort – sorry, double the light points if: its clear width is substantial and you want to guarantee safe usage (photo 1); a certain symmetry is required for the staircase because it is associated with an entrance or exit that has triumphal overtones (photo 2).

The latter suits your circumstances. Perhaps it’s an omen of victory?

Step Outside 5.2, 3000K, 2W, customized version with anthracite finish

Step Outside 5.2, 3000K, 2W, customized version with anthracite finish Go to the project and credits

 

Beam 2.0, 3000K, 2W, single beam, stainless steel

Beam 2.0, 3000K, 2W, single beam, stainless steel Go to the project and credits

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

7. On both sides with asymmetry

A terrace overlooking the sea from which a long flight of steps can be admired, leading to a stretch of private coastline. The umpteenth extravagant party has ended, your guests, who you don't even know, have left the villa tipsy and enchanted by the abundant wealth you flaunt.

When your goal is essentially to achieve a theatrical effect, alternating the lighting fixtures on the steps sets the right tempo.

At the top of the steps, you sip a last cocktail while staring at the green light across the bay. You do all this for her. If only she knew.

Step Outside 5.2, 3000K, 2W, customized version with anthracite finish

Step Outside 5.2, 3000K, 2W, customized version with anthracite finish Go to the project and credits

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

8. On the step itself, a watershed

The guards move up and down the granite staircase marching in step. The lighting fixture carves out a place for itself at the centre of the scene: on the tread, between the white troops’ feet, or on the riser, it directs the two opposite streams of seemingly unstoppable soldiers.

While you wait in hiding for the green light from the other rebels to enter the imperial structure, your attention focuses on the physicality of the fixture: you have seen that cap shape before.

What if it's a droid? It emits a double-beamed grazing light towards the sides of the treads, or a single beam if attention needs to be drawn to the centre of the step.
The coast is clear: you sneak up to it to get a better view.

Beam 2.6, 3000K, 2W, single beam, stainless steel

Beam 2.6, 3000K, 2W, double beam, stainless steel Go to the project and credits

Bright 1.A, 2700K, 2W, 1x120°

Bright 1.A, 2700K, 2W, 1x120° Find out more about the product

 

Which film is hidden
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Which film is hidden
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“My doctor says that walking stairs earns many more minutes of life. Step after step I gained two weeks, during which it will probably rain anyway.” Woody Allen

9. On the edge of the scene, but always in the picture

What you observe with a disenchanted and ironic gaze is the emptiness of meaning, seasoned with chatter, blah blah blah, and the cries of those who dance to that deafening music convinced that this is life.

You are there in the scene and yet you choose to stay on the sidelines so as not to get dirty like the others have: just like the capped lighting fixture sits on the steps you walk down towards the pool. It sits to one side of the tread and emits a single beam, a grazing light that stands out against the stone.

You pause halfway down the stairs with a foot on the next step, seemingly spellbound by the light. In reality you are thinking about something else, about how life can occasionally grant us a few sparse, capricious flashes of beauty.

Beam 2.6, 3000K, 2W, single beam, stainless steel

Beam 2.6, 3000K, 2W, single beam, stainless steel Go to the project and credits

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

10. Drops of blue

This is no longer a dream of love: it is pure fantasy, breaking through and replacing the reality you found so constricting, dragging you down into the abyss with it.
Who is rescuing whom?

Step after step, the recessed fixtures guide your descent with a soft luminosity muted by a sandblasted glass cover. The coloured LED produces a gentle glow on the wall.

Floating, you open your eyes and finally start to breathe again, while the air – or is it water? – takes on a blue tint.

Bright 1.8, RGB, 1,2W, sandblasted diffuse optics

Bright 1.8, RGB, 1,2W, sandblasted diffuse optics Find out more about the product

 

Bright 1.8, RGB, 1,2W, sandblasted diffuse optics

Bright 1.8, RGB, 1,2W, sandblasted diffuse optics Find out more about the product

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

11. Drawing a straight line

Your rise to power in the criminal world is complete: from tonight, the city of Miami will have to bow down before you while you give your orders between one cigar and the next. A single glance to your men is enough, and they follow you like shadows.

The light generated by a linear profile recessed flush with the tread along its entire length, just below the riser, lights the riser and creates the effect of a drum-roll entrance. Exactly what you need to show the city a new era has begun and you are its undisputed ruler.

