An Exhibition Space With a Sense of Immersion

Named “Lexus Design Event 2019 – Leading With Light,” the installation exhibited in Milan was brought about as a collaborative design project with Rhizomatiks. The overall theme for this stemmed from Lexus’s “human-centered” brand philosophy.
The installation was located just outside of main floor, consisting of a 4-meter-high, 15-meter-long pitch-black space with three LED lights suspended from the ceiling. When these LEDs emitted light in the foggy darkness, they formed what looked like walls of light rising through the air. Occasionally it would appear as if a door opened or the light would envelop the attendees, providing a dynamic spatial experience. And the lenses fitted to the LED lights that made this exhibition possible were specially created through use of Mitsui Chemicals’ optical calculation technologies.
Youichi Sakamoto – a hardware engineer at Rhizomatiks Research – had been striving alongside Mitsui Chemicals to develop these new lenses for more than a year prior to the event. “I wanted to create a space with a sense of immersion that just can’t be achieved using the light from projectors or lasers,” Sakamoto said. After exploring the possibilities here, lenses were created using the technologies of Mitsui Chemicals and its group company ARRK, which excels at optical design. Sakamoto then set out in pursuit of the lighting effects he had envisioned.
As part of this, Sakamoto reconsidered the lens itself from scratch – refining its refractive index, shape, way of diffusing light and more via trial and error – to result in a lens with diffusivity of 1.39. Compared with commercially available lenses, this is rather narrow, serving to condense light and throw it out in parallel rather than in a diffused fashion. Further, by processing this lens into a ring shape, it became possible to create a surface of light instead of just releasing beams of light in a single direction.
“It’s certainly difficult to design and create lens by myself, but the help I received from Mitsui Chemicals and ARRK motivated me to keep working toward a spatial experience based on lens design,” Sakamoto said. “In the process, I ended up finding new possibilities for how to use light inside spaces. So in the future, I’d like to also try my hand at other new creations that make use of optical designs and materials.”

  • Various lenses that Sakamoto created in conjunction with Mitsui Chemicals and ARRK
  • This lens design was used for the “Lexus Design Event 2019 – Leading With Light” installation

About the material and technology

A thiourethane-based ophthalmic lens material developed using Mitsui Chemicals’ proprietary polymerization technologies, the MR™ Series features a high refractive index, high Abbe number, light weight and high impact resistance. This makes it the de facto standard of highly refractive lens materials, chosen by many glasses wearers around the world for its excellent balance of thinness, lightness, toughness, clear vision and more.

In recent years, the Quality of View concept has seen Mitsui Chemicals combine its materials here with the likes of wavelength control technologies to offer new solutions, with the company continuing to tackle R&D initiatives aimed at providing new value to all people who require glasses.


Mitsui Chemicals

Even before starting the creative relay project, we had been hoping to team up with Rhizomatiks for a project of some sort. With this project, we finally managed to do just that.During an early discussion with Sakamoto, he indicated where he wanted to go with the project, suggesting, “How about we present a new form of expression using light?” That’s where things got tough!
In order to implement all of Sakamoto’s ideas, we carried out optical calculations, prototyping and simulations over and over again, using that as a process to check how the light would actually look. This also brought about some fairly interesting ideas that we didn't end up using. So if we get the chance to show those off someday too, you might all be surprised at what we came up with!
Coincidentally, the fact that this project ended up getting used for Lexus’s installation at the Milan Design Week was a fortunate turn.
For this project, we not only made use of Mitsui Chemicals’ lens materials but combined these with ARRK’s optical calculation technologies as well. By taking these optical calculations – which are normally used for the optical design of entertainment systems and car headlights – and applying them to this new idea, we now have even higher hopes for these technologies to find popularity growth like never before.

Youichi Sakamoto/ Rhizomatiks
An artist and hardware engineer, Sakamoto joined Rhizomatiks in 2010 after working at an architectural firm. He has since been involved in the design and production of many Rhizomatiks installations, including “Dimensions” and “stripes.” As an individual artist, he exhibited “blank” at the NTT InterCommunication Center ICC in 2008, and in more recent years has been supervising art unit 9+1 to have works shown both in Japan and abroad. Sakamoto is currently taking part in the ICC’s Open Space 2019 exhibition.
Taku Sasaki / Creative center, KOKUYO Co., Ltd.