Words Wolf-Christian Fink
Photography Elias Hassos (Portrait), Occhio (Interior/Products)
How conspicuous should lights be as objects? Should they harmonise with the room or act as a deliberate contrast? What level of quality should their light offer and what exactly should they illuminate? The handling of light and lighting is one of the greatest challenges when it comes to furnishing. The Munich-based lighting designer Axel Meise is one of the few in the sector who can provide clear answers to these questions.
Through its distinctive lighting fixtures, designed and developed in cooperation with physicist design partner Christoph Kügler, Meise’s “Occhio” (“eye” in Italian) brand is literally a beacon of light. Founded in 1999 by Meise, the company began with an idea that was as simple as it was revolutionary: to create a multifunctional lighting system that is consistent in design and form to suit all spatial circumstances. Meise has remained true to himself to the present day: “Occhio lights illustrate their consistent design language through perfect and adaptable lighting for every occasion”, says Axel Meise as he explains his philosophy. He sees light as the “essential element of perception. Without it I cannot truly absorb my surroundings. This is why the quality of the light is so important.”
This ideal backdrop, the cleverly conceived coherence, is what makes Occhio stand out from many other lights. The idea revolves around a modular head-body principle, the functional recurring theme of all Occhio lights: various rotating reflector heads create specific lighting effects and can be replaced by means of a simple coupling mechanism.
The IZB Residence Campus at Home in Martinsried near Munich is the first hotel to be fully fitted with Occhio lights.
Customers are convinced. Two thirds come to have their private space adorned with Occhio lights. Others want to create the perfect lighting with Occhio for stores and hotels, restaurants and libraries, showrooms (as also the case with Gaggenau) and even sacred buildings such as the Hassan Tanık Mosque in Ankara.
Whether in the planning department or in the Cologne or Munich showroom: Occhio not only offers solutions for design complications, rather also visionary advancements in technology and design. This is because the quality, according to the Managing Director, is not limited to the subtle yet elegant design, it is also reflected in the internal life of every light.
The ubiquitous crystal lens, the visual trademark of Occhio, reflects the light perfectly thanks to its glare-free concept combined with bundling and scattering effects. What is more complicated is what lies behind. While the halogen version requires only relatively simple technology and dimming control if need be, modern LED technology requires more complex electronics and offers a significantly greater range of functions in return.
The more recent Occhio series encapsulate powerful modules in the body that deliver new levels of comfort and convenience. Not only can the precision lights with their puristic design be rotated, turned and even connected in all directions, they also respond to hand signals, transforming Axel Meise into a magician as he activates and controls them through gestures rather than contact. As if by magic, the intensity of the light changes as the beam direction switches from bottom to top.
“Joy of light” is the expression used by Meise to describe this diversity and the pleasure to be gained from exploiting the possibilities of the lights. This is because these hand signals will continue providing joy of discovery for a long time to come, thanks to the possibility of saving individual settings once they have been discovered. There is an entire range of filters and lenses that can be used to further adapt Occhio lighting – depending on taste and occasion.
Occhio lights, such as the dual series “lui” and “lei”, encapsulate modules in the body for enhanced comfort and convenience – they even respond to hand signals.
The development of the LED is therefore a milestone for Axel Meise that marks only the beginning of a continuous innovation process for the future. The quality of LED technology is improving at record pace, with its dubious reputation as “cold” and “soulless” now long since a thing of the past. Flaws, such as the fragmented bandwidth in the light spectrum and the poor colour rendering that goes hand in hand with this, have been almost fully resolved and the performance is also no longer really inferior to halogen lights.
Unlike the interim technology of energy-saving lamps imposed at political level, LED has arrived, is here to stay and to enable effects and functions in the future whose diversity of application is almost impossible to predict at present. “Even if daylight and artificial light can no longer be distinguished in time to come, if wall coverings illuminate or luminous window panes turn night into day, the local light source and its functions will never fade”, predicts Meise.
The future of his 80-employee strong company in Germany and at the production facility in China seems as bright as the typically warm Occhio light. Onwards and upwards, this is something Axel Meise is discovering not only as he is increasingly reunited with his lights all over the world, but also closer to home: “When new neighbours recently moved in, already with their Occhio lights, it really was a great feeling.”