In a shining moment for the world of lighting design, DarkSky has emerged as the winner of the esteemed Spotlight Prize at this year’s LIT Lighting Design Awards 2023. Nominated by the discerning jury, DarkSky received the award for their outstanding commitment to a mission: preserving the darkness of the sky.
“We are honored to receive this recognition from the lighting design community, with whom we have much in common. Well-designed outdoor lighting and responsible, dark-sky friendly lighting are synonyms. Both are sustainable, energy-efficient, environmentally responsible and pleasing to the eye,” says Tom Reinert, President of DarkSky.
The Spotlight Prize was introduced in 2020 aiming to put the “spotlight” on an organization, association, project, or initiative carrying out outstanding work for its community. At the same time, this winner has to be a contributor to the Lighting industry. In the past years, the LIT Lighting Design Awards honored different projects including the LUCI Association and Women in Lighting.
Previously known as the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), DarkSky is a United States-based non-profit organization established in 1988 by founders David Crawford and Tim Hunter. The mission of the IDA is “to restore the nighttime environment and protect communities and wildlife from light pollution”.
The Birth of DarkSky
For one of the founders of DarkSky, Tim Hunter, observing the Milky Way was something natural that he could do through the trees surrounding his home. Gradually, he became aware that the stars started disappearing from urban and suburban areas due to increased light pollution.
In 1985, he received an unexpectedly large tax return. He decided to buy a piece of land in a dark-sky area for a large telescope. One thing led to another, and soon he was the owner of 20 acres of land 40 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona, on a high grassland plateau at an elevation of 5,000 feet. This is how the Grasslands Observatory was born. During this time the Dark Sky Office at Kitt Peak National Observatory had been headed by Dr David Crawford. Hunter and Crawford met several times to discuss their concerns about lighting recommendations. What started off as a contentious discussion developed into friendship and a mutual goal of protecting night skies.
According to Hunter, light pollution is a relatively easy environmental problem to solve but no one is doing anything about it. He then suggested forming a non-profit organization devoted to combating light pollution.
What is light pollution?
Most of us are familiar with air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution. But there is something else that can be a pollutant, namely light. While electric light at night can be a great thing, guiding us home, keeping us safe, and making our homes cozy, it also has another impact on the environment. Light pollution is the excessive or inappropriate use of outdoor artificial light. Furthermore, it is the human-made alteration of outdoor light levels that occur naturally.
It affects human health, wildlife behavior, and our ability to see stars. In this context, DarkSky educates the public and certifies parks and other places that have worked to reduce their light emissions.
When we over-light, fail to use timers or sensors, or use the wrong color of light, we can negatively affect so many parts of our world, including migratory birds, pollinators, and mammals. Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health as well as increase the risk of depression, sleep disorders, obesity, and more. According to a recent paper, “There is an increasing number of research underlining the complexity of the correlation between light pollution and Alzheimer’s disease; however, additional studies to enhance the key tenets are required for a better understanding of this relationship.” Wasted light wastes money. Outdoor light emissions represent at least one percent of global energy use – contributing to the climate crisis. Globally we spend at least $50 billion in energy costs to produce light that escapes into space.
Components of light pollution include glare (excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort), sky glow (brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas), and light trespass (ligh falling where it is not needed). Unfortunately, light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Fortunately, there’s a growing awareness that the ways we stave off the dark can actually have detrimental effects too. Most of the light pollution comes from cities, outdoor lights, streetlights, electronic advertising, parking lots, sports lighting, factories, greenhouses, gas production, and rural places.
Some of the ways to attempt to solve the problem of light pollution are following responsible lighting practices, passing dark sky-friendly legislation, and advancing scientific research in this field. These are also some of the practices that DarkSky has undertaken on their journey.
DarkSky – Who are they and what do they do?
DarkSky’s goal is to tackle these issues and create a better environment not only for the wildlife but also for us, humans.
Currently, DarkSky has more than 190,000 supporters, members, and advocates in more than 70 countries. They provide tools and resources for individuals, policymakers, and industry to reduce light pollution and promote responsible outdoor lighting that is healthy and functional.
“DarkSky looks forward to future opportunities to work with lighting designers and lighting manufacturers to develop and to deliver lighting solutions that restore the nighttime environment and protect wildlife and communities from the harmful effects of light pollution,” states Ruskin Hartley, CEO and Executive Director of DarkSky.
What made DarkSky stand out in comparison to the other nominees for the spotlight prize at the LIT Lighting Awards are some of their main practices. Their professional methods amongst others include education and advocacy efforts, building a strong sense of community through various events, and impacting the world by reducing light pollution. DarkSky tries to achieve this by certifying and conservating starry sky parks, communities, and other places around the world. Moreover, they certify commercial, industrial, and residential outdoor lighting that reduces light pollution.
The first method implemented to handle light pollution is certifying conserving the dark sky places. Currently, there are over 160,000 square kilometers of protected land and night skies in 22 countries on 6 continents, and the list grows every year. The night sky and the nocturnal environment are naturally and historically important resources worthy of conservation. Certified places are therefore required to use quality outdoor lighting, effective policies to reduce light pollution, and ongoing stewardship practices.
DarkSky has also been spreading the word about light pollution since 1988. They often organize conferences and trade shows that bring together a variety of policymakers, scientists, and government representatives amongst others to discuss night sky preservation. The DarkSky staff and volunteers also give talks, presentations, and exhibits at events such as the annual Light Fair, the European Symposium for the Protection of the Night Sky, and more.
Furthermore, DarkSky hosts an annual virtual conference each fall. It takes place over a 24-hour period, connection advocated and supporters of the dark sky movement for around the world. There is another event, called the International Dark Sky Week which will be held in April 2024. It aims to invite people from over the world to reconnect with he benefits of a dark, star-filled sky and learn how to reduce the negative impacts of light pollution on human, wildlife, and ecosystems.