In a different part of the villa, another linear profile placed close to the riser’s edge produces a similar effect.

Wrapped up in your arrogance, you have no doubt you will forever continue to make an entrance down staircases lit like this, celebrating your successes in reception rooms with large adjoining gardens, just like the one in the photos below.

But the certainty that "the world is yours" will soon go under with you.

Rio 1.2, 3700K, 12W

Rio 1.2, 3700K, 12W Go to the project and credits

 

Rio 1.2, 2800K, 12W

Rio 1.2, 2800K, 12W Go to the project and credits

Rio 2.3, 3700K, 29W

Rio 2.3, 3700K, 29W Go to the project and credits

Which film is hidden
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Which film is hidden
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12. Drawing an oblique line

Six pm. Still stressed, you leave the office and walk swiftly through the rush-hour crowds, your mind occupied with the hundred and one things you need to do before you reach home. You glance at the traffic on the street and carry on towards the entrance to the underground.

Without even noticing through the swarm of thoughts in your head, you allow your feet to be guided by the diagonal line of light that runs down the stairs. More stairs, the platform, the high-pitched noise signalling that the train doors are about to close again – you make it just in time. Ten minutes later you’re back above ground.

And what if you hadn’t made it onto the train? What if the train doors hadn’t reopened at the last moment?

 

Rio 2, 3700K, 19W/m 

Rio 2, 3700K, 19W/m Go to the project and credits

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

13. The vertical segment

A ghostly place of legend from which it is said no one has ever escaped alive. But you’re not like the others.

The plan has been carefully thought out down to the smallest detail: together with your accomplices, you carry it out to the end with great cool-headedness. Tirelessly, you have carved out your new opportunity with an improvised tool and crawled into the ventilation duct.

As you make your escape, the rhythm of your muffled footsteps is punctuated by those vertical segments of diffused light that cut into the wall like slits.

They seem to offer an invitation to freedom.

Rio 2.0, 2800K, 5W

Rio 2.0, 2800K, 5W Find out more about the product

 

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

14. The horizontal segment

You’re sharing the cloak of invisibility with your best friend. She consults the map with her eye glued to the moving dots, while you watch out for the shifting stairs, which tend to come to life at this time of night, misdirecting people and upsetting plans.

You follow the light coming from the profile lying along the depth of the tread. It emits a grazing light that picks out your footprints, the only visible sign of your presence.

The other students wait for you anxiously in the Room of Requirement. They know that this is no longer the time to seek the protection of adults and teachers: the dark force must be fought alone, as you have always done.

Rio 2.0, 2800K, 5W Go to the project and credits

Which film is hidden
in this story?

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Which film is hidden
in this story?

15. Are you afraid of the dark?

If you don’t concentrate intently, your vertigo will overwhelm you in an instant but, now you have got this far, your strength of mind is greater.

No part of the staircase is lit directly: the linear profiles with diffuse light, hidden at the sides of the flights of stairs, illuminate the walls of the stairwell, reflecting the light indirectly onto the steps.

A shadow appears unexpectedly, scaring the woman with you: the drama plays out a second time.

Which film is hidden
in this story?

Click here to find out

Which film is hidden
in this story?
You have reached the end of our journey full of inspirations and suggestions.
If your spirits have been raised, our series of steps has served its purpose.

Have you used our fixtures on a staircase in a completely different way? Another film, perhaps?

Let us know!

Here are all the (film) answers:

  1. Joker, 2019, Todd Phillips
  2. Sex and The City, 1998-2004, TV Series, HBO
  3. Sex and The City, 1998-2004, TV Series, HBO
  4. Parasite (act one), 2019, Bong Joon-ho
  5. Parasite (act two), 2019, Bong Joon-ho
  6. Rocky, 1976, John G. Avildsen
  7. The Great Gatsby, 2013, Baz Luhrmann
  8. Star Wars, 1977-2019, George Lucas
  9. The Great Beauty, 2013, Paolo Sorrentino
  10. The Shape of Water, 2017, Guillermo del Toro
  11. Scarface, 1983, Brian de Palma
  12. Sliding Doors, 1998, Peter Howitt
  13. Escape from Alcatraz, 1979, Don Siegel
  14. Harry Potter, 2001-2011, Chris Columbus - Alfonso Cuarón - Mike Newell - David Yates
  15. Vertigo, 1958, Alfred Hitchcock