A New Light Column Takes a Less-Is-More Approach

Designed by Tillett Lighting Design Associates for Landscape Forms, Profile minimizes light pollution and spillover while illuminating outdoor walkways.

When Kalamazoo, Michigan–based outdoor furniture manufacturer Landscape Forms approached Tillett Lighting Design Associates about designing a light column—a popular type of fixture that emanates unfocused light in all directions—the designers were flummoxed. Foundational to the firm’s approach to lighting is a belief that most North American cities are over-illuminated, with deleterious effects on both public health and urban wildlife. “We want to use as little light as possible on a site,” says Janet Garwood, a senior associate at Tillett. “Light columns are the opposite of that.” 

In fact, most light columns are ineffectual luminaires. “You tend to need more of them because you’re not getting the focused light on the ground where you want it. [Instead] the light tends to be at your eye level, so you have this uncomfortable situation of having too much light and in the wrong place,” Garwood says. The designers wondered: Could they design a light column they might actually use? 

Their answer, unveiled by Landscape Forms in 2021, is Profile, a sleek, modular luminaire that integrates the architectural and wayfinding attributes of a typical light column with the directionality of an aimable fixture. In addition to optional top-mounted area lights and discreet wayfinding lights embedded near the column’s foot, a series of luminaires wash the interior of the fixture’s aluminum channel to create a highly visible marker. “The light grazes the inside of that cavity and just glows,” Garwood says. “You’re not blinding anybody.” 

Linnaea Tillett, who founded the practice in 1983, says she was hesitant to embrace the placelessness inherent in mass production. “We’re so context-sensitive,” she says. “We’re always thinking about who lives around [a project], who can see it, how are we impacting the environment? And with this you really can’t think about context.” Ultimately, however, the process of working within so many constraints was useful for the studio. As for how Profile performs? “The world tells you if you’re successful,” Tillett says. “You don’t make that estimation yourself. So, I’m waiting for the world to talk back.” 

Unveiled by Landscape Forms in 2021, Profile is made from powder-coated aluminum to withstand the elements. Its unique, I-beam-like form allows individual light sources to be concealed within its twin channels while preventing light from spilling out in unwanted directions. 

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]