The second workshop in the iGuzzini-supported workshop series was a collaboration with the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) and took place 25-28 April 2016 in Muscat, Oman.
The 4th semester students of the GUtech Faculty of Urban Planning and Architecture (UPAD) we trained in social research methods and lighting design to help improve the lighting in the traditional Souq al Seeb. Five groups worked on five site in the Souq, conduced social research and, based on that, developed new lighting ideas for their sites. At the end of the week, students presented their work to the public, as well as invited guests and press.
Today, lighting in Oman is embedded into fierce urbanisation processes: Intense economic diversification preparing for the post oil age and waves of rural migration drive significant urban and infrastructural changes that have profound social consequences for the capital area. Intense land consumption through plot-allocation and the ‘single villa’ as default residential unit have led to low densities and the rise of the ‘nuclear family’, changing the socio-spatial fabric of Muscat and leading to reactive infrastructure implementation as opposed to strategic master planning. Light occupies a prominent place in these processes because as consequential infrastructural intervention, newly illuminated environments lead to different kinds of sociability, livelihood strategies and ways in which people imagine their individual and collective futures. As both enabler and material of public urban life, lighting signifies and enacts modernisation in Oman.
Against this backdrop, Souq al Seeb forms a fascinating case study for learning about and experiment with how social research can inform good lighting design: as a traditional Souq outside of Muscat’s touristic old town, Souq al Seeb is an important shopping destination for locals to buy food, clothes, household items and so on. It also is a melting pot for different ethnicities and cultures who all interact in very small spaces. After dusk, the Souq comes to life and turns into a bustling place and complex array of different kinds of social activity – and light plays a central role in configuring and staging these activities.
In the morning sessions, the five student groups learned about lighting design principles and were taught in three fundamental research methods for qualitative research: interviewing, socio-spatial mapping and participant observation. During the afternoon field trips, they used these methods to get a better understanding of the social fabric of their site to inform their lighting ideas. Most importantly, students tested their design ideas with iGuzzini-fixtures on two nights, learning about light as designable material and how it can transform a space. These mock-up sessions also helped interacting with space users and learning about their lighting needs.
All five groups completed their research and design project with exceptional success, each developing very rich social understandings of their site and how lighting can sit within it. The student’s project presentations available below.