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Dissecting The Role Of A Lighting Designer

Four lighting designers shed light on the niche practice during a lighting event held in conjunction with Singapore Night Festival 2015. Stephanie Peh reviews.

Dissecting The Role Of A Lighting Designer

Top image: Lau Pa Sat (roof lighting calculation) in Singapore, project by Nipek

2015 marks a special year for the lighting community. Across the world, events are being held to commemorate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (as proclaimed during the UN General Assembly 68th Session). The same goes locally. Lighting Design: In Light of Shadows, a debut event by the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) South East Asia took place last Friday at the National Design Centre. Starting with a talk, the audience were taken through the working processes, history and future of the profession.

First up, regional coordinator of IALD, and Director of Light Collab, Toh Yah Li, explained the goals behind IALD. “The aim is to have a similar voice and grow the profession,” she shared. Established in 1969 in Chicago by a group of passionate lighting designers, IALD has since been raising the profile of the profession and promoting awareness on lighting design through awards, conferences and events. To date, IALD has over 1,250 members from across 24 countries.

One Central Park in Kuala Lumpur, project by Nipek

After which, three locally based lighting designers (also associate members of IALD) took the stage and individually addressed: what is the role of a lighting designer in the built environment?

Shigeki Fujii, Director of Nipek presented the various working stages of a lighting designer from start to completion. He explained that lighting designers are often engaged by the client, and work collaboratively with the architect or interior designer to determine the best possible lighting scenario to elevate a space.

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Nipek – light testing

“Our projects start with understanding the space: how to integrate lighting and how to compose the different types of lighting. We understand the focal points of a space visually and think about light textures, problem solving, [creating] mockups… we are also really aware of market trends for specifications,” he summed up. A lighting designer also coordinates with the appointed electrical engineer on light fixtures and supervises the installation process.

Next up, Yusuke Hattori, an associate at Lighting Planners Associates touched on the evolution of lighting design. He defined three important considerations of lighting design: unction, aesthetic and ecology. To him, lighting began with function when electricity first became a source of energy. After which came aesthetics – designers discovered that lighting had the power to make an environment more attractive. And in recent years, it came to light that lighting consumed too much energy, adding ecology to the equation.

He stressed that the lighting designer plays an important role in society, and that their job is to “integrate light into architecture, so you don’t see where the light is coming from.” However, they also look at the bigger picture and are “not simply lighting up the building, but creating a better environment.”

Grace Assembly of God in Singapore, project by LimeLight Atelier

Final speaker Melvyn Law, Director of LimeLight Atelier, talked about an appreciation for light and darkness and recalls that both elements date back millions of years ago, since the discovery of fire. “Darkness is a powerful companion that brings out the brightness of light and darkness of shadows,” he quipped. He also cited the Church of Light by Tadao Ando as an example that “clearly defines Ando’s thoughts of the required harmony of light and darkness.”

Grace Assembly of God in Singapore, project by LimeLight Atelier

An example of LimeLight Atelier’s work includes the Grace Assembly of God Church, where Law and his team were tasked to make the building a beacon of light. “Everything lights from within. We had deliberately illuminated the curvature walls made of stone, [using the] technique of light and contrast… creating a highly emotional and ambient place of worship,” he explained.

The event concluded with interactive lighting installations: Little Red Riding Hood – an abridged Singaporean version by Angela Woo Scott of Aurecon, John Scott and Semi-colon, The Legend of Bukit Merah, and Shadows of Our City by Toh Yah Li and her team from Light Collab. The audience were invited to use lighting props to create light-and-shadow narratives.


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