One of the most important lessons that DarkSky teaches is adopting responsible means of lighting and illuminating spaces. It is no surprise that light brings huge benefits to modern society. It has revolutionized how we live and work outdoors. The modern society of the 21st century requires outdoor lighting for many reasons including safety and commerce. Therefore, DarkSky advances responsible outdoor lighting through policy solutions, public education, and scientific research. In this sense, responsible outdoor lighting allows people to see at night, conserves energy, and avoids harmful effects on wildlife. It is also useful, targeted, controlled, and warm-colored.
Last but not least, DarkSky‘s approved program provides objective, third-party certification for products, designs, and completed projects that minimize glare, reduce light trespass, and don’t pollute the night sky.
“DarkSky International strives for and promotes lighting practices that reduce the negative impacts of light pollution on wildlife, biodiversity, climate change, and human health. This recognition from the lighting design community beautifully illustrates the relationship between good lighting design and responsible dark sky-friendly lighting. Through responsible practices and innovative design we can combat the alarming trends of lighting pollution together,” concludes Hartley.
DarkSky’s receipt of the Spotlight Prize at the 2023 LIT Lighting Design Awards speaks volumes about their steadfast commitment to combat light pollution and champion responsible outdoor lighting practices. Their dedication to education, advocacy, and the certification of dark sky places positions them as leaders in the pursuit of sustainable and environmentally responsible lighting solutions. As DarkSky continues to light the way toward a harmonious coexistence of light and nature, this prestigious recognition underscores the crucial link between innovative lighting design and the promotion of responsible, dark-sky-friendly practices.
Text: Polya Pencheva
LIT Lighting Design Awards™ stands as a distinguished platform, acknowledging brilliance in lighting design across the globe. Celebrating innovation and creativity, LIT annually recognizes outstanding contributions to the field. This year, the Awards spotlight the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award 2023, Roger Narboni, whose exceptional work has left an indelible mark on the world of lighting design.
Roger Narboni is not just a designer, he is a pioneer. Trained as an artist and an electronic engineer, Narboni has realized a number of landscape, urban, heritage, and architectural lightings. With more than 35 years of experience, he has worked across the globe including locations such as Paris, Jerusalem, Sao Paolo, and Hangzhou, China.
Narboni began working with light in 1981 after spending a few years traveling abroad and 3 years in New York. When he came back to Paris he wanted to use light as a way to bring interest together. For him, it was easier to work at the scale of public space so he started putting his ideas together.
In the late eighties, Narboni coined the term lighting designer in French and paved the way for the practice of lighting design in France. He used this word to convince people to pursue the field and to create urban spaces affecting the city’s nighttime atmosphere.
Not only did Narboni invent the field of light urbanism but he also came up with the concept of the lighting master plan methodology. The lighting master plan (LMP) is a discipline that describes the main aspects of urban lighting in a city.
The primary purpose of the lighting master plan is to define the aesthetic and functional lighting criteria, to increase the efficiency, and quality of city lighting, and finally to achieve a secure, comfortable, and well-structured and -lit environment. As a consequence, crafting a lighting master plan has benefits that include saving energy, avoiding light pollution, reducing maintenance costs, creating a unique character for the city, and more.
For Narboni, throughout the most densely populated cities in the world, there have been different policies to reduce carbon emissions. These include and are not restricted to reducing the number of cards in the cities and encouraging other types of transportation such as bicycles. Consequently, these urban developments encourage us to change the way we perceive public lighting in cities. This idea includes lighting for vehicles and street lighting during the night.
The luminous city established a relationship with public spaces and allows us to open up to new innovations and ways to change how we live. This is also another way according to Narboni to introduce lighting in our daily routine.
Later, in 1988, he founded Concepto, a studio whose heart lies in realizing innovative lighting designs that tackle societal issues. The studio works in planning and construction to foster the use of space at night and properly deal with nighttime, which represents 50% of our yearly time.
Moreover, the company is committed to reducing climate change and signed the Manifest of Lighting Designers Sustainable Lighting Projects.
In buildings, Concepto reveals materiality and volumes through plays of natural and artificial light and creates atmospheres that serve the architecture and the public. One of the main goals of the studio is to adopt an approach that is respectful of darkness. Furthermore, Concepto is moving forward with its commitment to reconciling light and darkness and intends to become a reference company when it comes to light ecology.
It is of utmost importance to note that Concepto has initiated and contributed to the development of multiple design strategies such as integrating the lighting component in multiple urban projects, staging city centers, foreshadowing urban mutations, defining nocturnal identity, valuing local cultural customs, developing dark infrastructures for its lighting design strategy, and more.
The company has always kept an eye on the quality of its projects and has honed the balance between expertise and curiosity in its practice. Additionally, some of the core values of the team are sharing and collective smarts as well as professional ethics and talent appreciation.
Hangzhou, Grand Canal, China
Located 200 kilometers South of Shanghai, the city of Hangzhou is crossed by a large network of canals. The Hangzhou government decided to transform the industrial image of the Grand Canal over a 10-kilometer span in the city center, by renovating not only its waterfronts but also initiating diurnal and nocturnal cruises and creating a nighttime landscape attracting visitors.
The aim of the Lighting Masterplan was to reveal the beauty of the site, its monumental nature, identity, characteristics, and the richness of its traditional architecture as well as of its landscape. The waterfront landscape has been unified and emphasized through a blue-green-toned light.
The new nighttime landscape has transformed the site for tourists’ enjoyment, but it has also shaped a pleasant, one-of-a-kind luminous atmosphere that locals fully enjoy as well. This project has received the 2nd International Prize “City People Light” presented by the LUCI association in 2009.
