The new International SLOW lounge at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport is tailor-made for the unique needs of people in transit between Johannesburg and the rest of the world. The lounge is the largest in the SLOW group and leads the pack in both luxury and functionality for travellers in one of Africa’s most important business destinations.

Creating the space

The installation at OR Tambo was completed in several phases. Phase one was a comprehensive fit-out of the new 900m2 that was earmarked for the SLOW lounge. This was followed by an extensive renovation of the existing lounge space. The facility upgrades needed to simultaneously respect the existing SLOW brand cues, and update the existing scheme to something modern and sophisticated in look and feel.

This transformation was possible due to an expert team of suppliers, contractors and consultants from various fields collaborating to achieve optimal results. Due consideration was given to striking a balance between functionality and aesthetics and staying in line with international trends. A critical part of this was incorporating a dynamic, sophisticated lighting design.

Illuminating the path to success

Rupert Tait and Fergus Smith of Smith Tait Lighting agency have established themselves as the premier architectural lighting designers in South Africa. They have an impressive track- record, having brought their exemplary technical know-how and, creative expertise to the spaces like the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank, the recently revamped Johannesburg Chambers, and the DLA Piper Global Law Offices in Sandton, Johannesburg, to name a few.

Smith Tait had a part in the conceptualisation of the SLOW lounge project, enabling them to smoothly incorporate their lighting design with their project, rather than as an add-on after the fact. The result has been the introduction of visionary lighting design, centred on the principles of human-centric lighting, the likes of which are virtually unseen in South Africa.

Human-centric lighting

Exposure to varying levels of artificial and natural light has a direct effect on our biological, psychological and mental function. Cases of seasonal depression have been documented in regions with limited daylight for decades, and the treatment of these disorders often involves exposure to specific frequencies of light at regular intervals. The link between light and health has, without doubt, become a significant factor in modern lighting.

The relationship between health and exposure to light lies in the body’s circadian rhythm-the built-in clock that determines the body’s natural cycles of wakeful activity and healing rest. High exposure to stark, high-intensity artificial light for extended periods of time disrupts the bodies ability to produce melatonin, which is the chemical that controls our sleep and wake cycles.

While it has been proven that too much or too little light can have detrimental effects on health, the opposite is true.  In the right amount, intensity and colour, light can have positive, restorative effects on your wellbeing. Our physiological response to light is very much dependant on the lights, characteristics, such as colour, intensity, timing and spectrum. Modern lighting designers are paying more and more attention to the positive effects that the right kind of light can have on people in any given space.

This trend has led to the emergence of a new school of interior lighting-human-centric lighting- which offers solutions that are specifically designed to support the human circadian rhythm, enhance concentration, and improve overall wellbeing.

This dynamic approach was central to Smith Tait’s design for the OR Tambo International SLOW Lounge and also set an exciting challenge for Electrosonic SA Pty’s Lighting Division to use the brands, products and extensive experience in providing architectural lighting control solutions in South Africa.

Bringing the human approach to OR Tambo

Bruce Schwartz, of Electrosonic’s Lighting Division, was tasked with designing and supplying a lighting control system capable of controlling numerous colour temperature variable LED downlight fixtures. The system would have to be able to track human circadian rhythm from a colour intensity and temperature aspect, 24 hours a day.

After much consideration, a centrally located system based on 3 x Helvar 910 routers with 5 x Helvar 454 trailing edge dimmers was selected. Approximately 100 CT tuneable Dali COB LED downlighters were connected to the router system. The new Designer 5 software that was designed to accommodate the colour temperature and circadian function was in a very early beta testing stage, and after extensive consultation with Helvar in the UK, a stable version was implemented and programmed by Schwartz.

There are few among us who have not experienced the disorientation of emerging from a starkly lit airport, mall or train station to blinding daylight, or the unexpected cover of night, without a sense of discomfort and confusion. Through the manipulation of the SLOW lounge’s interior lighting, the lighting inside and outside remain in synch, supporting the physical, and psychological well-being. “We believe the use of this technology going forward is going to be on a much larger scale. Forward-thinking lighting designers such as Smith Tait are very far ahead of the curve, and Electrosonic SA Pty LTD, with Helvar Control, is right up there with the rest of the design world,” remarks Schwartz.