Libor Sostak on designing Dubai Opera chandelier: ‘The whole process took nearly two years’

Sostak’s latest work of art, Symphony, is a sight to behold: 30,000 individually crafted glass pearls are lit by about 3,000 internal LED sources.

When Libor Sostak was tasked with creating a light sculpture that would take pride of place in the new Dubai Opera, he knew he had to design something that would perfectly complement those lofty surroundings.

“The synergy with a given space is sometimes more important than literal concepts or shapes,” says Sostak, an in-house designer at Lasvit. The Czech company is a leader in bespoke handcrafted glass light sculptures and installations, and its eye-catching creations can be found in places such as The Ritz-Carlton DIFC and Palazzo Versace in Dubai, and the ­Rosewood and Jumeirah at ­Etihad Towers hotels in Abu Dhabi.

Sostak’s latest work of art, Symphony, is a sight to behold: 30,000 individually crafted glass pearls are lit by about 3,000 internal LED sources. The piece, which is 11 metres long, five metres wide, 27 metres high and weighs an incredible five tonnes, descends dramatically from the ceiling, filling three storeys of the Dubai Opera’s main atrium.

“I always want to create pieces that complement their surroundings; that are connected with the building and become part of a story. Overall, the shapes of the opera house are very organic, so I wanted to continue with the same language. The lobby is spacious, with a big glass facade that brings a lot of daylight into the interior,” the 29-year-old graduate of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague explains.

Sostak took his inspiration from the UAE’s seafaring and pearl-diving heritage, aiming to recreate the impression of water in his dynamic, organic-looking creation. Manufactured in the Czech Republic using traditional glass-blowing methods, Symphony consists of strings of individually crafted glass pearls. Tiny bubbles of air have been captured within each of the pearls to intensify the refraction of light as it moves through the piece.

“Symphony was inspired by the traditional and cultural elements of the UAE, such as water, sea and pearl hunting. I aimed for abstract sculpture, complementing the building, which resembles a traditional dhow boat,” he says.

Building on the idea of water is the fact that the sculpture can be programmed via an iPhone app to move with different types of music. “We used programmable white LED chips [and] each of them can be controlled separately,” Sostak explains. “The dynamic movement of the installation was considered from the beginning, with the need to use thousands of bespoke LEDs. After we had tested many animations directly on the site, we chose seven different moods and movements, controllable via an iPhone application.”

Symphony took almost two years to create and was one of the most complicated projects Sostak has ever worked on, he says. “This was one of the most challenging pieces I have ever designed, combining art and engineering. The sculpture is massive. It required a very refined and sophisticated design, including the frame as a part of the design. It was a real challenge to create and produce something of this scale.

“The whole process took nearly two years, starting with the initial simple sketch of the overall shape and description of the ­design – 3-D models and 3-D visuals, which gave us an idea about the volume, dimensions and density of the sculpture, took me a few months. At the same time, we were producing real samples of glass components used for the installation. I was involved in the process of testing the LEDs with various finishes of glass. This stage is vital to choose the right combination of glass and light.”