Sèvres, Facade of the National Ceramics Museum, France
Located on the domains of Saint Cloud Park, the National Ceramics Museum is among the 23 buildings designated Historical Monument of the Sèvres City of Ceramics. The city of Sèvres planned the illumination of the main facade of the museum to be part of the public lighting renovation Public-Private Partnership for the cities of Sèvres and Boulogne-Billancourt.
This lighting design has been conceived in reference and in reverence to ‘Sèvres blues’ that are characteristic of Sèvres ceramics. Completed in 2012, the lighting design plays an important role in the nocturnal landscape of the Seine riverfront and asserts its presence from far away.
Terrasson-Lavilledieu, Pont-Vieux (Old-Bridge), France
The Old Bridge is a 130-meter-long, arch-shaped work, which has been declared a historical monument. It underwent restoration in 2017 for which a lighting design project has been required. In this context, Concepto has worked together with the Ponsot ACMH office to finish this design.
The Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) is at the center of the exceptional nighttime landscape setting. It is located at the foot of a cliff and its fortifications, bordering woods, and the city center of abrasion-Villedieu in the Dordogne region. Because the bridge is simple, the studio had chosen to enliven the materiality through a play of lighting beams. A grazing light highlights the texture of the stone on the vertical axis. Crossed and inclined beams of light create a yellow, white, and amber light trail on the surface, whose vibration can be felt even from afar, and whose detail becomes legible from close-up.
Lighting Masterplan, Jerusalem, Israel
Israeli authorities in charge of Jerusalem’s development decided in 2010 on a Lighting Masterplan for the old town and its vicinity, in order to promote the cultural and touristic development of this pilgrimage town at night.
The plan aimed to define the role of the fortified wall in the future nighttime image and silhouette of the old town. Another goal was to imagine the greater landscape at nighttime, focusing on the luminous atmospheres of the streets as well as the architectural lighting of the main monuments.
The plan included a lighting strategy for the six teams of architects in charge of the studies of the renovation of the public spaces in the Old Town. Concepto supported the planning of the Jaffa Gate and the Omar Ibn El-Khattab plaza.
The master plan and Jaffa’s Door were both completed in 2012.
Although Concepto’s work in lighting design is exceptional, Narboni has done more outstanding work. He has written a large number of articles and is the author of many known books and science-fiction novels.
Academic Work and Publications
Narboni has been invited as a keynote speaker in congress, seminars, and conferences in many countries. In addition to this, he teaches Lighting Design Master classes and leads international professional workshops about light urbanism in France and abroad.
Narboni’s teaching career starts as early as 1999 and extends to current days. He was a teacher at Superior National School for Nature and Landscaping in Blois from 1999 until 2007 and in Versailles from 2003 to 2015. During the period between 2014 and 2018, he was a guest teacher in Russia and Italy where he taught various courses.
Since 2017 Narboni has been an associate lecturer on Light Urbanism at the WINGS University in Wismar, Germany, as part of the master’s degree in architectural Lighting Design with workshops in 2023 and 2024 in Bangkok, Thailands which have been in collaboration with the Royal University of Bangkok (KMUTT).
During the past three decades, Narboni has received multiple lighting awards including the Best Heritage Lighting Award for the Lumi-R night route in Rennes, France, the City People Light Award, for the Valenciennes Lighting Master Plan in France, the Architectural Lighting Award for Rion Antirion bridge in Greece, Nocturnal promenade « The metamorphosis » in Château de Chambord in the USA, and more.
From 1988 to the present day Narboni has partnered with the following lighting companies: Abel, Aubrilam Chrysalis, Philips Lighting,Ragni, Schreder, Selux, Targetti, Technilum, Thorn Zumtobel, and Valmont.
Besides this, Roger Narboni has been a member of different organizations. In 2017 he was a member of the Paris Professional Lighting Design Convention (PLDC) steering committee. This biannual Convention was created for the global lighting design market. Lighting designers, architects, researchers, universities, and clients use the PLDC as a platform to meet and learn about the latest developments in lighting design and discuss the future of the lighting profession.
Additionally, he has been an expert member of the French-Chinese association SFACS from 2016 to 2018 and a member of the editorial committee of the French Internet portal Lightzoom since 2015.
Another of his life achievements is that he is the founding chairman of the humanitarian association Lighting designers without boarders. It brings together over 50 volunteers from across the world from the lighting sector. The association aims to promote lighting design in humanitarian projects and help the establishment of the lighting design profession in countries where it does not exist by providing appropriate training. Furthermore, the goal of the establishment is to encourage local initiatives for a better environment at night and to develop innovative proposals that address the economic difficulties, lack of energy, and sustainability.
Not only is Roger Narboni a winner of prizer and the writer of books, but he is also an innovator. He was the expert responsible for the study and diagnostics of Lighting and nocturnal ambience in the districts for the Ministry of Integration and Fight agains Exclusion, Inter-ministeria Delegation for the City and Urban Social Development in 1995. He is also the person behind the first seminar of the ecology of light organised by AFE and the City of Lyon in 2002.
Roger Narboni‘s extraordinary journey in lighting design has earned him the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 LIT Lighting Design Awards™, solidifying his status as a true luminary in the field. From coining the term “lighting designer” to pioneering the concept of lighting master plans, Narboni’s influence has been transformative. His commitment to sustainable lighting projects through Concepto, along with his dedication to education and humanitarian efforts, further showcases his multifaceted contributions to the world of light. As we celebrate Narboni’s outstanding achievements, it is evident that his impact continues to shape the future of lighting design worldwide.
Text: Polya Pencheva
In a remarkable gathering of lighting innovation, the LIT Lighting Design Awards took center stage at LEDforum.23 from August 16th to 18th, 2023, at the Tivoli Mofarrej Conference Hotel, in São Paulo, Brazil.
