For us, this project presented a series of culture shocks. In Japan, we would typically use tools such as specification drawings which would be finalised by the sales manager after consultation with the client. We would then make a prototype of the fixture, re-check its optical and electrical performance and barring any problems, progress from product development to product certification in a short time frame then expedite development with the delivery date as the top priority.
We followed the same procedure as in Japan to produce drawings and prototypes for the Louvre Technical Directorate and made a presentation to that Directorate. The Technical Directorate confirmed all the specifications and issued an initial statement that there were no problems.
We then hit a new wall: the specifications were subject to a second screening by Museum Director Henri Loyrette and the Historical Monuments Committee and even if the fixtures were complete, without approval, they could not be installed. The fixture specifications produced from repeated joint studies with the Technical Directorate were nothing more than a preliminary specification screening that satisfied lighting fixture specifications and European safety standards. Are they of a suitable configuration as fixtures that illuminate the Louvre Museum? Is the light sufficiently aesthetic to be approved as Paris scenery? These were the types of queries that we received, not just from the Louvre Museum but also from the Paris Historical Monuments Committee. We designed and manufactured prototype equipment that actually worked, installed it and conducted repeated illumination tests.
Naturally there was much debate about the exterior colour of the fixtures and their shape too. In Japan we tend to design in a linear progression but in this case we had to harmonise the fixtures with the building as part of the scenery. Ultimately, through a process of having sketches drawn, we came up with a new design using a shape that made the most of contours.
On the technical side, it incorporated numerous innovations that included making the fixtures more compact, extending fixture life by using LED technology, and energy savings. These in turn were achieved by such means as installing the LED light-emitting section and the power circuit on the same board.
France is a country that values scenery. Unlike Japan, conserving the present is crucial. We wanted to show the capabilities of this new light form, LED. We did make a suggestion to change to a more innovative style of lighting but this was flatly refused with, "That's not what it's about". If they kept the same power consumption, they could achieve brighter illumination but it was more important to preserve the present without seeking such changes. We tend to focus on "What technology shall we use" but the French side tended to place more emphasis on "What purpose will this technology serve?" Then, a decision would be made following exhaustive debate.
For the LEDs in this project we proposed a colour temperature that is called "light bulb colour" in Japan but in France the preference is for a warmer colour temperature that has an orange-tinted light source. This resulted in conducting an experiment where we shone Japan's light bulb colour and the orange-tinted light on the same facade. We had everyone observe this, out in the falling snow. If the status quo was to be preserved then it would have stayed orange but Director Loyrette's response was, "No, this is good. Let's go with the light bulb colour." Mr. Frédéric Auclair from the Paris Historical Monuments Committee also lent support saying, "If Japan embraces the light bulb colour then I think it's fine for us to represent that culture" I felt strongly that having honest, sincere debate and deep communication was a necessary part of providing the client with something that would earn praise.
We have narrowed down the scope of light emitted by fixtures illuminating the facade to approximately 30°. The aim was to prevent viewers feeling dazzled by direct light shining into the eyes. A further condition was that, if the fixtures were to be visible they would not give any sense of that dotted LED effect which would offend aesthetic values. This has resulted in the installation of diffusion filters which have previously not been used very much in lighting equipment that uses LED.
Lighting characteristics that allow for directionality while diffusing light give a uniform, slightly dimmed illumination of the whole façade yet reveal the relief work on the façade in a dramatic and contrasting way. Thanks to this new LED lighting system, the Louvre Museum shows "another face" that is not visible during daylight.
We made numerous prototypes during the development process, increased the level of fixture quality by conducting illuminating experiments and finally succeeded in completely matching the needs of the Louvre and the Historical Monuments Committee. In a departure from the past where the power source was located separate to the fixtures, we managed to integrate them in a compact way on the same board and gave them a form and exterior colour that made them an unobtrusive part of the museum itself. The colour temperature of the installed LEDs is 2700K (Kelvin) which is equivalent to light bulbs in Japan. Their rate of light intensity attenuation over the years is very low and trial calculations at the Louvre showed that power consumption is about one-quarter that of Xenon tubes.
The lights that illuminate the Pyramid have also been converted to LED. They have been designed to a specification that meets the IP65 rating for dust and water protection. This means that even in the event of water ingress to the Pyramid in torrential rain or a storm, the illumination can continue to function properly.
Out of the dialogue with the Louvre Museum where their strong-attachment to French art and culture was answered with new technology, has emerged totally new "Illumination (AKARI) Innovation"