"Light is the most beautiful material of all"

Spring 2015 product highlights: SUPERSYSTEM, a superlative

SUPERSYSTEM is an ultra-compatible lighting system that carries the future even in its name. New products have been added to the second generation of the product range. Cutting-edge LED technology allows a high degree of miniaturisation and advanced lighting technology. For the first time, Zumtobel has extended the SUPERSYSTEM range to include outdoor applications. SUPERSYSTEM outdoor is similar to the versatile lighting system for indoor applications and allows targeted illumination and presentation of outdoor spaces.

Spring 2015 product highlights: SUPERSYSTEM © Zumtobel

SUPERSYSTEM is a comprehensive modular system that is especially suitable for sophisticated lighting concepts in application areas such as Art & Culture, Hotel & Wellness and Shop & Retail. © Zumtobel

Spring 2015 product highlights: SUPERSYSTEM © Zumtobel

SUPERSYSTEM is an ultra-compatible lighting system that carries the future even in its name. © Zumtobel

Spring 2015 product highlights: SUPERSYSTEM © Zumtobel

Cutting-edge LED technology allows a high degree of miniaturisation and advanced lighting technology. © Zumtobel

Change, it is said, is the only thing that is constant. Change takes place rapidly, you can watch it at work, it is hard to elude it. The world is getting ever more networked, digitalised, it grows smaller and smaller, bigger and bigger, and tomorrow life will be somewhat different from what it was yesterday. And since life and light are inseparable, change and constancy are fundamental elements of the world of Zumtobel – so that everything developed in Dornbirn is always a piece of the future as well. Based on the claim to create the best light for human beings and the environment, a luminaire is no longer just a luminaire; it is the answer to people's individual needs. How does that work? Through maximum flexibility.

And as flexibility is not just a word, but can be the idea of something great, Zumtobel has developed a product which, owing to a comprehensive photometric toolbox, can be employed systematically across all applications. This is the path into the future. A superlative: SUPERSYSTEM.

Seeing Herbert Resch, Head of Design and Architecture Management, sitting at his desk at Zumtobel in Dornbirn is a rare highlight. According to him, he definitely prefers to be outside, with architects, lighting designers and artists, in museums, and with all the customers that help him elaborate even more appropriate designs. Seven years ago, Resch developed the first generation of SUPERSYSTEM together with his team. At that time, Katharina Götz-Schäfer, product designer at Zumtobel in Lemgo, who joined Zumtobel 23 years ago, was already a member of the team. Together they have now developed the new generation of SUPERSYSTEM. Or would it be more appropriate to say: revolutionised? SUPERSYSTEM carries the future in its name, it is a comprehensive lighting system that can be used across all applications.

What is so extraordinary about the new SUPERSYSTEM?

Resch: Its versatility. Basically, the trunking and downlight system can be used in applications ranging from Art & Culture and Hotel & Wellness through to Presentation & Retail. But the system is also perfectly suited for private residences. This constitutes a new step for Zumtobel: a lighting system that is suitable for both commercial and residential buildings.

Götz-Schäfer: SUPERSYSTEM is characterised by very high flexibility, but also by quite minimalistic lines. The luminaire should not and must not be dominant, but rather keep to the background in visual terms.

What are the common features of the first and second generation?

Resch: The minimised housing size has been retained, which is owed to the LEDs. But there are a few other common features: potential integration into an aluminium section for suspension and fastening to the ceiling, high-class surfaces, clean and precise edges and the basic shapes of cuboid and cylinder. The way I see it, the old system has never really been complete. Now we are trying to make the system suitable even for outdoor applications: SUPERSYSTEM outdoor.

Götz-Schäfer: As a development team, we've come together early on in the process to find out what we need and what are the needs and necessary common features of both generations. This involved many team members: from the project manager, product manager and designer via design engineers, Purchasing, one colleague from Controlling through to colleagues from Model-making.

People are so different – and so are their needs. An architect intending to illuminate an office has different requirements than a curator who wants to create targeted accent lighting in a museum. Accordingly, for a long time, the only way for a solution to be found was to go from B to A, and not from A to B, in other words: innovations have been generated based on a project, and not based on a standard. SUPERSYSTEM goes even further, circumventing the classic route. Owing to its lighting modules, the system can be used and combined in such a versatile way that A and B are hardly relevant any more. The direction you take doesn't matter any more.

But how do you assemble a photometric toolbox that can be used for so many applications? First of all by listening, getting up from one's desk and looking at the place where the need actually arises. Herbert Resch and his team provide illumination for museums, meet with external lighting designers, are in direct contact with curators and artists but also with electricians. Secondly, with creativity and foresight: if you succeed in employing your know-how in this way, undreamt-of solutions will emerge that will also win over the client.

Were there any requirements with respect to the system that you were unable to implement?

Resch: No, because Zumtobel sticks to its creed: nothing is impossible. We take up our position at the machines in the tool making division, showing that it is possible after all. Even if we only manufacture a prototype at first. It is a basic principle that whenever a certain thing is needed, there is also a market for it.
Götz-Schäfer: Being a company that develops a product as complex and innovative as SUPERSYSTEM, we have our very own aspirations. Our wish was to make the cross-section of the trunking as small as possible, because after all the idea was that the system should not be dominant in visual terms. So, the challenge was to accommodate all electronic components in the space of this trunking. This was meant to make the lighting outlets seem to "float". Our colleagues from Tridonic actually managed to insert the transformer into a track that is 2.6 cm wide and only 3 cm high. By making do with these dimensions, we ensure excellent integration into the existing architectural structures.

Which of the experiences made with the first generation were indispensable for the development of the new one?

Resch: Already when developing the first generation, we opted for replaceable lenses. This provided the mental trigger for a modular photometric toolbox. Flexibility provides for incredible freedom of design. Circumstances on building sites or during planning will change occasionally, and with the replaceable lenses the system can be modified inexpensively and easily. This idea was taken up and developed.
Götz-Schäfer: During the development process, we have focused on what was there already. Our aim was to offer spotlights with enhanced light output, in particular, and naturally also the development of a comprehensive range of accessories such as Vario lens, glare control tools, honeycomb mesh, barn doors or wallwashers. This is what makes SUPERSYSTEM unbeatable in terms of its versatile uses, regardless of the respective application.

The great amount of joy within the team to have succeeded in making the name SUPERSYSTEM a perfect fit is palpable: it is now possible to illuminate an entire building with one single system. The extraordinary name for the system was chosen for a few good reasons. It is neutral in terms of language, it is not pompous, and it illustrates immediately the meaning behind the name. Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Englishmen, all are able to pronounce and understand this word. But the main reason is located 300 km to the South, in Milan, where in the 1960s, the first design studio ever emerged from a studio of architects. And its name was – surprise, surprise – Superstudio. At the relevant time, Mr. Resch remembered this fact, and accordingly SUPERSYSTEM is an homage to an era characterised by a spirit of optimism and a memento of permanent innovativeness – and the name still fits, today more than ever, and there is even some space left for tomorrow.

Please complete the following phrases: For me, light is ...

Götz-Schäfer: the sixth element – after the five elements wood, fire, metal, water and earth.
Resch: ... pure emotion. Light is life.

The most beautiful material is ...

Resch: ... light.