LEDforum is renowned for its high-quality lectures and technical expertise, attracting influential figures from the Brazilian and global lighting communities. This gathering serves as a critical platform for product launches, business collaborations, and extensive networking. The record-breaking attendance of 500 participants solidified LEDforum’s position as a must-attend event for lighting design enthusiasts.
Introducing regional winning projects, Astrid Hebert, the Program Director of LIT Lighting Design Awards, invited the winners on stage. Among the awarded companies were Mingrone Iluminação, Limarí Lighting Design, Artec Studio, Atelier Ten Lighting Design Collective, Stella Imp. e Exp. de Luminárias LTDA, OMEGA LIGHT, LEDVANCE GmbH. and Interlight Iluminação. These companies received recognition for innovation in lighting design and implementation.
“This event celebrates the spirit of innovation, dedication, and collaboration within the lighting design community. LEDforum.23 showcased a fusion of art, technology, and design that transcends boundaries, creating a brighter future for all,” commented Astrid Hebert.
As we celebrate the success of this remarkable event, we are already looking forward to the 2024 edition.
In the world of lighting design, Roland Greil stands as a symbol of innovation and excellence. Hailing from Bavaria, his journey from lighting small club bands to collaborating with global music icons like Adele and The Rolling Stones is a testament to his unwavering passion.
As a pivotal member of the LIT Lighting Design Awards jury, Roland’s expertise extends far beyond the spotlight. His work with Woodroffe Bassett Design (WBD) has brought captivating co-lighting designs to major tours, like Rammstein’s stadium tour and Genesis’s Last Domino tour. Roland’s impact isn’t confined to music; he’s lent his creative touch to television productions like the “Eurovision Song Contest” and diverse theatrical events.
Roland’s holistic approach, stemming from his deep understanding of media servers and integration of video and lighting, has earned him numerous accolades. His lectures and the book “Show Lighting” underscore his commitment to sharing insights and methodologies with the next generation of lighting designers.
In this interview, Roland discusses his passion’s origins and how he ventured into entertainment lighting. His valuable lessons from the field, coupled with his creative philosophy, reveal a professional committed to humility and collaboration. Each project, a unique canvas, exemplifies his research-driven, visionary approach.
Roland’s remarkable portfolio and influence also highlight his role as a LIT Lighting Design Awards jury member. As he continues to sculpt immersive experiences, Roland’s legacy in lighting design remains unparalleled – a guiding light for aspiring designers worldwide.
Can you tell us about how your passion for light design started?
It all started very early in my life, even though with a little detour. As a small kid at the age of 8, I got attracted by sound engineers at live concerts and made the decision to become one later in my life as well. Fast forward over the years of my childhood and being a teenager while playing with all show-related technology on an amateur level, I more and more got drawn to the visual side of things, which finally became the stepping stone on an immersive journey into the world of lighting and visual design.
Why and how did you start work in the Entertainment Lighting industry?
After the key moment at a young age my dream has always been to work within the live entertainment industry. I have been blessed to get the opportunity to turn this dream into reality. It all started with self-built small lighting systems at my parent’s place and from there on evolved to work on local productions and for local vendors. From there on the productions got bigger, as well as the scope of my work more and more morphed into doing design work. The rest is as they say history.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your vast and diverse experience? What do you find most challenging at times?
Quite honestly there are too many to list here. And every day teaches you new lessons. Possibly one of the biggest lessons has been to learn the human part of our business. The creative side obviously is the base for all our work, but how to sell it, how to communicate, as well as to stay a non-ego-driven person is the real key to success in the longevity of things. Furthermore, to understand and accept that in 98% of our work, it is never about us, as it is always about the artist, show, play or even architecture, that we light. They’re the stars and our work is “just” a supportive medium.
In terms of challenges, I love all of them, as they spice up our work and also motivate us to be a better person. I think some of the biggest challenges are still managing client’s expectations versus budget limitations and technical feasibility, as well as dealing with deadlines and tight schedules.
How do you approach a new project? Is there a philosophy you usually apply, or do you treat each new work as a blank canvas?
For sure there is a certain workflow or plan of attack, that is the baseline for every project. I think you need this to deliver the best possible result in the given time frames. That said, as every client and project is different, every project’s development is slightly different and must be treated individually as well. An important thing is, that my personal creative process always starts with research and a profound understanding of my client’s vision, needs and everything related. That leads to a purely creative step to define/ draw the image, that we want to achieve together before the first technical step comes into play, where you translate this vision into reality.
Genesis The Last Domino tour. Credit: Co Lighting Design and Lighting Director for WBD. Photo Credit: MHVogel
With such an incredible portfolio of shows and projects under your belt, some of them must have lingered on for longer. Is there a project you’re especially proud of that you can share with us?
I have been blessed to work on some outstanding projects with very special clients, artists and creatives. Honestly, I’m a bit proud of each and everyone regardless of their size. Possibly one of the recent ones that stick out for me personally is Genesis’s last tour, which I have been able to design together with my long-time friend Patrick Woodroffe, as this band has been always at the forefront within our industry and pushing boundaries for decades.
To share your work, you wrote a book called “Show Lighting”. Can you walk us through some of the topics you’ve covered in the book?
The book is mostly about workflows and how to approach a project to deliver the best possible result within all the restraints. Obviously, we also tried to cover helpful tools and basics to do so.
What have been your biggest sources of inspiration?
Life in general with all its aspects, like emotions, nature, art and basically all it involves. To just walk around in nature or in a city could trigger and spark so much inspiration and imagination.
Helene Fischer – Rausch Release. Credit: Lighting Design.
Are you working on something at the moment that you can tell us a bit about? What does the future hold for you?
Currently are busy times, as I’m currently working on a few new arena and stadium tours for great artists, as well as some very special one-off projects, like for instance a big and creatively ambitious ceremony in the Middle East.
What advice would you give to aspiring lighting designers who long to make an impact in the industry?
First of all, stay true to yourself at all times, seek inspiration everywhere you can and try to create your own bespoke design style/ language. And always stay a low-key, approachable human being. Never forget it is nearly never about yourself.
In the world of lighting design, few names resonate as powerfully as Sooner Rae Routhier. With an illustrious career adorned with accolades such as the Parnelli Award, Live Design Achievement Award, Live Production Summit Pinnacle Award, and multiple Top Dog honors, Sooner has established herself as a true luminary in the industry.
From captivating millions with her work on shows like Jimmy Fallon, The AMA’s, The Ellen Show, The Voice, and The Billboard Music Awards, to crafting unforgettable performance moments for renowned artists like Coldplay, Panic at the Disco, The Weeknd, and KISS, Sooner’s artistry knows no bounds. However, it is not just her exceptional talent that sets her apart. In 2020, when the live entertainment industry faced an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sooner took action. She co-founded EVEN—an organization dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusivity within the live events industry. Through outreach, training, mentorship, networking, and job placement, EVEN strives to pave the way for a more equitable future.
Can you tell us a bit about how your passion for light design started?
To be honest, I fell in love with scenic design and construction before lighting! When I was in elementary school, l performed in a summer stock theater. The theater where we performed was a bike ride away from my house and I would ride over to help the scenic designer build the sets for the musical. I LOVED the maker aspect of scenic design.
When I entered high school, I took up dance. However, I was a terrible dancer! My instructor, my original mentor Cheri Skurdall, gently pushed me into tech theatre. It was then that I fell in love with lighting for music, theater, and dance. I realized that I loved the feeling of operating lighting to music. The way it reacted with sound.
I saw my first large concert when I was a senior in high school – Smashing Pumpkins Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness Tour. It was then that I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do. The colors, beats, effects, all of it…. The way the lighting affected our emotions while listening to the Pumpkins on stage was magical.
Coldplay – George Masek
Why and how did you start work in the Entertainment Lighting industry?
My parents recognized early on that I needed to attend university closer to home. I had dreams of attending Full Sail University to study concert lighting. However, they knew that I tended to get home sick easily – VERY ironic as I’m constantly traveling. They nudged me to a smaller school in Vermont called Johnson State College. It was there that Jan Herder, the tech director of the theater, had me operating the lighting console just about every day. In the fall of my freshmen year, a band came to play in the theater and rented additional lighting and audio support from a vendor hire in New Hampshire (New England Audio Tech). The lighting person that traveled with the system was named Brian Clark. He labeled his lighting console with gel color numbers instead of the typical “red,” “blue,” “green.” I was a big nerd about lighting and had studied all the gel swatch books. When I operated the console for him and he asked me to pull up the red fader, I would illuminate the fader labeled “R27.” He was shocked at my knowledge. I asked to tag along on the next few shows. I was hired 6 months later!
How do you approach a new project? Do you have a special philosophy or steady inspiration?
The process is different for every project. However, they almost always start out with research. I work hard to figure out the past, present, and future of an artist. Inspiration comes directly from the artist. I love to tailor a production to the current direction that the artist is moving in.
If all your projects wouldn’t speak for themselves, all the awards you’ve won surely would. How does it feel to be recognized in the industry?
Very weird to be honest. I think it’s ingrained in me to be behind the scenes so being recognized can be a bit uncomfortable. It’s also incredible! I used to read Lighting Dimensions magazine when I was a kid. The first time I was interviewed for it was a dream come true!
Muse – Todd Moffses
Working in different kinds of mediums such as live stages and television studios must come with its challenges, how do you adapt your techniques and designs to these different platforms?
We try to understand what the scope of the tour will be before we put pen to paper. If the tour includes festivals, promo, etc… we try to design elements that will fit in all the mediums. Doing this allows the artist to maintain a bit of the visual identity across all shows. For example, if an artist is beginning an album cycle they might start with television promo. If this is the case, we try to design elements that can be used in the TV setting and then transition onto a large concert stage by being altered slightly.
Although this might be a difficult question to answer, what is the project you’ve enjoyed working on the most so far? Which was The One?
I don’t have a project that is “The One.” I do have an experience however! When Coldplay released their album “Everyday Life,” they did so amongst some Roman ruins in Amman Jordan. We built a concert stage amongst the ruins in the center of the city. They performed a sunrise and sunset performance followed by a full-length concert. It was the most incredible experience to be surrounded by the ruins and the local culture. We would stop at call to prayer and watch as beautiful white birds were swooping throughout the valley in the city. It was the most stunning combination of music, nature, culture, and history.
Coldplay – Ralph Larmann
After the pandemic, you partnered up with fellow designers and created EVEN. Can you tell us more about the organization and its mission?
The founders of EVEN recognized that our industry was about to lose about 20% of its work force during the pandemic. EVEN was created to try to build the work force back in a more diverse manner. We are a team of industry professionals that recognized that there is a visibility problem with our backstage industry. We are behind the scenes by design. We make the magic happen so that the artist can shine brightly on stage! We developed a program with four distinct pillars: Community Engagement, Education, Mentorship, Paid Apprenticeship Placement. The program is a pipeline from awareness to first gig.
What are some of the major inspirations you apply to your work?
I’m inspired by just about everything! Nature, store displays, galleries, architecture, fashion. It really runs the gambit. I work with a very diverse group of artists from all different genres of music and entertainment. Inspiration for projects is just as diverse!
Which advice would you give to an aspiring lighting designer that would love to follow in on your steps?
There are so many things!!
One of the biggest things that I learned early on – thankfully – was how important it is to get finances in line. This is boring business stuff! Sorry! As freelancers, we aren’t covered by 401Ks and disability insurance. It’s important to get a plan together so that you’re covered if things get challenging. I find that a lot of younger designers struggle with this in the beginning of their careers and it really messes with them later down the line.
In line with the boring business stuff is contracting and insurance. It’s so so so so important to cover yourself with these things!
Also, the ever old cliché – “never stop learning.” I find that I learn from people of all ages, those younger AND older than me! Don’t turn someone away because they are younger or have less experience then you. Always take the meeting because you never know what you could learn!
Paramore – Todd Moffses
On Wednesday, 19th of April 2023, the annual Asia Pacific Design Center (APDC) Gala was held at the elegant Sofitel Foshan in China. Celebrating Design excellence, the Chinese winners of the 3C Awards programs – BLT Built Design Awards, LIV Hospitality Design Awards, SIT Furniture Design Awards and LIT Lighting Design Awards – have been awarded.
Among all winners, Fang Fang has honored for winning the LIT Lighting Design Awards “ Lighting Design of the Year 2019” for the Museum of International Design of China.
Zhike Wang and Xiaoshui Li from FOSHAN TOPWAY DESIGN, winner of the BLT Built Design Awards 2021 “Interior Design of the Year,” were called onto the stage.
Karl Yin received his “Product Design of the Year 2022” certificate for the BLT Built Design Awards with YiBrick.
Winner of the BLT Built Design Awards 2022 in “Architectural Design,” Eason Zhu, designer at Fununit Design, joined the celebration and received his certificate for “The Lost Garden.”
Discover the award-winning designs and designers of the APDC Gala by viewing all the photos at this link. Thanks to our partner APDC for organizing this spectacular event and honoring such talented architects and interior designers.
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Elsa Gil Benito, the Emerging Lighting Product Designer of the Year 2022 at the LIT Awards. As a young and up-and-coming designer, Elsa’s fresh perspective and innovative approach to lighting design are sure to inspire and excite.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Elsa Gil, an enthusiast about the world.
I studied product design, and in my postgraduate studies, I specialized in biodesign. Throughout my career, I could promote everything I knew: sustainability, humanism, the health of ecosystems, wealth, and welfare… And when I discovered this area of design in my postgraduate studies I developed all my projects around it.
But I am not just a designer. I am an artist, a cook, a friend, a traveler, a daughter, and a human being fascinated by life. I consider myself a whole ecosystem with different contexts, links, and responses to other organisms…
Being a biodesigner changed my life because it allowed me to learn from nature and be more in contact with organisms, which reminded me that we are not the only ones. Research made me realize that we are just a small ecosystem, part of a bigger one, and we need to protect and respect the whole ecosystem. But being a biodesigner wasn’t enough; I needed to make an impact in my personal life too. I’m part of a community of people who took the opportunity and found the solution in veganism and biodesign, to help our ecosystem.
I believe I’ve gained a holistic perspective through my projects, which were complete systems instead of single products. It is a good aptitude for organizing a project, the steps, and thinking about which other areas could be involved or affected. I’ve been working with mycelium for two years as a designer, getting to know it from the point of view of ready-to-use materials and working with its properties without biohacking them as a consequence of a lack of resources.
How did you discover your passion for Lighting Product Design?
I’ve always considered lighting an interactive way of working and connecting with our creations. There are many possibilities and components to create a magical environment as a result. In my case, it was through biomaterials and their incredible and unique colors. My objective was to find a substitute for the materials in these “day-to-day” products.
Why did you choose to study Lighting Products at the ESNE, Escuela Universitaria de Diseño, Innovación y Tecnología? When will you graduate?
I decided to study product design at ESNE as a way of focusing my creativity through methodology, new ideas, experimentation, etc. But always with the intention of creating something useful. Lighting was part of different projects, and I decided to include it in my Final Project Ma-ka. Lighting was an opportunity to bring nature into our interiors.
Can you please share your creative journey behind “Ma-Ka Lighting System”?
The project started with research, followed by inspiration, sketching, and more and more research. At the same time, I enrolled in various educational programs to deepen my understanding of the biomaterials world.
The formal development of Ma-ka was guided by the “Material Driven Design” (MDD) tool. Through it, the concepts are focused according to the characteristics of the materials, to adapt the products to them and not the other way around. Previous and theoretical knowledge about the material to be treated and experimentation are keys to knowing what you are going to work with.
Learning with materials helps bring out their maximum potential, by following their properties and expanding their undiscovered possibilities. Mycelium is an organic material, and it is through the forms, techniques, and communication of Ma-ka that this knowledge about nature is collected.
Ma-Ka Lighting System by Elsa Gil Benito
The Lighting System is made of a biomaterial, can you please explain how you create it and how long it takes? What are the benefits of it?
Mycelium can be described as the roots of mushrooms. It is considered one of the most powerful biomaterials with low cost, requirements, and ingredients. However, there are a lot of possibilities for contamination during the growing process. That’s why for the project I decided to buy Grow It Yourself kits: a useful resource to learn how to work with it and reduce the contamination range.
I fabricated my own thermoformed molds from my digital design. These molds are the ones that give shape to the mycelium, which adapts to its container. After an incubation period of four days, I took them off the molds and attached several pieces by hand, creating the final column. The mycelium keeps growing, so the structure can be bio-assembled by its expansion. For this big product, the whole process took me two weeks, including the drying step.
The potential of micomaterials becomes clear when we know their properties and understand that they can be compared to various traditional materials.
For example, chipboard, whose production starts with sawdust or wood chips agglutinated with special resins, so that it has the desired texture, density, and resistance.
It can be applied to architecture, interior design, products, etc. It is possible to manufacture chipboard, petroleum-derived plastics, and even fabrics for the textile industry from mycelium. Depending on how they are cultivated, they can have similar properties without the need to use resins or chemical gums. Mycelium is responsible for naturally binding the raw material. Depending on the object to be designed, we will have to consider different production models to achieve different properties.
Ma-Ka Lighting System by Elsa Gil Benito
You are just starting your career as a Lighting Product Designer… what do you want to do next? What are your dreams?
Right now I am planning to start my journey in a PhD program, as I believe that it is through education and research that biodesign can enter our daily lives.
My dream is to have my own design studio where I could develop my projects and at the same time teach and research. My objective is to keep learning.
Last, what makes light magical to you?
For me, light becomes magical when there’s a game purpose: when you can decide to play with its shadows, and create your own magical environment.
We spoke with designer Mykola Kabluka about how his team at Ukrainian company Expolight is once again finding a way forward with light. Mykola, winner of the “Lighting Product Design of the Year” title, told us more about the creative journey in designing the chandelier at Unit City’s B14 campus in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Light is almost my whole life. A hobby in the form of light was born during my studies, although my specialty was not related to light. Immediately after graduating from university, I started Expolight, which this month turns 22. We are based in Dnipro, Ukraine.
How did you discover your passion for Lighting Product Design?
It all started with my fascination with light: how it radically transforms our perception of the world, our emotional state, our perception of ourselves in space, and our relationship with it. That’s why I became interested in lighting design. We have a sustained balance between both technical and artistic points of view. Because in the design of our elements, we treat light as an excellent tool, like an artist. To make a good painting you need brushes of different widths, thicknesses, and types. In a similar way, we gradually came to the point where we designed our lamps. And through our study of the nature of light and our thirst for the study of light, we were inspired by the effects of light in the atmosphere and in different conditions, such as varying sun positions, different states of air humidity, clouds, and shadows. An exciting material for researching light is glass, which is solid. But at the same time, it is one of the few materials that are translucent and can transform light in different ways: re-reflecting, scattering, and refracting it. And that’s what we dedicated the Optical Metaphor brand to. We equate the metaphor to natural phenomena, such as natural lighting, by designing unique light sources and using customized glass from our production as a light-transforming object.
Photo Credit: Expolight
Can you please share with us, what was your creative journey when designing the chandelier? How would you describe the role and responsibilities when working on this design? What was the most challenging part of the project and how did you overcome it?
My approach to light is unusual. More often than not, a person is more inclined to either the technical part of the job, an engineering view of the world, or is more creative. And it happened that, to an equal degree, both spheres are close to me. My first education was in mathematical modeling, and my second was in lighting design. This combination expresses my approach to light. When we have an artistic image to create, we immediately see it and, from a technical angle, how it can be realized. This project is one of many planned for the huge Unit City Innovation Center complex. There we have illuminated many buildings, public spaces, and interior spaces. Hence, its philosophy is profoundly at the center of a modern view of the future of humanity, where technology is combined with the philosophy of care and sustainable interaction with nature. And this philosophy is reflected in all the elements we work on. We developed this project together with architect Victoria Yakusha and her Yakusha Design team. We wanted to make something that was both plastic and natural, but also technological. Because of this, we spent a long time selecting and designing these prismatic glass tubes and chose the illumination method to show the complexity of natural perception. So there are these complex, intersecting shapes that intertwine. They transform the light into an intricate image, which we did with our designed lenses, which have three types of beam widths at different angles so that these lenses and the multi-layered screens of these extremely long glass tubes covered with prisms create modern natural light, which at the same time is very technological.
One of the most challenging parts of the job was to design and achieve the production of such an incredibly long glass lens. We spent a long time adjusting our standard approaches to pouring a glass for such a long tube, 1600 mm long. That length is complicated to achieve, so we had to work on it, and it was also challenging, with such long rods, so closely spaced, to keep them from bumping against each other through the air from the vent.
We figured out how to lock the tubes in place, so they wouldn’t bump into each other, so we designed custom transparent and barely noticeable spacers made of optical plastic that replicated the grooved shape of the tube. They fix the chandelier so that it does not move and does not knock in its lower part. They are entirely invisible, so they do not destroy the overall clean and light appearance of the simple shape of the chandelier.
Photo Credit: Expolight
What does it mean to you, to win the Lighting Product Design of the Year 2022 prize?
This is very valuable and gratifying for our brand because it is a young brand that grew out of our passion for researching the natural phenomena of light and optical effects. But this award is precious because it is a motivating ray for Ukraine and Ukrainians. As you know, the situation in our country is now challenging because of Russia’s unjust aggression. Russia is plunging our entire country into darkness to destroy our energy system and leave us without electricity, heat, and water. Most of Ukraine now lives without stable electricity, heat, or communications. We never thought that one day we could do without what have always been such simple everyday things: charging gadgets, warm homes, and all that kind of stuff.
Therefore, we must be stable and work further, and this victory is very motivating for our company and the whole country because we live and move on. And it is symbolic to receive such bright news at the darkest moment. An interesting fact: We learned about this news literally at the darkest time: on November 15, immediately after the entire country was plunged into darkness during the first blackout due to the severe destruction of the Ukrainian energy system. My whole team and I were in the office and continued to work. Our office has all the conditions for this thanks to generators, Starlink, and an ample water supply (and soon, we will also have our well). This is how we continue to be in contact with the whole world and work in different corners of the world.
No matter how much Russia tries to plunge Ukraine into darkness, we want to show with our activities and victories that the light is still stronger and wins.
What are you working on at the moment, and do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re able to tell us about?
Now we have even more work to do around the world on different continents, and in the USA, Europe, and Great Britain. In the UAE, Armenia, Georgia, and Bali… There are many different countries; the geography is very wide. The situation in the country gave us an impetus to focus more on the international field. One of the most interesting projects now, where we also use our optical filter lenses, is one of the iconic properties in Dubai, with architecture by Zaha Hadid Architects. The task was to create unique lighting effects in the common space in the atrium of this impressive building. It is a great honor to work in facilities where such famous architects work. We created a custom floor lamp with our philosophy and are now in the final testing stage. It can be adjusted to create special caustic water effects; it has the appearance of the sun’s rays passing through the water and creating dynamic reflections. We love this effect.
What would be your best advice to Emerging Lighting Product Designers?
Be fascinated by the light. Light can be studied endlessly and is very interesting, as long as you look at it not as a practical entity that illuminates a dark space but rather as the inspirational-sacred function of light, which creates a mood, formulates our perception of the world, and inspires us. It is exciting to progress from the practical part to a higher level and study light as a metaphor for the natural phenomena in the modern world, combining it with modern technologies, while also studying basic light phenomena and reproducing them in your work.
Last, what can we wish you for 2023?
Please wish that democracy defeats totalitarianism and that Ukraine endures and wins in the fight against the totalitarian aggression of the Russian Federation. We are sure of this because light always wins over darkness.
We talked to Owen Fernando Patia, a student at the California College of The Arts and winner of the title of Emerging Lighting Designer of the Year 2022 about his inspiration behind the award-winning project AQUA.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Owen Fernando Patia, I am from Jakarta, Indonesia, and currently a student studying Interior and lighting design at CCA. Since childhood, the world around me has revolved around colors and preposterous imagination as I grew up loving fantasy genre movies. It has always been a dream of mine to once live in this fantasy; to incorporate the impossible into the reality of life.
How did you discover your passion for Lighting Design? Why did you choose to study Lighting Design at the California College of the arts?
Interior design was the answer to turning imaginations into reality. My college, California College of the Arts allowed me to explore every point of my imagination and taught me how to bring these fantasies into real-life application. It is only with the aid of lighting design can you optimize the mood and ambiance of a space.
Can you please share your creative journey behind “AQUA”? Where is your inspiration from?
The element, ‘water’ has always placed a place in my heart and I have been observing its elegant flow and beauty in movies and real life. Disney’s little mermaid was a significant inspiration for my project, AQUA, where I explored the fantastical reality of living underwater; how it would look and feel. AQUA is a unique theater design project where humans get to experience the mood and ambiance underwater.
What does it mean to you, to become the Emerging Lighting Designer of the Year 2022?
This recognition shows that my imaginations were not completely absurd. There are people in this world who appreciate my wild imagination, especially in such a technical industry as lighting design. It is a symbol of hope that I will carry throughout my journey as a designer.
What are you working on now? Can you share some glimpse of your next Lighting Design project?
Currently, I am working on a restaurant design project. It is called ‘Sanctuaire de Glace’, where I am mainly exploring lighting as a sequence.
You are just starting your career as a Lighting Designer… what do you want to do next?
Up until now, the majority of my projects have only come out in the form of digitalized conceptual renderings. I would love to start fantastical projects that support real-life applications, so in search of internships, I hope to gain these experiences.
Last, what shall we wish you for 2023?
I hope my imagination can keep growing along with the industry, so we will be able to turn a fantasy into reality.
In 1993, Hervé Descottes founded lighting design firm L’Observatoire International in New York after 8 years of design practice in Paris, France. Mr. Descottes has been recognized numerous times by the lighting design and architectural communities and took the time out of his busy schedule to discuss his lighting scheme for the Hermès’ collections at Milan Design Week 2022, winner of the 2022 “Lighting Design of the Year” title.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Hervé Descottes. I was born in Dijon, came to America in ’93 and founded L’Observatoire International. I lived in France until my 20s and have always been inspired by my surroundings, my city, the lighting, and the fog in winter. Little by little we have grown to become the successful company and team we are today.
What was Hermès’ original design brief for their collection presentation at the Milan Design Week?
The idea of softness. The lamps were inspired by the shoji shades in Japanese houses, the glow and the warmth. That’s how we started.
Photo Credits: Maxime Verret courtesy of Hermès.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
Finding the right balance between making the product glow and avoiding unwanted shadows. I really wanted to feel like I was going to be inside of a lamp, feeling the paper’s softness, gentle, and round light. That was the idea.
What does it mean to you to win the “Lighting Designer of the Year 2022” award?
First of all, thank you for selecting me, and thank you for the award. Of course, I’m so delighted. It is always a challenge to be recognized and accepted by your peers. For me, it is a very important award, and I am definitely honored.
Photo Credits: Maxime Verret courtesy of Hermès.
In general, where does your design inspiration come from?
Every day. Daily life, from the morning sun, the places I go in the evening, the books I read, and the movies I watch. It’s compiling a lot of story images. For me, good lighting and a good project must always be a great story.
Photo Credits: Maxime Verret courtesy of Hermès.
Do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations you can tell us about?
I am very busy. I think we have a lot going on these days. From the expansion of the Fondation Cartier in Paris – a great place for temporary exhibitions – to some beautiful hotel restaurants.
We have incredible designs in the works for the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi. That project is now taking shape, it’s under construction, and when you look at the pictures and understand its scale, it is very impressive. We are also in the process of working on a renovation here in New York, and a beautiful school academy with Jean Nouvel in Singapore. Many great projects, and I feel very fortunate.
What would be your advice to any emerging lighting designers?
Trust your gut and don’t give up! It’s an amazing field. You require a very different type of skill from being extremely technical and understanding the technology. You have to understand your heart, your feelings and be able to find the right balance between technology and emotions.
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